Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.
Tamba Hali– For the second time in the last three weeks Hali has made this list as he is absolutely wrecking games for the Chiefs defense. Yesterday he registered another 3.5 sacks to bring his total to 7.5 just six games into the season. He is arguably the most dominant pass rusher in the NFL right now and on pace to destroy his prior career best of 15 sacks. The Chiefs tight salary cap situation in the next few seasons is going to give Hali all the leverage in the world to get a new contract. Set to earn $8.5 million in cash with a $11.5 million dollar cap hit he is one of the few players on the team that can save the Chiefs money with a restructured deal. Off a season like this, though, he may have no reason to restructure and will push instead for a contract extension that will likely give him a nice pay raise while also helping the Chiefs cap situation.
Aqib Talib– Talib gambled this season by taking a one year contract with the Patriots when he realized how soft the cornerback market had become, but that gamble is paying off. Talib played superstar TE Jimmy Graham yesterday and held him to nothing, completely disrupting the rhythm and strategy of the Saints offense. Talib has had an incredibly productive season and is earning the important reputation of being a shutdown corner. Bill Belichick is not shy about putting Talib on the best each week and each week those players are being shut out. And its not as if these are poor receivers Talib is facing- they are some of the best in the NFL. Unfortunately Talib left the game with a hip injury but the reports are that it is not too serious to impact him moving forward.
Frank Gore– At 30 years old Gore just keeps trucking along as the steady force of the 49ers offense. Gore became the first player this season to gain more than 100 yards against a very stingy Arizona Cardinals defense and his 2nd 100 yard game of the year. Gore has shown no signs of slowing down and is right on his normal pace for the season. Going into the year I think some assumed Gore would take on less of a role with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick throwing the football but Gore is as important as ever. In 2014 he is scheduled to earn $3.3 million in base salary and up to $2.75 million in roster bonuses. I think it had been a foregone conclusion that he would have been released by San Francisco next season and leave that money on the table. Now the 49ers may have to consider a two year extensionto keep Gore at a cap friendly figure in 2014.
New Contract Player Of The Week
Matt Stafford– I often give Stafford a hard time but he was really great in the second half of yesterdays game and helped lead the Lions offense to a 2nd half wipeout of a very good Cleveland Browns defense. Stafford did not try to force the ball to his favorite targets. He found whomever was open against the Browns defense and went there rather than forcing the football which likely would have led to a different outcome. If the Lions get Stafford to consistently play like this they will have a good chance of representing their division in the playoffs.