A few days ago, I reviewed what I believed to be the best and worst value contracts for the AFC teams. I will do the same for the NFC teams.
You can check my previous post for which contracts I considered, plus a reminder that just because one contract is the best or worst value for a particular team, does not make that a good or bad contract or among the best or worst in the NFL.
Best value contract: Darren McFadden, RB
The Cowboys went with McFadden last year given that they had tight cap space and couldn’t afford to keep DeMarco Murray. It’s become clear that not only were the Cowboys right to let Murray walk, but that they found a back who was capable of producing well at a much better price. The Cowboys had McFadden last season for a cap hit of just $1.15M and his cap hit rises by just $1M this season. Although Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott, McFadden will still be paid a reasonable amount for being a rotational back. If he doesn’t make the final roster, it’s just a $100,000 dead money charge.
Worst value contract: Brandon Carr, CB
Carr is the perfect example of when the Cowboys were not making the best decision regarding how they spent money and structured contracts. They have had to keep Carr around at cap numbers of more than $12M in 2014 and 2015, and this year, he’ll eat up $10.2M in cap space. His deal has a voidable year in 2017 for cap purposes, so they’ll take a $2.7M dead money charge when they will certainly void the deal. The good news is the Cowboys are doing better with structuring contracts, so deals like this are starting to vanish from the books.
New York Giants
Best value contract: Josh Brown, K
It’s hard to judge a lot of the Giants’ contracts because their most talented players are still on their rookie deals and the free agents they signed this offseason weren’t value signings, except for players on one-year deals. But they did reasonably well with Brown, who has been a good kicker the past couple of seasons and who the Giants signed to a low-cost deal. They paid him $1M in guaranteed money this year and, if his production declines, they can cut him next year at just a $250,000 dead money charge. If they keep him, his $2.25M cap number is still reasonable.
Worst value contract: Olivier Vernon, DE
It’s hard to blame Vernon for seeking the best possible deal he could get, but the Giants put themselves into a bind by paying him so much money when they were committing dollars to other free agents, too. He’ll have a $13M cap number this year, $16M in 2016 and $17M in 2017 before it becomes practical to cut him from a cap standpoint. That means Vernon will need to produce at a high level to justify those cap numbers. He played well in 2015, but is he really the type of player who can transform a defense?
Best value contract: Jason Kelce, C
The Eagles gave Kelce a six-year extension back in 2014 and did a terrific job of structuring the deal to be cap friendly. When he signed the deal, his cap hit was just $2.6M, increased to $4.4M in 2015 and will be $5.2M this year. Next year, the Eagles could get out of the contract if they wanted to. But if he keeps playing at a high level, the Eagles can have for a cap hit of $6.2M, which is fine for one of the better centers in the NFL.
Worst value contract: Chase Daniel, QB
While Sam Bradford will carry a massive cap charge in 2017, the Eagles can at least get out of the deal and have offset language for the fully guaranteed money. Not so with Daniel, who appears to be the team’s long-term backup at this point and would cost the Eagles $7M in dead money, with $5M in fully guaranteed money, if he was cut next year. And keeping him means an $8M cap charge. That’s just too much for a quarterback who has attempted a total of 77 passes in six seasons.
Best value contract: David Bruton, S
Bronco fans know about Bruton’s value to special teams and that he is a good rotational safety, too. No doubt he joined Washington in hopes of starting for a couple of seasons. Washington didn’t pay too much to Bruton, giving him a $2.5M signing bonus, an acceptable amount for a player who is excellent for depth and special teams and might be able to start. If he wins a starting job and produces well, he’ll carry just a $3.3M cap hit next year, which is fine for a starting safety.
Worst value contract: Pierre Garcon, WR
Washington has been doing a better job with its contracts in recent years. Garcon’s contract was signed back in 2012 and Washington paid him No. 1 receiver money at the time when he’s been better off as a No. 2. He will count for $10.2M against the cap this season. Washington can allow him to depart in free agency after this season, but for this season, he’s taking up too much cap space for a player of his talents.
Best value contract: Zach Miller, TE
Miller has played well for the Bears the past couple of seasons and it could have been easy to give him more money based on that potential production. But the Bears got him for just $3M in guaranteed money and a $2.9M cap hit this year, and can get out of the deal next year if his performance declines. They protected themselves well with this contract, giving him short-term reward for his performance in recent years, but didn’t overpay to keep a 31-year-old player on the roster.
Worst value contract: Robbie Gould, K
The Bears, for the most part, have done well with their recent structuring of contracts and those who didn’t have good value deals are no longer on the roster. Gould’s contract comes in at a $4.1M cap hit, though, and that’s a little bit high for a kicker. In terms of contracts overall, it’s not a bad deal. But in terms of the value of the contract versus what Gould brings, he’s not necessarily worth that much of a cap hit.
