Over the summer we’ll be putting up our selections for the best and worst contract on each team. We continue today with the AFC East and the Miami Dolphins
Miami has been a bit odd through the years in that they often sign what would be considered very player friendly contracts with free agents but when it comes to negotiating with their own players are actually much more conservative than other teams. I think that was somewhat evident with the Reshad Jones extension back in 2013. The Jones contract is a prime example of how teams can exploit certain demands from the player side by conceding on things like annual value but structuring the contract in a way where the real value is far lower.
While Jones was not as well regarded as Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, he did play a more expensive position and, in part, was not as well received because he didnt play on a great team. The goal seemed to be to simply surpass Chancellor’s APY, which the Dolphins did by a few dollars, but the contract structures are not that similar. Chancellor by the first new year of his contract would earn over $11 million while Jones barely topped $7 million. Chancellor was still ahead by $2 million in year 3 and it wasn’t until the fourth year of the contract where he caught up. Because the signing bonus was just $5 million there was no real protection to meet those backend catchup salary years unless he played very well, which he has.
The only area where Miami missed on this contract was the years as a five year contract would have been preferable to a four year one. Outside of that there was very little upside for Jones in this one who probably rushed into the contract rather than playing for free agency, where the market really jumped the following season when Jairus Byrd signed a $9 million per year contract with the Saints. At the time Miami had to know that Byrd and Earl Thomas would pull up the whole market and should have been happy to lock their guy up to a contract under flat cap terms that help keep values lower for non-superstars for a 3 year period. Jones is, not surprisingly, unhappy with the contract, just after the first two extension years.
When we look back at the worst contracts in the history of the NFL sometime in the future I feel very confident that this contract will be in contention for a high position on that list. The Dolphins made Suh the highest paid defensive player in NFL history in a negotiation where it seemed the only people the Dolphins were negotiating against were those in their own front office. The contract, which at the time was worth about $6 million more than the next highest paid defensive tackle, is one of those contracts so extreme that even the Al Davis’ of the world would have called it a crazy contract.
Suh will earn $50 million in two years and $60 million over three, all of which was fully guaranteed the day the contract was signed. The Dolphins made it even worse with the structure they used to construct the contract. Miami didn’t have significant cap problems in 2015 once they moved a few players off the team yet they still agreed to a massive $25.5 million signing bonus to increase his future cap charges and dead money. They took it a step further in 2016 by converting $20 million into amounts treated as a signing bonus despite not really needing to do that for free agency. Now Suh carries a $26.1 million cap charge in 2018, when he will be 31 years old. The cost to cut him that year on the cap? $22.2 million.
Suh may very well be the best veteran defensive tackle in the NFL, but at this cost he is arguably the worst value. Suh had 6 sacks last season which is around his career average. With this salary he needs to be among the leaders in the NFL or help his team reach that goal to even remotely justify the deal.
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.