Yesterday was the Jets, today their big rivals- the Miami Dolphins…
Best Contract: Cameron Wake
This is one of the easiest decisions to make for any team. One can still make the case that Cameron Wake Wake is the best defensive player in the NFL and he was certainly close to being the best when he signed this contract. Former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland hit a lot of foul balls and big strike outs with his contracts, but this was a home run. Ireland steamrolled Wake, who was a in the final year of a low cost contract, into accepting a contract that offered little protection as he got older and the need to continue to perform at a high level in order to earn incentives to bump the value of his contract to a reasonable level.
11 veteran pass rushers on multiple year contracts have a higher annual value than Wake does. The base value of his contract is about 48% less than that of Mario Williams. In the last two seasons Wake has produced 27 sacks and 130 additional pressures compared to 25 sacks and 100 pressures for Williams. Those numbers illustrate the huge disparity and benefits that exist between a good and bad contract. Wake’s contract does contain escalators but even if earned they would max him out in the Tamba Hali range of contracts. To earn them is likely difficult as he has yet to earn an extra penny despite the solid play.
Whether it was an over-reliance on a fluke sack conversion stat or something else off his 2011 season, Wake took a deal that will never push his cap number beyond $9.8 million on the base value of the contract. When he turns 33, there is only $2.8 million of dead money on the books if they decide to release him. Quite frankly he’ll probably be in a position where he may be forced into a paycut. It was this bargain deal that allowed Miami to spend wildly in the 2013 offseason and the deal is arguably the best non-rookie contract in all of the NFL.
Worst Contract: Mike Wallace
There are a number of places to go with Miami when it comes to bad contracts. Most of the contracts came during a wild spending spree in 2013 that most observers thought seemed wildly optimistic regarding the prospects of their signings. I don’t think anything occurred in 2013 that should change the opinion as to whose contract was the worst of the bunch- Mike Wallace.
Wallace was a high risk gamble that for the time being has not paid off. Miami offered Wallace $12 million a season despite coming off a disappointing season in Pittsburgh where he sulked over his lack of a contract extension.
Wallace had never really shown an ability to be a true number 1 receiver as a Steeler. He was a deep threat target that played as part of a system rather than a receiver that was the star of the system. There is nothing wrong with that, but at the time that type of player would command a contract on the order of $9 million a season. Wallace was brought in to help Ryan Tannehill grow as a QB, but the two never really clicked as Wallaces strengths of playing down the field did not mesh with Tannehill’s lack of ability to throw deep. Wallace average just 12.7 yards per catch and failed to catch for 1,000 yards for the second straight season. The maturity issues that seemed to manifest themselves in Pittsburgh as he wanted a new contract, carried over to Miami as Wallace complained early about his role on the offense.
The contract structure pushed the deal into clear worst category. In order to make his cap hit artificially low in 2013, Wallace’s cap number will never be below $12.1 million over the course of the deal and this year he is carrying a $17.25 million cap charge. He earned an additional $3 million in 2015 salary guarantees by being on the roster this offseason, pushing his dead money in 2015 to $9.6 million.
Wallace’s failures, along with a few other receivers, seemed to impact the future market at the position. Somewhat similar players like Eric Decker and DeSean Jackson signed contracts worth no more than $8 million a year. Hakeem Nicks, a talented player with declining stats and perceived authority issues, had to take a low cost 1 year contract to prove he was worth a multiple year investment. With these changes in the market, Wallace can probably never justify the contract unless he plays at a level very few players in the NFL ever play at.
2013’s Best and Worst Dolphins Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Cameron Wake (See above)
2013 Worst Contract: Mike Wallace (See above)
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.