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: Chris Chester
Washington is a difficult team to come up with a best contract for. Their best players are all young and on rookie deals. Most of the veteran contracts are either overpaid or structured in ways to be much more player than team friendly. It’s nothing like it used to be in the past with this team and the bad contracts, where players were paid above top dollar to play out of position, but they still have a way to go before they are considered a franchise people model themselves after. Their cap should be more in order next season once the penalties have been taken into account so from a team perspective we’ll see where there are with these deals, but for now it’s a team missing many good veteran deals.
So with all of that in mind I selected Chester as the best deal. Why? He’s a pretty good Guard, doesn’t have the void structures in his contract, and his deal has some protection in the event of injury. At $4 million a season the contract is fair market value and didn’t contain excessive guarantees that would have hurt the Redskins in the future. By the time Chester is 31 the Redskins can walk away with only $1.6 million in cap charges. Every year he has $400,000 in roster bonuses that are tied to being on the gameday active roster further protecting Washington in the event of injury.
This wasn’t a contract where Washington tried to hide charges or structure it in a way that forced restructures for cap relief at any point. The highest his base salary would reach is just $3.5 million with a high cap charge of $4.8 million, both numbers coming in the final year of his contract. His cap numbers are always more or less middle of the pack in every season resulting in a very straightforward contract for a team where that is not always the norm.
Worst Contract: London Fletcher
I went back and forth on a few names before I decided this one. The Redskins have their fair share of really bad contracts and the other names right at the top of the list were WR’s Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. The Redskins nearly pushed Garcon into “A level” salary despite never proving to be that kind of talent while Morgan carries a ridiculous salary and a guaranteed dead money charge for his skill level. Still both are young and have some upside, Garcon in particular, and the Redskins may be able to avoid the dead money on an extension with Morgan after the season. None of that can be said for Fletcher.
Fletcher is a name value talent that, at this stage in his career, gets by on name value. Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the worst linebackers in the NFL in 2012, but what should you really expect from a 37 year old trying to man the middle of the field in a game that gets faster every year. The fact that the Redskins signed him is not that stunning as he had spent the prior five seasons with the team, but the price they signed him at was stunning.
Had Fletcher become a free agent, even after a “Pro Bowl” season in 2011, he would not have been hotly pursued simply because he was going to be 37. At best he would be signing for a minimum salary type contract with limited guarantees. Washington convinced themselves that they needed to sign him to a two year contract that contained over $5 million in fully guaranteed salary. Even worse they included $1.5 million in injury guarantees in 2013, almost unthinkable for a 37 year old where serious injury could be much more likely.
In order to fit Fletcher under the salary cap the Redskins went to the void structure, throwing three dummy years at the end of the contract for the sake of proration. Unlike Morgan, whose deal also contains the same void structure, there is no chance that the Redskins will extend a 39 year old linebacker. Even if they did his base salary would be so high that the cap relief would be almost nothing. So the Redskins are now carrying a $6.2 million dollar cap hit for a guy nobody else in the NFL would want and will carry another $2.1 million in dead money for the same player next season.
Fletcher may be cut during the preseason, provided he does not get injured, to save the team $5.5 million in cap room, which they may need due to a tight salary cap situation. Still that means the Redskins will be carrying $5.25 million in cap charges over a 3 year period for a player who should have cost somewhere around $600,000 per year in cap dollars.
Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles
NFC North: Chicago Bears
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.