Chicago Bears- Lamarr Houston, 5 years $35M, $8.9M guaranteed
I’m sure most expected Mike Glennon here, but that’s as much of a bad decision as a contract. As a contract it was far better handled than his closest comp, Brock Osweiler. This Houston contract, signed back in 2014, was always a stretch. Houston was never a great pass rusher in Oakland and came at a time when more or equally productive players had trouble finding contracts the following year. Houston’s stay in Chicago has been marred by injuries and ineffective play. He did do better with the switch in defenses when he posted 8 sacks in 2015, but it is surprising that he is still on the team under his original agreement at this point. His $14.9 million injury guarantee still is near or at the top of his salary tier by more than a few million and this is after years of inflation on the cap.
Detroit Lions- Haloti Ngata, 2 years $12M, $6M guaranteed
The Lions are one of those teams that has worked many of their bad contracts off the team in recent years so I went with Ngata here. Ngata has had a terrific career, but this contract has as much to do with name value as production on the field. Ngata is probably three years removed from being a big presence on the field and hasn’t been able to play 16 games in years. I would have liked to have seen Detroit add more per game bonuses to his contract than the $250,000 per year. I understand why they did the deal since they needed players on defense and Ngata likely would have retired on a “market” contract, but I’d prefer to spend the money elsewhere to build up the team.
Green Bay Packers- Randall Cobb, 4 years, $40M, $13M guaranteed
This is probably a contract the Packers really regret doing. Green Bay is generally proactive with their contracts but in a few cases let the players come very close to testing the market. My feeling is that when teams do that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the contract within the organization and $10 million a year for Cobb was pretty high given his role on the team relative to others who played a similar role. Since signing the contract Cobb has floundered with the Packers seeing his yards drop from 1287 to 829 to 610 while his yards per reception is a low 10.2. Cobb is still capable of putting together a big game as he did against the Giants last year in the playoffs, but right now he is one of the more overpriced players in the league.
Minnesota Vikings- Kyle Rudolph, 5 years, $36.5M, $12.6M guaranteed
The purpose of extending players early is generally to gain some type of leverage in the negotiation and gaining something favorable in the contract. The Vikings have done that more often than not recently and in part I think it is because of the miss on this contract. Rudolph is a decent player and led the team in receptions last year, but they signed this contract off years of 493 and 313 yards while missing 8 games with injury in 2013. Minnesota not only paid him like a top tight end but added in deep reaching guarantees and $3.5 million in incentives if he consistently played at a top level. The contract generally already reflected him playing at a very high level. This isn’t a cap killer by any means, but they cost themselves a few million with this one.
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.