We move to the Final Four with a familiar pair of selections for the New England Patriots
Best Contract: Sebastian Vollmer
The choice for this came down to the contracts of Tom Brady and Sebastian Vollmer and I can easily understand why Brady would be considered a no brainer choice. Brady is grossly underpaid and has salary cap numbers that will allow the team to add talent (even another QB if needed) until he calls it quits. I had two reservations on the contract. One is the large guarantee that kicks in at the end of the 2014 season that locks him in through the 2017 season. The second is that I’m not sure if the Patriots organization should get the credit for the contract since Brady is simply cut from a different cloth when it comes to contracts. I think if there was an award for most team friendly player it would go to Brady.
Vollmer’s contract I think is an exceptional example of how to handle a good, but injury prone, player. Vollmer is a terrific player who should have earned in the $5 to $6 million a year range, but instead settled for a contract that came in just over $4 million a season. The contract was not that unlike some of the recent QB deals we have seen with a large number of incentives that could increase or decrease the price of the contract. These incentives are all high level playtime and/or Pro Bowl incentives that are not often accepted by many others in the league.
The contract structure has already paid big dividends for the Patriots. Vollmer missed out on $1 million of his base contract value when he failed to reach 80% of the snaps in the 2013 season. In fact in each season of the contract he will lose $1 million if he fails to hit the 80% threshold. In the 2015 and 2016 season he has $1 million in per game active roster bonuses in addition to the other $1 million in bonuses mentioned above.
If Vollmer stays healthy he can earn an extra $5.5 million on the remainder of his contract. While that may sound like a lot all it does is bring his contract value on par with a player like Michael Oher, the level at which Vollmer should have, at the least, been at before. Vollmer only received a $7 million signing bonus, making him an easy release in 2015 if the injuries continue or compromise his ability to play. This is just a strong contract for the team.
Worst Contract: Logan Mankins
Like last season my options here really came down to Logan Mankins and Danny Amendola. Amendola was a bad decision from the minute they signed they contract, but the size of the mistake is so much smaller that I again went with Mankins, even though Mankins is the better player.
Perhaps Mankins contract was the fault of the uncapped season as a number of teams unwisely used the franchise tags which seemed to compromise their ability to negotiate better long term contracts in the season. Looking back at the 2011 franchise players it’s a who’s who of bad contracts- Mankins, David Harris, Marcedes Lewis, Kamerion Wimbley, Chad Greenway, Ryan Kalil, Haloti Ngata and Chad Greenway- but that doesn’t change the fact that these teams made bad decisions in the first place when they used the tags before the CBA expired.
Mankins ended up being paid as the top interior lineman in the league at a time when he was not the best at his position. Usually the Patriots don’t give in with such players, but they did here. Mankins would receive $30.5 million in the first three years of the contracts, a total that was in a different stratosphere than Jahri Evans ($25.6M), Eric Steinbach ($23M), and Davin Joseph ($21.5M), other top compensated players at the position. The Patriots included a huge $20 million signing bonus that virtually guaranteed four years of the contract.
Mankins carries a $10.5 million cap charge this year, second highest among Guards in the NFL. It’s the 2nd of three straight seasons with a $10 million plus cap charge. There was nothing they could do with that number last year or this one. Next season they have more leverage but will still carry $4 million in dead cap if they need to move on. Not a great contract for the team by any stretch of the imagination.
2013’s Best and Worst Patriots Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Sebastian Vollmer (See above)
2013 Worst Contract: Logan Mankins (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.