Reviewing Free Agent Contracts

As we await word to see what other moves the Denver Broncos will make as the second wave of free agency is about to begin, I wanted to review some of the contracts that have been handed out to players so far.

I’ll direct you to Over the Cap’s list of free agents, which includes links to those players who were free agents that have signed deals and have their contract details reported. I wanted to look at each deal to see how good they really are from cap standpoints, cash standpoints and whether the player’s talent level justifies the fully guaranteed money that will be paid out.

I didn’t get to every contract, but started off with the ones that have the highest average salaries per year. If I get a chance, I’ll go over other contracts in a later post.

Brock Osweiler: We all know what he got and, sure enough, it’s really a two-year deal for $37M. That still amounts to $18.5M per year, which is far more than what the Bengals gave per year to Andy Dalton on his “two years then we’ll see” contract. If Osweiler can follow the Dalton path, the contract won’t look so bad, but as it is now, it’s a risky contract and one that gives the impression that GM Rick Smith has his job on the line.

Olivier Vernon: The deal is a two-year, $40M deal from a cash standpoint, but from a cap standpoint, it may not be worth getting out of the deal until the third year. If Vernon does remain with the team through the third year, he collects the additional $12.5M in injury-only guarantees. If you base the contract on the cap standpoint (cut him only if you gain more cap space than you lose), then it’s a three-year, $52.5M deal. It’s true that Vernon’s play can’t just be measured by QB sacks, but the question to ask is whether or not he is truly an elite defensive player. As with Osweiler’s deal, the Vernon deal makes me wonder if GM Jerry Reese’s job is at stake.

Malik Jackson: Most six-year contracts are really three-year deals from a cash standpoint, but this one qualifies as a two-year, $31.5M deal for cap and cash, although it’s just $9.5M freed in the third year with a $6M dead money hit. If he stays in 2018, then it becomes a three-year, $45M deal. I do like this deal better than the Vernon deal, although they are paying Jackson as an elite defensive player and it’s hard for me to say if he qualifies as that. But I think Jackson has more potential to live up to the deal, given that he has excelled in two different defenses.

Janoris Jenkins: Again, it’s a two-year deal in both forms for $28.8M, but with a $6M dead money hit versus $7M cleared space if he’s cut after two. Keep him through three and it’s $31.7M over three years. Jenkins has shown he’s closer to be a No. 1 cornerback than Byron Maxwell did when he signed his contract last year, so I don’t think the Giants are in bad shape. Again, though, you wonder what will happen to Reese if the Giants don’t make the playoffs.

Kelechi Osemele: On the surface, this looks like a lot of money to give to a guard who had just part of one season playing left tackle. But if you look deeper, you find out that this is a true “two years and no promises after that” contract. Reggie McKenzie structured the deal so the signing bonus only went into the first two years, so it’s truly a two-year, $25.4M contract which the Raiders could then get out of with zero dead money if it doesn’t work out. McKenzie certainly used his available cap space to his advantage, which I’ll get to later.

Sean Smith: This contract is a one-year deal from a cap standpoint and two years from a cash standpoint — as in, the Raiders gain more cap space than they lose if they cut him after one year, but would have to pay Smith some fully guaranteed money ($4.25M). I would expect Smith to stay for at least two years, because I doubt the Raiders would cut him while owing him that much money. So it’s a two-year, $15M deal in reality. That’s a reasonable deal to pay for a player who is a 28-year-old, No. 2 cornerback. The Raiders did quite well here.

Damon Harrison: Again, this is really a two-year deal from cap and cash standpoints. Interestingly, his cap number rises to $10.6M in 2017, but drops to $9.6M in 2018 and $8.6M in 2019 before going up to $10.85M in the final year (which he may never get to). So he’s looking at $20M over two years for sure, which is fine. This doesn’t strike me as a deal that shows a GM is trying to save his job, unlike the other deals the Giants agreed to.

Alex Mack: This would be a two-year deal for $20M from a cash standpoint, although I’m hesitant to call it one from a cap standpoint, too. If the Falcons cut him after 2017, they take a $6.9M dead money hit and gain just $3.9M in cap space. With that said, Mack is arguably the best center in the NFL and I have little reason to doubt that he will live up to the deal for three years. It’s certainly isn’t a contract made out of desperation.

