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. Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.
Best Contract: Andre Johnson
It’s a pretty rare occurrence to say a player with a $14 million dollar cap hit is the best contract on the team, but cap charges can be a strange thing and this just happens to be the one year where he has a high charge. Johnson has been spectacular in his time with the Texans. He has produced nearly 1600 yards in two of his last 4 seasons and he does this without the great QB and or the decent 2nd target to help to draw the coverage away from him.
Why do I like this contract so much? Because the Texans more or less played hardball with Johnson who realized he signed a long term below market contract back in 2007 that he desperately wanted to get out of by 2010. The Texans really didn’t blink, throwing a token two years onto his contract to bump up the perceived value and giving him a base increase of just $4.2 million in his original contract years.
For Johnson to really earn his money the contract was heavily incentive with rewards for finishing near the top of the NFL in key receiving categories each season. He could earn an additional $10.8 million to bump the 5 year value of the contact to $10 million a year, still a steal in a market where Percy Harvin makes over $12 million and Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are paid as if they are Quarterbacks.
The Texans built all kind of holdout protection in Johnson’s contract tying large roster bonus to almost 100% workout participation and no missing of mandatory offseason team activities. The bonuses are not paid until the start of the regular season. Johnson’s salary currently barely cracks the top 10 at the position and could be released by 2015, the first of his “new” seasons with the Texans, with a charge around $4 million, giving them enough leverage to threaten to cut Johnson if his play begins to deteriorate.
Worst Contract: Matt Schaub
Schaub probably gets beat up a little too much by people like myself. By no means is he great, but he’s also not awful either. He is a low upside QB that benefits from the system he plays in, but when you make the type of financial commitment the Texans made to Schaub you are going to be scrutinized much more.
The whole process was a bit questionable. Schaub was coming off injury in 2011, the third time in five seasons in which he failed to complete more than 11 games, when the Texans made the decision to extend him in 2012. Salary cap considerations were not really a concern as the extension came long after free agency was complete. Both points should have been leverage for the Texans, but they may have overreacted to a disappointing finish to the 2011 season when backup TJ Yates was clearly a weak point in the playoffs. It is also possible that the team panicked following a monster extension given to Drew Brees and the fear of what could happen if Schaub was to go on and win a Super Bowl.
It resulted in a contract for Schaub that was loaded with prorated money and large guarantees. Schaub’s $7.29 million per year guarantee upon signing was the second largest veteran guarantee at the time only to Brees. His $17.5 million dollar signing bonus was second to Brees at the position. The tradeoff to the large guarantees was some injury protection in the last three years of the extension, but with Schaub’s injury history no tradeoff really should have been required. With $10.5 million in dead money for Schaub in 2014, the Texans are likely stuck with him through at least that year. Considering there were questions about his future with the team at the end of 2012 he will need a tremendous 2013 to avoid a real backlash against him.
Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles
AFC South: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts (July 3)
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.