Buffalo Bills- Marcell Dareus, 6 years $95.1M, $42.9M guaranteed
This is one of my least favorite contracts in the entire league. Everything about this contract was just wrong. Buffalo dragged their feet on this extension and then made a late decision to give away the farm when he was unhappy as the regular season began. The Bills basically got taken to the woodshed. A $25 million signing bonus followed by a $7 million option bonus helped him land around $35 million in new money in the first year of his deal, about $9 million more than Ndamukong Suh. What justification the team had for that figure is a great mystery of the universe. They also gave him some incentives since somehow the $95M wasn’t enough on its own. The total guarantee on this contract is $60 million and just about all of it was fully guaranteed the year after he signed it. That type of package is almost unheard of. Dareus was suspended at the time of signing and for whatever reason they failed to include any language that would void future guarantees for another suspension and of course he got suspended again. Since signing the deal Dareus has not shown effort, has clashed with coaches, and has seen his numbers fall. The Bills have no way out until 2019 unless they can find a sucker to trade for him and even then its $7m dead on their cap. I never thought this team would one up their own deal with Mario Williams but they found a way to do a worse one and are paying the price for it.
Miami Dolphins- Reshad Jones, 4 years $48M, $19.9M guaranteed
Imagine having a 29 year old safety who missed 14 games over the last three years going into the final year of his contract. Most teams would let things play out or exert some type of leverage on the player with a new deal. The model should have been simple given that Eric Weddle at 31 signed a deal worth just $6.5 million a year as a free agent off an injury plagued season. But somehow Miami looked at the situation and decided it made sense to go to $12 million a season for a player who missed 10 games in 2016. The team failed to include any per game roster bonuses in the contract and gave a massive injury guarantee of over $33 million. You can make a very compelling case that this was the worst contract signed in 2017 and I certainly wouldn’t argue hard against that. About the only saving grace is that the signing bonus was under $10 million and the first year cash isn’t terrible. Maybe Jones will play great and justify the deal but Miami never should have even considered this one. This is a team that showed with Suh that they will simply bid against themselves and they did it again here.
New England Patriots- Stefon Gilmore, 5 years, $65M, $31M guaranteed
The Patriots have gotten so good in this regard that its really difficult to come up with a real stinker on the team. Dwayne Allen is horrific but they didn’t negotiate that contract so you can’t use it. Danny Amendola was bad but they have fixed that year after year to make it affordable. You can look at some of the running backs, but I selected Gilmore only because the team went all in on this contract, which is something this team doesn’t usually do. The $18M signing bonus is tops among cornerbacks. The $23M in year 1 was third when signed. The $40 million in injury guarantees and $42 million three year payouts are all closer to the top tier than the APY of the contract suggests. The large signing bonus doesn’t give them big room to trade him if things fail to work out and seeing how the rest of the market turned out for corners they probably could have gotten a better contract.
New York Jets- Matt Forte, 3 years, $12M, $9M guaranteed
The Jets roster purge makes this one harder and I was tempted to go Muhammad Wilkerson, but Wilkerson’s contract being bad is more about dragging their feet for 3 years than the actual contract itself. Buster Skrine’s deal is also pretty bad, but Forte just made the least sense. While we can get on the Jets for a number of things in 2016, most of their decision making clearly indicated that they weren’t big believers in the squad and wanted outs in 2017. You can’t explain Forte in that context. Forte was a 31 year old back that missed three games in 2015 and had clearly slowed down since 2013. Yet the team still guaranteed the first two years of his contract, which worked out to 75% of the total deal. The Jets basically ended up stuck with a paperweight because of it. Forte had the lowest YPC of his career since 2009 and the lowest yardage total of his career. His role in the passing game continued to diminish and he was basically inferior to Bilal Powell in all aspects by seasons end. At worst the team should have simply matched the Frank Gore contract which would have given them a way out from the contract this season.
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.