Starting off the week by catching up on the San Diego Chargers
Best Contract: Danny Woodhead
Like last season I had a difficult time coming up with someone on San Diego for best contract. Because of the way the team had been managed for years there is very little that really jumps out at you as a strong contract and in many ways the current regime has not had a chance to put a stamp on their salary cap structure, good or bad. Arguably the best contract on the team is that of Eric Weddle. He is the best safety in the NFL and even at a market setting contract years ago he did not set things so on fire that it made people scratch their heads. Still it is a very player friendly contract structure that will likely force the teams hand on another contract at a time when he will likely no longer be the top level player he is now.
In the end I decided to stick with Danny Woodhead as having the best contract for the team. I was surprised that the Chargers extended Woodhead and actually thought he would have been a top trade target this summer in light of their signing of Donald Brown, but wisely the Chargers saw the value in Woodhead and kept him in the fold. What I like about Woodhead is that he is a situational type player and he embraces the situation. You never hear complains about wanting more touches, series, responsibilities, etc…He has a job that does extremely well and he doesn’t stray from that.
Now was there really a purpose to his two year extension this summer? Not really. I mean it is a nice gesture by the team to give him a $2 million raise and pay him a $3 million signing bonus in return for two more seasons, but I actually think the Chargers had a better situation with him prior to the extension. Still a $5.25 million salary over the next two seasons is very reasonable in a league where part time players are getting decent guarantees because teams think they can be a starter. They likely won’t be as productive as Woodhead despite getting the added snaps. A $2.25 and $2.5 million cap charge over the next two seasons is a relative bargain provided he stays healthy.
Worst Contract: Mike Scifres
The way I had a difficult time with the Woodhead selection above, I had an equally hard time with the worst contract selection. Last year this was easy, but they have begun to cut the waste from the team either by release or restructure, which limits the selections. In general the whole roster is filled with pretty bland contracts with nothing looking really good or bad. There are really few places to go. Jeromy Clary took a big pay cut to bring him to a reasonable level as did Eddie Royal. Jarret Johnson’s contract does not look great, but the team got a $1 million break and simply pushed a few dollars in dead money to 2015 for needed cap space in 2014.
Based on a suggestion of my friend Ian I went with Mike Scifres. Not because he is a bad player nor is his contract that out of line, but because it brings up the question of how much money should a team be spending on these positions when they have contractual and salary cap troubles, which the Chargers have clearly had for some time. Scifres did receive a signing bonus and an option bonus which does push the dead money in his contract higher than some of his peers. The decision to use this structure, in order to remain cap compliant in 2011 and 2012, left Scifres with the highest cap charges at the position in 2014 and 2015. He also provides the least savings in the event of release.
But in reality this selection is made to simply draw attention to roster management strategies. You did not need to be a genius to see where the team was headed based on a combination of payroll, age, and performance. Putting this much stock into a Punter is simply foolish. Scifres is the 8th highest ranked player by APY on the Chargers and 6th highest ranked player in terms of total contract value. He has the 6th highest and 8th highest cap charges on the Chargers roster over the next two seasons. Id think if the Chargers had a few more million to spend on positional players they would not need to scramble to restructure contracts and instead would outright cut some dead weight and bring in better players to participate in more plays than a punter.
2013’s Best and Worst Chargers Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Danny Woodhead (See above)
2013 Worst Contract: Robert Meachem (Released before 2013 season)
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.