Arizona Cardinals- Jermaine Gresham, 4 years, $28M, $13M guaranteed
Over the last few years the Cardinals have begun to move into that territory with some of their contracts where the numbers catch most everyone by surprise. None has been more surprising than this $7 million a year oddball contract for Gresham. Gresham peaked as a player back in 2012. By 2014 his stock fell so far following a 460 yard receiving campaign with the Bengals that the best he could do in free agency was a 1 year, $2.5 million contract with the Cardinals. In 2016 it was more of the same with the contract rising to $3.5 million. It’s not like Gresham played that much better last year to double his salary. In fact his playtime and receiving numbers were more or less the same as his final year with the Bengals which saw him garner no free agent interest. Who were the Cardinals bidding against here? It is hard to think anyone in the NFL would have offered $4 million a year, let alone $7 million with almost half the contract guaranteed. I can’t make heads or tails out of this one.
Los Angeles Rams- Tavon Austin, 4 years, $42.2M, $17M guaranteed
Players that have no real defined role are the kind of players that teams should always avoid when it comes to big contracts. Whether Percy Harvin, Devin Hester, or now Austin, these jack of all trade receivers have never been worth it. Players like Austin are capable of doing some spectacular things from time to time but relying on rushing yards and returns when they are trying to also develop as a receiver is a mistake. The Rams real mistake with Austin came when they picked up an overly priced option that kind of put them in a position where they had to overpay. Realistically a player like Austin that has shown little as a wideout (his best year saw him post under 500 yards and 9.1 yards per reception) but has high draft pedigree should never go for more than a number 2 contract and that is if you are really bullish on him. Just one year after signing the contract he’s already going to be 3rd on the depth chart. If there is one saving grace its that once that option was exercised the new extension didn’t pay him that much more over the original terms of the rookie contract. This looks to be as overpriced a player as any in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers- Vance McDonald, 5 years, $32.5M, $9.1M guaranteed
I think the average fan when they saw this contract had the reaction of “who is Vance McDonald”. Twitter is often a good indicator of these contracts with generic comments like “team X taking care of their own” or “team x has really liked him for some time, no surprise here”. Those comments generally are on par with a shrug of the shoulders because there really isn’t much to say about contracts like this. McDonald was on his way to his best season of his career by a wide margin, but even that was still a pace for under 600 yards. He ended up injured after signing the contract and finished with just 391 yards. The 49ers were already reportedly interested in trading McDonald just a few months after signing this one. It’s doubtful they will find any takers at this salary level.
Seattle Seahawks- Luke Joeckel, 1 year, $8M, $7M guaranteed
When it comes to Seattle and contracts, money is never an object when they get it in their mind that they want a player. Generally they seem to blow the player away with an offer right at the start and make sure to get the contract done. Clearly that is what they did here with Joeckel. That doesn’t make it right. Joeckel was a bust with the Jaguars and when the Jaguars don’t want you anymore the rest of the league should proceed with caution. A number of busts along the offensive line all hit free agency this year and signed contracts for $3 million or less with about half of the contract guaranteed. That is exactly where Joeckel should have slotted. Instead he is one of the higher paid guards in the NFL. If he plays well the Seahawks will have to re-sign him. If he doesn’t they grossly overpaid him. I’m not sure what the reward was here at all. This was probably the worst valued contract in free agency.
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.