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: Jamaal Charles
Charles is one of the best RB’s in the NFL and ran for over 1,500 yards on a team with no offense whatsoever. While overshadowed by the tremendous comeback of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, Charles recovered from an ACL injury and returned without missing a beat, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and performing nearly as well as he did in 2010.
Because he plays in Kansas City, which has not been in major contention in some time, people fail to realize how good Charles is. In his last three full seasons he has averaged 1,365 yards rushing with a low of 1,120. He is the model of consistency for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs wisely locked Charles up in 2010, when Charles had one year remaining on his contract and had only produced one top flight season. Charles received $8 million up front, the only amount actually guaranteed by the team. The structure of his deal will never impact the Chiefs, with no cap charges exceeding $5 million until 2015, unless he hits various escalators in his contract. Even if he hits his 2014 escalator the cap charges will rise to around $6 million. He could be cut or traded next season with only $2.67 million in cap charges, which is not an impactful figure by any stretch.
At $5.4 million a year in annual salary Charles is a steal. He was the last player to come in at the position under the $6 million mark as there is a clear dividing line between Charles and the next group of players, most of whom earn over $7 million a year. Ray Rice ($7 million) and Matt Forte ($7.6 million) bot received significantly larger guarantees and have salary cap compromising contracts. Charles is far better than Forte and you could make an argument just as good as Rice. Perhaps no contract illustrates the bargain that the Chiefs have in Charles than the $7.3 million a year given to Jonathan Stewart in Carolina, who has produced in the last three years about as many yards and Charles will produce in one.
Worst Contract: Tyson Jackson
I debated between Jackson and Branden Albert when deciding on this one. Albert was an example of an organization thinking it was too smart by franchising tagging a player they never wanted and then wondering why no team in the NFL would meet their asking price. Normally you have to at least pretend that there is a spot for the player on your team when you play hardball and they never did, with leaks all around saying he did not fit in to their future at all. Now when their bluff was called they are stuck with a $9.828 million dollar pricetag for somebody they would prefer was on another team and they have nobody to blame but themselves for that. But at least Albert can play, Jackson can’t.
Drafted with the third overall pick in the 2009 draft Jackson has been the epitome of the word bust. In four seasons Jackson has sacked the QB five times. He only has 113 tackles. He already has his rookie contract reworked once for some cap relief and they deleted the 2014 season in his 2012 renegotiation to take the proration off the books and prepare for his release in 2013. Except when 2013 rolled around not only did they decide not to release him, but to guarantee him a good chunk of salary to ensure he remained on the team rather than exploring free agency, where a team would have given him a look, but a $4 million dollar look? Doubtful.
The Chiefs could have released Jackson and taken a dead money cap charge of just $2.5 million in 2013. While he had $3.22 million in guaranteed salary, the salary was not guaranteed for skill and thus the Chiefs could release him with no issues. For whatever reason they decided Jackson was once again worth keeping. Rather than holding him to the $3.22 million in partial guarantees the Chiefs upped his guarantee to $4 million in full guarantees. They also raised his offseason workout bonus from $250,000 to $500,000, essentially guaranteeing him $4.5 million of a $4.7 million dollar contract. If Jackson plays in 50% of the teams snaps he will earn an additional $500,000. Now Jackson’s cap charge stands at $7.2 million, 5th highest among 34 Defensive Ends, a number that never should have been on the Chiefs books.
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.