Best value contract: Stephen Tulloch, ILB
Tulloch has been one of the better defensive players the Lions have had in recent years. When they signed him to his extension, he averaged $5.1M per year, a reasonable number for a top inside linebacker. He enters the final year of his deal at a $7.3M cap number, but that’s fine for a player of his talents. Once his deal expires, the Lions will have to make a decision about extending him, but if they do, there’s a good chance they can keep him at around a $6M APY salary or get him for less if his production drops.
Worst value contract: Matthew Stafford, QB
In terms of average salary per year, Stafford’s contract isn’t bad. The problem is that the Lions had to structure it at a time in which they had cap issues and punted hits down the road, thus inflating Stafford’s cap number in future seasons. It’s currently $22.5M, which is hard to justify for a quarterback who would be considered “good but not great.” The Lions will have to be careful with how they extend him past 2017, because they want to make sure his cap numbers are kept more reasonable.
Best value contract: Jordy Nelson, WR
Last season demonstrated how valuable Nelson is to the Packers offense. He may not be a top five receiver, but he is their top option and could arguably be the No. 1 option on most teams. So getting him at a cap hit of $8.3M and a $5.5M salary is good value. Of course, it remains to be seen if he will come back from his latest injury and play at a high level, but something tells me he will be fine.
Worst value contract: Julius Peppers, OLB
The Packers are another team that doesn’t really have any bad contracts. Peppers, though, saw his production decline last season. He’s 36 years old and arguably isn’t an elite player. Yet his cap hit of $10.5M is the type you would associate with a top player at his position. The Packers could have gotten out of the deal with just a $2.5M cap hit but have elected to keep him. We’ll see if he has anything left in the tank, but I suspect this will be Peppers’ last season in the NFL.
Best value contract: Everson Griffen, DE
When Griffen first signed his extension with the Vikings, some may have thought they overpaid him because he never had more than eight sacks in a season. But he’s earned his money and, given the deals that have been handed out to other defensive ends, his $8.2M cap charge for 2016 almost looks like a bargain. Griffen has notched double-digit sacks the past two seasons and is still in the prime of his career. Give the Vikings credit for knowing what they had in Griffen.
Worst value contract: Kyle Rudolph, TE
Rudolph scored nine touchdowns in 2012 but has never scored more than five in a season since. He’ll be due $5.65M in salary this year at a cap hit of $7.3M. It’s hard to justify that high of a salary and cap hit for an average-to-good tight end. His cap number will fall to $6.8M next year, but if he doesn’t produce well this year, it will still be hard to justify.
Best value contract: Jonathan Babineaux, DE
Babineaux signed his last extension with the Falcons in 2014, a three-year deal with $4M fully guaranteed. At the time, he was 32 years old, but the Falcons were able to keep him on a team-friendly deal, after he earned $4.7M in 2013. This year, he will earn $1.25M and carry a $2.6M cap hit, but the Falcons would carry just $660,000 in dead money if he fails to make the roster. That’s fine for a player who was good in his prime and can still contribute even if he’s in decline.
Worst value contract: Matt Ryan, QB
Ryan’s contarct isn’t so much about the salary he gets as it is about the cap hit. He’s due $15.75M in base salary, but his cap hit comes in at nearly $24M. That’s simply too high for a good, but not elite, quarterback. The Falcons will have to keep him at that nearly $24M cap number again next year, then they must be careful with how they structure any extension, which they will likely want to do in 2018 to reduce Ryan’s $21.6M cap charge.
Best value contract: Ted Ginn, WR
Ginn has had issues with dropped passes, but otherwise, he filled in reasonably well when Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season to injury in 2015. Ginn showed he could go do some good things as a starter, and at a cap hit of $1.85M in 2015, he represented good value. He will still be good value this season as his cap charge is just $2.77M. It’s likely he’ll get plenty of work this season, too, as younger receivers continue their adjustments to the NFL. If he somehow doesn’t make the final cut, he’ll account for just an $850,000 dead money hit.
Worst value contract: Jonathan Stewart, RB
Stewart’s contract is one of those leftover from the previous regime and one of the deals the Panthers haven’t been able to get out of because of cap consequences. This will be the last year the Panthers will have to keep Stewart on the roster, as cutting him might save $2.25M in cap space but would result in a $7.3M dead money charge. But that means the Panthers will have $9.5M in cap space taken up by Stewart’s contract. Chances are Stewart will be cut next season, given that his cap charge will be $8.25M.
Best contract value: James Laurinaitis, ILB
Laurinaitis’ play declined last season but the Saints signed him to a reasonable deal. A $1.8M signing bonus is fine for an inside linebacker who, in the past, proved to be one of the better players at his position. If it doesn’t work out, the Saints can get out of the deal after this season when his cap charge rises to $3.35M. They would only take a $1.2M dead money hit by cutting him. The Saints haven’t been smart with contract structure in many cases, but they did all right here.
