Big Names and Money on Injured Reserve

Injuries are a killer in the NFL and every year there are plenty of them. Prior to yesterday’s slate of games there was a total of about $273 million worth of contracts sitting on injured reserve and that list will only grow when the Giants and Texans add Odell Beckham and JJ Watt to the list. Doing a Twitter Q&A last night I started to get questions on what IR means for some of these players and their contracts so I thought I would touch on some of those players here.

Odell Beckham, WR, Giants

Beckham is in the fourth year of his five year rookie contract and is under contract to the Giants in 2018 for $8.459 million. The injury in no way changes his short term future and probably not too much of his long term either. Beckham not only wanted to be the highest paid player at the position but in the entire NFL. That was a ridiculous idea back then, even as some tried to justify the logic in paying him over $25 million a year, and just as ridiculous now.

The top contract at the position is $17 million a year for Antonio Brown and the second highest is DeAndre Hopkins at $16.2 million. The Giants could make an argument for or against either contract as the true market setter, but I can’t imagine them going much higher than either one, especially after the injury. That could create a stalemate well into next summer if Beckham has a specific number in mind since he has now lost his opportunity to prove he deserves far more than either.

It is also entirely possible that the injury could make Beckham more likely to accept a contract since he should know that one more bad injury could significantly decrease his earning power. The Giants are also in a weird spot because they have an expensive and positionally older core but are in the middle of a disaster of a season. Currently the Giants are on pace for a top 3 pick in the draft and have to consider making the move at QB. If that happened his stats and impact would likely have no chance of really improving beyond where he is already making playing out his contract more about risk than reward.

I saw some comments saying the Giants could use the injury against him on a contract, but I don’t see that. They are one of the organizations that has seemingly gone out of their way to honor, or come close to honoring deals after injuries. I’m confident that at least 75% of the league would have turned their back on Victor Cruz years before the Giants tried to use his injuries to reduce his contract. Many would have used Jason Pierre-Paul’s injury even more against him. So I expect them to approach this from a reasonable standpoint, but make it clear that they would need to see him playing on that ankle after the two injuries this year before they could consider upping an offer.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that the Giants would trade him off injury. That makes little sense. He is the most marketable player they have and if they do go into a rebuilding phase would keep them relevant while a new QB learns his craft for a year or two. He’s basically like a QB in terms of his star power and he has been protected by the organization pretty much since day 1 even as there is radio personality pressure to treat him in a different way.

JJ Watt, Defensive End, Texans

Watt suffered his second season ending injury in as many years last night and will now have missed 24 games over the last two seasons. At his peak Watt produced insane numbers, averaging 17.25 sacks, 62.5 tackles, and 10.25 passes defensed per year over a 4 year period. In his last 8 games he has produced just 1.5 sacks, 12 tackles, and 2 batted passes. The odds are strongly against him being the same player ever again.

Watt took a very team friendly contract in 2014 likely leaving millions on the table by signing early. If the Texans wanted to they could release him next year and only carry $6 million in dead money, but I don’t think they would do that. One of the benefits of him signing a team friendly contract is that his salary is still pretty low all things considered. Watt will earn just $11 million next season, which ranks 19th amount defensive linemen and edge rushers. Considering Mario Williams went and signed last year for $8 million I cant see the Texans seeing this as an overpayment for the potential reward. Could they try to convert some money to per game bonuses?  I guess it is possible, but they should honor the fact that they got him on the cheap in the first place.

However there is a good chance that next year could be Watt’s last on this contract. Jadeveon Clowney will likely be extended in early 2019 and there is an outside chance that Whitney Mercilus could earn an extension as well. With some bright young players on the team the Texans may see a changing of the guard in the near future, but I would expect Watt to be safe for one more year.

Allen Robinson, WR Jaguars

Robinson went down with an ACL injury in the first game of the season which was a disappointment for the soon to be free agent. I don’t view this the same as Beckham because Beckham is a megastar while Robinson is a notch below. Robinson had a massive 2015 season putting up 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Jaguars, but his bookend seasons around that were not nearly as impressive, in particular seeing his numbers drop to below 900 receiving yards last season.

Playing for the Jaguars can be a blessing and a curse. You certainly are not building up name value in Jacksonville but you do have opportunities to shine, though some of that comes in garbage time. Jacksonville is also incredibly generous with their contracts, with some of the most positive player evaluations since the heyday of the Raiders.  However with changes at the top of the organization I would imagine that the second part will change as the team tries to rebuild itself.

Robinson has big earning potential, but I don’t think the Jaguars would offer him that kind of number off the injury. They already jumped way too fast into Allen Hurns’ contract and that could potentially tie up huge money in two underperforming receivers.

My guess is Robinson ends up following the path of Jeremy Maclin and doing the one year prove it contract to get the big money. He is so young that he can afford to do that without much worry. I would imagine the most realistic comp is Alshon Jeffery who signed for $9.5 million and a few million more in incentives.  The low end of this type of contract is Terrelle Pryor at $6 million with the Redskins. Robinson I feel is higher regarded than Pryor was.

I do think the best fit for both sides would be to remain in Jacksonville and maybe look to take a contract with a no franchise tender clause for 2019 ensuring either a big extension or a chance at unrestricted free agency off a healthy season.

IR Estimates Around the NFL

Here is our unofficial tally of the most contract value sitting on IR right now for each team.

TeamPlayers on IRAPY on IR