Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Miami Dolphins


Yesterday was the Jets, today their big rivals- the Miami Dolphins…

Best Contract: Cameron Wake

Cameron WakeThis 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

Mike WallaceThere 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)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




  • Jim

    One has to wonder, who exactly Miami was bidding against to have to give Mike Wallace $60 mil 5 years. What will amount to a 3 year, $37 mil contract when they release him after next year…

  • mike jones

    I’m a dolphin fan, but I am also about as cynical as one can be and still be considered a fan by other fans.

    I can’t argue that Wallace wasn’t overpaid at least some, no matter what his stats last year or this year could have be or have been. That said, I watched every dolphin game last year at least once, often twice, and Tannehill missed Wallace on passes over 40 yards, where Wallace had his DB neat by a decent margin and had a great chance to score a long very long TD, at least 7 times that I saw. This doesn’t even include plays where he was open but Tannehill never saw him or threw the pass as I can’t force myself to watch 22 film very often (if the nfl could dub the broadcast sound over it, or even better if they could throw some analysis over the top of it would be much more enjoyable and I’d probably pay 3 times as much for the service). So these were just passes Tannehill attempted but were incredibly off. Wallace could have had 1400 yards and 14 Tds easily last year if Tannehill had just figured out how fast his football speed is. And if that happened, the dolphins would have won two more games and made the playoffs.

    So I think there is a very good reason the Dolphins didn’t even consider trading Wallace, even though Jason La Confora tried to claim that initially. I’ve seen a dolphins reciever with that kind of ability to get open deep, and I’ve been a fan for 25 years. I absolutely loved Brandon Marshal and hated that Philbin demanded that trade as a condition of signing, but Wallace can do things BM could never think about doing. And I really appreciate the fact that Wallace didn’t throw Tannehill under the bus when he’s been taking heat for half a year about being a bust signing.

    • The Marshall/Miami parting of the ways was probably best for both sides though I think Marshall would mesh better with Tannehill than Wallace does. The point you make about “what if” with Wallace and 1400 yards does bring up an interesting point about forward looking contracts versus production negotiated contracts. Even if Wallace went for 1400 yards (which certainly justifies the deal) I think its reasonable to still make an argument that the contract is not a good one. Based on what Wallace had done in the past, his role on the Steelers, poor walk season, etc…should have led to a much lower priced contract with far less in guarantees.

      I know when I did the Jets last year I got a lot of heat for not putting Santonio Holmes as the worst contract. Holmes was probably the most hated Jet I can ever recall. I went with David Harris for the same reasons I did this year- you cant justify anything they paid him in the contract. I can go back and look at Holmes and say his salary and contract structure were justifiable given the context of the market at the time and that he had a non-guaranteed baloon salary that could drive the value down further via renegotiation (which is what happened). He was slightly overpaid but nothing compared to Harris. So it definitely brings up an interesting case.

      Marshawn Lynch is a perfect example of a bad contract turned good. Guy was way overpaid and over-guaranteed (if thats a word) but he worked out. Does that make it a good contract or not, when they should have been able to get a much better deal? I think it makes for an interesting debate.