A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.
Best Contract: WR Stevie Johnson
A tough decision here as the Bills have very few players that would be considered good value talent. The other two players I would consider are DT Kyle Williams and G Kraig Urbik, but Johnson stood out more to me than both of them. Working with no help at QB or from other receivers Johnson has managed to produce over 1,000 yards 3 years in a row from 2010-2012. The only other players to accomplish that feat were Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Roddy White.
Johnson only makes $7.25 million a year and had $11 million of his contract fully guaranteed. Those numbers rank around 20 and 24 among all wide receivers. He has also been the only player in the NFL to consistently match up well with CB Darrelle Revis when Revis was healthy. When players like Mike Wallace are making $12 million a year having Johnson on such an affordable deal allows the Bills to outspend their rivals at other positions. His annual value is less than inferior players such as Pierre Garcon, Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin, and Sidney Rice, making him one of the best bargains in the NFL at the position.
Because Johnson is so young the deal itself only carries the Bills to when Johnson turns 30, giving them a reasonable dead money charge if they decide to move on in the last two years of the contract if his play begins to falter with age.
Worst Contract: DE Mario Williams
The Bills have their fair share of bad deals on the books, but none worse than the head scratching 6 year $96 million dollar contract they gave to Williams. Williams was a former number 1 pick of the Houston Texans and 3 years removed from a 10 sack season when the Bills signed him to bolster their defense. To make matters worse he was coming off a season ending injury in 2011, the second time in two years he ended the season with an injury.
Williams was never a top pass rusher in the NFL. He has always been good but more like top 20 good, not top of the NFL good. Williams makes 14% more than Julius Peppers and about 26% more than Charles Johnson and Jared Allen, the next three highest paid players at the position. Williams 3 year average leading into his deal with the Bills in both sacks and tackles was worse than all 3 of those players yet he earned significantly more. Williams will cost the Bills $17.8 million in dead money if cut in 2014 and $12.4 million in 2014, making him a near impossible player to move on from in the near future. Williams can be productive but it is unlikely he can ever be productive enough to match the price that the Bills agreed to pay for him.
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.