Worst contract value: Jairus Byrd, S
Byrd was considered one of the top players in free agency back in 2014, but he has never lived up to the deal he signed. The Saints signed him at a time in which their cap space was limited and they have been forced to restructure it to stay under the cap. Now Byrd comes with a $10.9M cap charge and it will rise to $11.7M next year. If they cut him next year, it will result in $8M in dead money unless it’s a post-June 1 cut.
Best contract value: Lavonte David, OLB
David’s cap charge will be $10M this season, but that’s all right for a player of his talents. What’s really good about this deal is that the Buccaneers did not give him a signing bonus, but instead gave him $5M roster bonuses in 2015 and 2016, helping to keep cap charge in future seasons reduced. In 2017, his cap hit is just $6M. After that, his cap hit will rise, but there would be no dead money if he was cut. That makes this a great deal for the Bucs.
Worst contract value: Vincent Jackson, WR
Jackson’s production dropped a lot last season. He is 33 years old and it remains to be seen if he can play at a respectable level this season. He’s entering the final year of his contract, but it comes with a $9.7M salary and a $12.2M cap charge. Both are too high for the production he had last season. The good news is that it’s the final year of the contract and, if the Bucs want to keep him, he’ll have to take a much lower salary to stick around.
Best contract value: Mike Iupati, G
The Cardinals gave $15.75M in full guarantees to Iupati when they signed him last year. But that seems reasonable enough for a player of his talents. It helps that the Cardinals kept his cap number low for the first two years. He’ll have just a $5.7M cap number this season. Next season, it rises to $9.2M, which is a bit pricey, but it shouldn’t upset the Cardinals’ cap situation. The Cardinals ciould get out of the deal after 2017 if his play were to decline.
Worst contract value: Patrick Peterson, CB
Peterson is a talented player, but I’m not sure he justifies a salary that gives him an average salary per year higher than Richard Sherman. Additionally, his cap number for the next two seasons will be slightly more than $13M. The good news is that Peterson’s contract will be one of just two contracts with a high cap number next year, provided the Cardinals don’t sign anybody else to an extension. To be clear, I don’t think Peterson’s contract is bad, but some might not think he’s worth as high of a cap hit as he has.
Best contract value: William Hayes, DE
Hayes will be 31, but the money he’ll be paid over the next two years is reasonable for his role. He’s the secondary pass rushing threat behind Robert Quinn and had 5.5 sacks. After the Rams released Chris Long, it made sense for them to keep Hayes on the roster. What’s good about Hayes’ deal is that his cap number will drop from $7M this year to $5.5M next year. In 2018, if the Rams were to cut him, they would have no dead money.
Worst contract value: Nick Foles, QB
Chalk this one up to a roll of the dice that didn’t pan out. Foles had just a $4M cap hit last season but struggled and is now relegated to backup status – he might even fall to third string behind Jared Goff and Case Keenum while collecting $6M in guaranteed salary and taking up $8.75M in cap space. That’s too high for a backup QB and, if he falls to third string, the deal will only look worse.
Best contract value: NaVorro Bowman, ILB
Bowman had to do much of the work for the Niners on defense last year but was very good despite not having much help. He’s established himself as one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL, perhaps second only to Luke Kuechly. Bowman’s cap number of $9.5M this year is fine and his cap charge drops to $8.9M in 2017. The Niners could cut him in 2018 with just $654,000 in dead money or they could extend him for a couple more years to reduce his cap charge.
Worst contract value: Torrey Smith, WR
The Niners thought they were getting a good No. 1 wide receiver when they signed Smith, but he was a major disappointment in 2015. Now his cap number has risen to $7.6M, which some may consider too much for even a No. 2 WR. He enters the 2016 season as the player the Niners hope can become the top target, now that Anquan Boldin is gone. If he can get back on track, he could justify the cap charge. If not, he may not be with the team next season.
Best contract value: Michael Bennett, DE
It’s amazing how the Seahawks have been able to keep Bennett on the roster on such team-friendly deals. Bennett has brought up a couple of times how his salary may be too low for a player of his talents. But he agreed to the contracts he has signed and the Seahawks continue to get a quality player for just a $7M cap charge. Next year, his cap number rises to $9.5M and I would imagine the Seahawks would like to extend him, which would give Bennett a chance to make one final push for a rich deal before he has to call it a career.
Worst contract value: Jimmy Graham, TE
The Seahawks don’t really have any bad contracts and the Graham deal certainly isn’t an unfriendly deal – after all, the Seahawks incur no dead money for releasing him because they acquired Graham in a trade with the Saints, who incurred the dead money charges. The main reason the Graham deal gets the nod is because his cap charge of $9M is a bit high considering how much his production dropped prior to his season-ending injury. If he bounces back, he could prove worthy of that cap charge. If not, the Seahawks will certainly cut him next season to avoid a $10M cap charge.