I always get a number of questions about contracts signed and which ones were good or bad, so I figured why not make a list of my picks for the worst signings of the year. Some of it is a little Monday morning quarterbacking obviously and by next year some of these deals may look pretty decent, but here are my picks for the signings that teams may wish they could go back in time and get a redo.
- Vinny Curry- 5 years, $46.3 million, $18 million guaranteed
The Eagles made a number of bold moves this past offseason, many of which paid off, but I have to think the Eagles felt they were going to get more out of Curry than they have this year. Curry is one of the highest paid rushers in the NFL, ranking 9th in the NFL. He still is playing the 45% range so hes not really earning the additional time as hoped for. Right now he’s still a situational guy but one who has only produced 1 sack. This was a contract that was a forward looking projection of what a fresh start in a new defense would mean for Curry, but it’s really been the same old story with him. They need more from him to live up to this contract.
- Allen Hurns- 4 years, $40 million, $16 million guaranteed
I get that the Jaguars were excited by the prospect of Hurns who built off his rookie season to eclipse 1,000 yards and score a very impressive 10 touchdowns, but there was no reason to abandon the leverage of the restricted free agent tag, which they simply threw away when they signed this contract. The true value on this contract when you consider the RFA tag is around $12 million a season. The only other player in recent memory I can think of that got a team to make that kind of leap was the Texans with Arian Foster when he was in his prime. Hurns will likely finish the year with solid number 2 numbers around 800 yards and 4 or 5 touchdowns, which should have led to an $8 million a year contract after tagging him had they waited.
- Alshon Jeffery – 1 year, $14.6 million, $14.6 million guaranteed
This isn’t so much a bad contract as it was a bad decision. The franchise tag is meant for a few things. Contract leverage when you want to negotiate a long term deal, an ability to hold onto a slightly older player on a competitive team, or an extra year’s look at a career year player. None of those seemed to apply in this case. This was the Bears best asset they had and whether they traded him or let him walk to keep cap room and receive a compensatory pick both would have made more sense than wasting this kind of money on a non-competitive team. The decision looks worse now that Jeffery was suspended for four games, but maybe that was a blessing in disguise since they will save $3.4 million and still have the same end result on the field.
- Coby Fleener- 5 years, $36 million, $14.6 million guaranteed
I have a feeling that every February the Saints general manager must look at his team’s cap sheets and say something to the effect of “hey there are 4 contracts that we haven’t restructured yet. We should do that” which leads to signings like Fleener. The Saints offense doesn’t need a player like Fleener, which was kind of why they traded away Jimmy Graham, but New Orleans usually can’t help themselves when the situation presents itself to sign a free agent. Fleener’s numbers fell in his walk year and when the Colts are saying no to keeping a player at a certain price it probably means you should say no too. He ranks fourth on the Saints in yards and they could have gotten the same performance for half the cost.
- Chris Ivory- 5 years, $32 million, $10 million guaranteed
What do you do when you have a running back, whose game status often changes the morning of a game because of injuries, isn’t much of a receiver, and will be 28 but happened to have over 1,000 yards in his walk year? Most teams would say $12 million for 3 years, but in the spirit of keeping bad running back signings alive and well in Jacksonville the Jaguars made Ivory one of the top 7 paid backs in the NFL. Ivory repaid that generosity with a few missed games, 267 yards, and 1 touchdown. Those numbers are probably surprising to a few people because they are so bad, but the fact that he was going to be overpaid on this contract doesn’t surprise anyone.
- Dwayne Allen- 4 years, $29.4 million, $11.5 million guaranteed
The Colts cried poverty because of the contract they gave Andrew Luck, but it is the contracts like this one that hurt a team and are the real mistakes. I’m not sure what the Colts fascination is with Allen, but Im not even sure he would start on most teams. His career high in yards was 521 yards and that came as a rookie. He’s dealt with injuries and last year, in his walk year, was barely used when healthy finishing the year with 109 yards in 13 games. Inexplicably they decided that he would be worth over $7 million a season and for what reason nobody knows.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick- 1 year, $12 million, $12 million guaranteed
Back in March I wrote about Fitzpatrick and said something to the effect of “the problem with a player like Fitzpatrick is that there is a good of a chance by week 4 that there will be calls to bench him”. The Jets had this right all winter and spring with offers around $7 million a year which would essentially place him as the highest backup/potential starter in the NFL. But the team grew nervous when the other option was Geno Smith and on the eve of camp went with $12 million for a season. There is a reason why Fitzpatrick has bounced around the NFL so much and been a $3 million QB. He had strung good games together in Buffalo, Houston, and Tennessee before and nobody really read much into it but the Jets go fooled when he did it for his team. He certainly wont be back next year and wherever he lands it will be at a greatly reduced price.
- Tavon Austin- 4 years, $42.2 million, $16 million guaranteed
Sometimes teams get blinded by their draft investment in a player. Sometimes they get blinded by roster deficiencies. Sometimes they get blinded by the potential flashed once in a blue moon that confirms a draft bias. All of that probably applied to Austin, first when the Rams picked up his 5th year option and then when they tacked on another four years to his contract. As a receiver you could argue this is a career year for Austin- except his career year means all of 37.2 yards a game. Last year he was used as a runner to pad his stats a bit, but there has been none of that this year with just 73 yards on the ground. The Rams weren’t the only ones to buy into the hype. When you watch a game the announcers talk about how you need to get the ball in the hands of that kind of weapon and they aren’t getting it there enough. Those are the same lines you hear about other contractual busts at the position like Percy Harvin, Devin Hester, and countless other jack of all trade, but master of none types. At the least they probably could have held firm on mid second tier salary if they hadn’t picked up that option, now he has to really turn it around with a rookie QB or this one will be a blemish on the team.
- Muhammad Wilkerson- 5 years, $86 million, $36.75 million guaranteed
The Jets had years to sign Wilkerson and didn’t really seem to even want him back until they realized that the trade market for him was not as robust as they first thought. Whether it was because of the team salary cap concerns, relentless writing about “doing right by Mo”, or something else, the Jets caved at the last second and signed Wilkerson to a big contract. Right now Wilkerson looks like someone who turned it off the minute he signed his name on the dotted line. His numbers are way down and he was benched for a quarter for missing a team meeting, apparently something that has gone on for some time. Expect next summer to hear all kinds of stories about how the contract weighed heavily on Wilkerson and he didn’t do the usual work in the spring but that in 2017 he’s feeling the best he ever has and is on the same page as the coaching staff and ready to be a leader. 99% of the time that talk is nothing but a fairy tale, so the Jets better hope this is the 1% of the time its true.
- Brock Osweiler, Texans- 4 Years, $72 million, $37 Million guaranteed
Every now and then a player signs a contract so head scratching that everyone begins to re-evaluate the way they look at the position. If the signing of Osweiler doesn’t make people think twice about the overpayment of mediocre and bad quarterbacks then nothing will. Osweiler has almost no in game experience before signing this contract which has now prompted the owner to even say he’s like a rookie in trying to find a silver lining in this one. The NFL fought in the last CBA to keep from having to pay top rookies, in particular quarterbacks, sight unseen ridiculous sums of money. Im not sure the point of doing that if you are going to turn around and sign this kind of contract.
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.