We kick off week 3 with our look at the contracts of the Tennessee Titans
Best Contract: Michael Roos
Michael Roos is a terrific tackle and should be mentioned when we discuss the top tier left tackles of the last 10 years. Roos often gets overlooked because he was not a top draft choice and plays in relative anonymity in Tennessee. Roos consistently grades as one of the better tackles in the NFL and is a durable as they come, missing just one game in his nine year career.
Roos’ career should have trended with some of the highest compensated players of the era. He was eligible for a new contract during the timeframe where there was an overemphasis on the position and, league wide, left tackles were becoming one of the highest paid players on the team. The position more or less peaked when D’Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets received a $10 million a year contract in 2010.
Not that much should have separated Roos and Ferguson, but the Titans moved swiftly with Roos and locked him up for just over $7 million a season with $12.8 million in full guarantees in 2008. The highest base cap charge for Roos was just $7.5 million, which would occur late in the contract, making him a tremendous bargain for the team. Most players at the position and his skill level would carry at least $9 million a season in charges so the Titans have saved a great deal of cap space with Roos.
The deal was structured to run a long time, from 2008-2014, giving the Titans exclusive rights to him until he will turn 32 years old. With no back end bloated salary figures or dead money charges the Titans are one of the few teams to honestly be able to say that they locked up a core player for his entire career with no worries of restructures or renegotiations due to cap concerns. He will be a rarity in the NFL to sign a long term contract and not have the contract modified for any reason nor be released. Playing a contract out is so rare and Roos will do just that. All teams in the NFL would hope to have a contract as good as this one on their books for a six or seven year period.
Worst Contract: Michael Oher
Before Chris Johnson was released, the worst contract on the team was a pretty easy choice. With Johnson gone it becomes more challenging. Tennessee is one of those teams that rarely locks into big contracts, but tends to overpay on a number of lower tier players in the league. When I think of the Titans I think of a team that avoids tougher contracts but is more than willing to go above and beyond on a low value contract since the money is less concerning in the event a player fails than it would be on a player like Johnson. Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster are two recent ones that both fit that bill, but I feel that the Michael Oher contract is the one that stands out the most.
Oher is a former first round draft pick and rose to some level of prominence when his life story was the subject of the movie the Blindside. It’s an amazing story, but his NFL career has been very inconsistent and the Baltimore Ravens realized they needed to move on from Oher and look elsewhere for a starting right tackle. Pro Football Focus rated Oher one of the worst tackles in the NFL in 2013.
As free agency approached it was not thought that Oher would be very sought after around the NFL. I think most figured he would receive a moderate one or two year contract with a strong chance to start and use that as a launching pad to a long term deal. As things turned out he received the third highest contract among free agent right tackles at $5 million a season and $6 million fully guaranteed. Oher has another $3.35 million guaranteed in 2015 for injury that becomes fully guaranteed a few days following the Super Bowl, a very strong guarantee for the player. Overall the contract ranks in the top 10 for the position.
The contract structure is nowhere near as bad as many of the other contracts we have discussed. The could walk away after paying him $6 million and absorbing a $3 million dead cap charge after just one season, but that $6 million for Oher just seems so expensive. If he sticks for two years he will receive $10 million in salary and leave the team with $2 million in dead money. So this is not a “lock you in forever” contract, but one that I have a difficult time believing most other teams in the NFL would have signed.
2013’s Best and Worst Titans Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Michael Roos (See above)
2013 Worst Contract: Chris Johnson (Released; Signed with New York Jets)