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: Andrew Whitworth
Don’t let the annual value number I have posted fool you. That was just the new money the Bengals gave Whitworth in 2011 when they added an addition two years onto his existing contract. The real dollars of that deal are around $6.2 million a year an absolute steal for a left tackle, especially one as good as Whitworth.
A 2nd round pick in the 2006 draft, Whitworth emerged as one of the best players from that draft. The Bengals acted swiftly and extended him in 2008 and then again in 2011. Over the 2011-2015 NFL seasons Whitworth will never have a cap charge that exceeds $7.5 million. His dead money in 2014? Just $2 million.
Signed at a time when tackles were making obscene dollar figures Whitworth’s contract has stood out as the best value at the position. Most players have yearly cap figures between $8.5 and $9 million a season with the top end contracts often topping $10 million. The contracts were loaded with guarantees making cutting of a player difficult in the event of failure once extended. That will not be the case for the Bengals who get a steal at left tackle giving them the added money they may need to lock up their younger stars.
Worst Contract: Michael Johnson
Truth is this isn’t really a bad contract as much as it simply was an unnecessary decision. Lets face it the Bengals don’t really have bad contracts on their team. Are the Bengals a big spender? No, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid either. I have seen plenty of teams pass on big stars and be cheap only to overspend on bottom tier players because $1 million here and there doesn’t seem like whiffing on an over priced star. That’s not the Bengals. They have a philosophy and they stick with it. If you don’t like it try to find a job playing elsewhere.
The truth is Johnson’s contract isn’t a bad contract, but I do think it was an unnecessary decision. In general I dislike the use of the franchise tag with the exceptions of two circumstances. Those two circumstances are
1) A veteran “win now” team that feels that this is the last chance with a group
2) An older or often injured player where the risk of a long term deal is great
Johnson doesn’t fit into either category. Johnson is only 26 years old and hasn’t missed a game in 4 years. The Bengals are a relatively young team with a large window of opportunity, so I don’t really see the point of the tag. With extensions soon due for Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton, and AJ Green getting Johnson done sooner rather than wasting all the cap space in 2013 on a one year contract would be a much more prudent decision. With the pass rusher market as depressed as it has been this would have been the perfect opportunity to extend a good young pass rusher at a reasonable price. They only have a few more weeks to do that and most signs point to them not doing it.
Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles
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.