Taking a look at the Kansas City Chiefs
Best Contract: Jamaal Charles
Even with a new contract extension this is an easy choice. I wrote about Charles the other day and painted the picture about how much of a bargain he is compared to the other players in the market. Going back to 2012, on a team completely devoid of offensive talent, Charles ran for over 1,500 yards. Considering he was returning from injury it was an incredible season that was lost in the shuffle because Adrian Peterson had a year for the ages also coming back from injury. Last year, on a playoff team, he was the offense. He became the teams leading receiver while also rushing for nearly 1300 yards. Without Charles the chiefs would not have been a .500 team in 2013.
The Chiefs wisely locked Charles up in 2010, when Charles had one year remaining on his contract and had only produced one top flight season. Charles received $8 million up front, the only amount actually guaranteed by the team. The structure of his deal would never impact the Chiefs, with no cap charges exceeding $5 million until 2015, unless he hits various escalators in his contract. Today he signed a contract extension to avoid a holdout, an extension that carried big numbers but really little impact. He’ll earn an additional $5 million over the final two years of his contract before another $13 million kicks in during the final two years of the deal, years that he will most likely never see.
If we add the $5 million to his old deal it still works out to just $6.6 million a year in annual salary. There remains a clear dividing line between Charles and the next group of players, most of whom earn over $7 million a year. Ray Rice ($7 million) and Matt Forte ($7.6 million) both received significantly larger guarantees and have salary cap compromising contracts. His deal pales in comparison to the $30millionish payouts given to Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy over the first three years of their contracts. He is every bit as good and important as any of these players. Perhaps no contract illustrates the bargain that the Chiefs have in Charles than the $7.3 million a year given to Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, who has produced in the last three years about as many yards and Charles will produce in one. One of the best contracts and undervalued players in all of the NFL.
Worst Contract: Dwayne Bowe
I almost feel guilty putting Dwayne Bowe as the worst selection because its the ultimate in hindsight judging and I had originally felt that Bowe projected as a true number one whose overall stats were compromised by quarterback play. But there was really nowhere else to go with this selection and Bowe was so bad in 2013 there is almost no way to look elsewhere. In 2010 and 2011, Bowe was an 1,100 yard receiver despite the fact that the Chiefs really had no other receivers to draw attention away from Bowe. Playing on the franchise tag in 2012, Bowe’s numbers dropped and he ended the season on injured reserve. Kansas City was prepared to tag him again and came to a deal at the last minute to avoid the use of the tag.
Bowe’s contract was worth $11.2 million a season, more or less setting the market for receivers at the time, a mark that would be quickly surpassed in free agency that year. Bowe’s three year payout is $36 million and $26 million of that number was more or less fully guaranteed the second he signed the contract. Because the Chiefs intended to go big into free agency Bowe was given a large signing bonus of $15 million that offers him significant protection on the remainder of the $36 million. In 2015 his cap charge is $14 million but it will cost the Chiefs $10.5 million against the cap if they release him. While it represents a savings, its not a total that many teams would absorb. Even in the fourth year of his contract the dead money of $6 million is considered high.
With the money officially on its way to Bowe, he crashed and burned in 2013. It was the best team the Chiefs fielded in years and he finished the year with just 673 yards, the second worst showing of his career and worst in a relatively healthy season. The chemistry between he and Alex Smith was lacking and on the Chiefs last meaningful play of the season Bowe made basically no attempt to haul in a pass while keeping his feet in bounds seemingly unaware of where he was on the field. Was it a difficult pass to catch? Absolutely, but when you are paid to be a premium receiver you expect more.
If Bowe was to fail he would be another in a long line of wide receivers who got paid and never were the same again. He has another two years to make everyone forget the 2013 season and justify the big contract, but if he has another season like he did last year this is going to go down as a terrible contract and one that is going to compromise the Chiefs salary cap for at least a few seasons. I’m not sure how many teams would have expected the failures or been able to come up with a more risk averse deal, but with the Chiefs current roster this is the most egregious error even if it didnt seem that way when they signed it.
2013’s Best and Worst Chiefs Contracts:
2013 Best Contract:Jamaal Charles (See Above)
2013 Worst Contract: Tyson Jackson (Contract expired; Signed with Falcons)