Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Baltimore Ravens

In Week 2 of our Best and Worst series we turn our attention to the AFC North and the Baltimore Ravens.

Best: Elvis Dumervil, 5 years, $26 million, $8.5 million guaranteed

While the Ravens I think struggle a bit with the contracts that they offer to homegrown talent, they generally drive great bargains with players that come from outside the organization. The Dumervil situation was one of the more unique ones and the Ravens pounced on the opportunity, really signing a great contract with a terrific pass rusher.

Back in 2013 Dumervil was in a weird spot with the Denver Broncos who were looking to slash his pay down from $12 million despite the fact that he was still one of the most productive sack artists in the NFL. Dumervil actually agreed to a pay cut but his agent failed to get the paperwork to Denver in time so Denver released him.  Dumervil was 29 so he still had a few years that should have been productive, but I’ve always said that teams view being cut as a black eye much moreso than contract expiration and Baltimore took advantage of that.

Baltimore more or less guaranteed Dumervil three years at $17 million, which is pretty cheap for a player that had 20.5 sacks in the prior two seasons. There was limited risk that Dumervil should decline that badly that would make this money and/or cap space poorly spent. Things worked out perfectly with 32 sacks in three seasons and two Pro Bowl appearances. As he makes the turn in age the Ravens will have plenty of options moving forward with his contract.

Worst: Joe Flacco, 3 years, $66.4 million,  $44M guaranteed

On some teams this is an easy pick, and Flacco is one of the easiest picks in the NFL for worst contract. Flacco’s two massive contracts had little basis in play but had everything to do with the Ravens salary cap problems.  His first contract came off the Ravens Super Bowl win, which was, at the time, an NFL record $20.1 million a season. The Ravens got backed into that one because they had limited cap room which hampered their ability to use the exclusive tag on Flacco and felt that he could be signed by a division rival to a contract that they could not match. Instead the Ravens gave him the richest contract in history and used a crazy contract structure that contained three prorated bonuses and deferred the big cap charges to 2016. Despite coming off a big knee injury and downtrending play that cap number forced the Ravens hand again this season into another record setting contract with huge bonus money.

Flacco has yet to be selected to a Pro Bowl and is still waiting for his first 4,000 yard season and his first 30 touchdown season. The next highest salaried player to miss on all three of those categories is Colin Kaepernick, whose contract ranks 13th in the NFL and is worth $4 million a season less than Flacco’s while also containing a more team friendly structure. I believe the other veterans to not accomplish any of those feats include Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith and Nick Foles as the high priced options.

While I’m sure one day Flacco will hit some of those milestones the point is that his comparables ended up being Brees, Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger and others when they should have been players like Smith, Jay Cutler, and other middle tier quarterbacks. It was great timing on Flacco’s part to get a contract like this and I would not be surprised if he gets one more big one because of cap considerations in the future as well.