Bruce Irvin: Once again, the Raiders use their cap space to their advantage to give a player a “two years but no promises whatsoever after that” contract. Irvin will collect $14.5M in those first two years, and even his second year is palatable from a cap standpoint at just $7M. The best part about the Irvin and Osemele deals is having no dead money means, if you cut them, you have all that cap space to address Derek Carr (whose franchise tag could easily fit in, and so could an extension whether the tag is used or not) and Khalil Mack (who enters the fifth-year rookie option but might get his extension sooner). Reggie McKenzie did a nice job managing the cap.

Mario Williams: This isn’t a bad contract, actually, as the Dolphins are only committed to Williams for one year under a $6.5M cap number. If he doesn’t pan out, they are out $8.4M in cash spent in 2016, but they would gain $8.5M in cap space with just a $2M dead money hit in 2017. The only gripe I have is with the Dolphins restructuring Ndamukong Suh’s deal, because they could have easily fit the deal for Williams under the cap without having to do that. True, they would have to make other moves, but the ones they did make allowed them to accommodate Williams.

Brandon Brooks: Here we have another two-year deal from a cap and cash standpoint, giving Brooks $17M in full guarantees. For those who believe it’s only cap friendly if you gain more space than you lose through a cut, then it’s another $8.5M in cash you spend in 2018 with $4M of that becoming fully guaranteed and a cap number of $10.7M. Brooks stands as the highest-paid right guard in the NFL, although I’ll admit to not having enough information to say if he should be. But at least it’s a contract the Eagles can get out of after two seasons.

Marvin Jones: From a cash standpoint, it’s really a one-year, $13M deal. From a cap standpoint, though, it’s a little trickier. A true cap standpoint makes this a two-year, $20M contract, but if you believe a cap friendly deal means you should always gain more cap space than you lose when cutting a player, you are keeping Jones for another season and paying him $7M more. I’m not really a fan of the contract as I wouldn’t pay somebody who is a No. 2 receiver at best $13M for a single season. I’m OK with $7M for that type of player, but the full guarantees are really steep.

Doug Martin: This is really a two-year, $15M deal, in which the Buccaneers put the full guarantees into his base salaries and a roster bonus. That means they can cut him after two years with no dead money. I definitely like the structure of the deal. I probably wouldn’t have paid him $7.5M per year over two seasons, but I can live with it given that the Bucs will have no dead money to worry about if things don’t work out. It’s definitely a better contract than what DeMarco Murray received last year.

Tashaun Gipson: Here’s another five-year deal that’s really a two-year deal. Gipson gets $12M in full guarantees during a two-year period and his cap numbers are fine for a safety. I’m OK with paying a safety $6M per year and Gipson was a good player when healthy. This is one of those contracts in which, if Gipson plays well, he should definitely reach the third year, when he’s due $5.75M and his cap number will be $7.05M.

Coby Fleener: Once again, the Saints show they aren’t interested in being patient, working to resolve cap matters and rebuilding the roster. Giving Fleener $14.6M over two years is too much for somebody who hasn’t been one of the best at his position. He’s getting paid an amount roughly equivalent to what Greg Olsen makes per year on his deal. As with Jones, if you believe cap friendly means you gain more space than you lose once you get past the full guarantees, this contract requires the Saints keep Fleener for three years and pay him $6.3M more. I just don’t understand what Mickey Loomis is doing. I’d say his job is on the line, but I thought that last season and he’s still there.

Rodney McLeod: Another two-year deal from a cash standpoint, with $13M in fully guaranteed money, but whether it’s from a cap standpoint depends on your view ($4.8M dead money if released in 2018 with $2.8M cap space freed). Then again, the Eagles would owe him just $6M if he’s on the roster in 2018. That makes it an acceptable deal and one that shouldn’t constrain the Eagles’ ability to keep improving the roster.

Chase Daniel: This is really a two-year deal, but considering that it’s a three-year deal on paper and that Daniel is a career backup, that’s not a good thing. Furthermore, the Eagles fully guaranteed $12M to a career backup who is 29 years old. I cannot understand the rationale behind this deal when the Eagles already committed $18M to Sam Bradford this year. It’s by far the worst contract handed out to any free agent and the only contract in which I see zero justification for it.

Jeff Allen: This is really a two-year deal for $12M and that’s reasonable. His contract total is less than what Zane Beadles got when he signed with the Jaguars two years ago. I definitely like this signing by the Texans.

Alex Boone: I really like this contract. The Vikings did fully guarantee Boone $10M over two seasons, but the beauty of it is that none of it came in the form of a signing bonus. They would have to fork over $3.4M in full guarantees if they cut him after 2016, so that’s the only risk involved. But after two years, he can be cut with no dead money and $6.7M in cap space freed. That’s excellent work done by GM Rick Spielman.

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.