This week I’ll be kicking off the best and worst contract summer series starting with the Buffalo Bills. The selections are made from the team perspective looking at a contract so a “best contract” generally represents a team friendly contract, meaning one that seemed to get very good terms for a good player. A bad contract is also not representative of a bad player and in fact many times it is a good player who gets the bad contract designation. It simply means that the player is, in my opinion, over-valued or signed to a contract that gives a team no flexibility. Finally rookies are not considered since the salaries are slotted unless some extraordinary circumstance dictates using a rookie contract. Onto the Bills…
This pick should come as little surprise, especially in light of Taylor becoming a starter. The thing that I liked the most about this contract is where the Bills were coming from when they negotiated this one. The Bills clearly were a team without a quarterback and generally when that kind of team brings in a younger player like Taylor the contract expectation is going to be either competition for the position or a steady backup. In today’s NFL that player is probably worth $3-$3.5 million a year with big upside in the event that he becomes a starter. Taylor got none of that. Sure there was some upside if he started, but all that upside did was bring him closer to backup money rather than starter money. While the Bills did make a concession that the third year of the contract would void if he ever became a starter that was of limited consequence to Buffalo. If Taylor failed in the role he would have been cut and had he excelled he would have had his contract extended anyway to avoid a training camp holdout. So while Taylor got the void privilege in writing I doubt the end result would have been much different.
Taylor has expressed displeasure with his contract situation which is often the sign of a very favorable deal from the team side. Given that Taylor is still a relative unknown he cant really afford to sit out which should help the Bills this season. As long as the Bills can hold firm, which they have had trouble doing in the past when it comes to contracts, they should be able to get a longer look at Taylor before committing any serious money his way.
The Bills had plenty of players to choose from here and I really debated between Dareus and Charles Clay, but the Dareus contract just has so much player upside I had to go in that direction. Dareus is a fine player. He is very versatile and came off a career high 10 sacks in 2014 when he got this new contract, but the terms on this contract are just outrageous. Dareus’ new money payout in the first year of the deal is over $35 million, a number that makes N’damukong Suh jealous. His $45 and $55 million two and three year cash totals basically pay him as the second best defensive player in the NFL and I don’t think anyone saw him at that level when the Bills did this contract. The Bills went ridiculously overboard with a full guarantee of $42.9 million and $32 million in prorated money paid in the first two years. There are many ways to inflate an annual value of a contract to make a player happy but this just obliterated the Gerald McCoy contract which was likely the closest comparable.
This was an example of a team just getting steamrolled by a player. Buffalo held all the leverage in the world with Dareus playing under an $8 million option and then having the rights to use the franchise tag on him in 2016. That would have cost Buffalo around $22 million rather than the $35 million they shelled out. The contract also sets a horrible precedent with negotiations that should impact any other deals this front office does with their own players. The Bills had a chance to escape the shadows of the Mario Williams nightmare and instead dug in deeper with this one. Maybe they were blinded by draft status and his public unhappiness with his contract but most other franchises would not have been. It is a complete 180 from what we see going on in Denver right now with Von Miller, who is considered one of the best three defensive players in the NFL. Dareus will need a major bounce back from his 2 sack season to come close to letting his team justify this deal, which gives him zero incentive to do anything for the next few years.
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.