In years past, I have examined what I think are the best and worst value contracts for each team. Doing it this year, I am focusing more on the one-year cap and cash commitment for players rather than the total contract.
I did not include any players under rookie deals or RFA tenders because those values are set in stone. I excluded franchise tag players as well because there’s a chance that some of them could be extended, although I was tempted to do it in at least one case that I will mention.
I will start with the AFC this week, and because this is a Broncos’ site, we’ll start with them first, then the rest of the AFC West, then the remainder of the AFC.
Best value contract: Chris Harris, $7.5M cash, $9.8M cap hit – No surprise here. Harris is arguably a top five cornerback and his cap and cash commitments fall under $10M.
Worst value contract: Donald Stephenson, $4M cash, $5M cap hit – Though the Broncos were able to renegotiate his contract to reduce the cash commitment to $2M if he fails to make the roster, It’s tough to justify even the $2M payout to compete for a roster spot.
Best value contract: Mitchell Schwartz, $5.5M cash, $6.9M cap hit – After all the big money contracts handed out to offensive tackles in free agency earlier this season, Schwartz looks like a bargain.
Worst value contract: Tamba Hali, $7M cash, $8.5M cap hit – Hali is coming off his worst season and it’s worth asking if decline has set in. The Chiefs are stuck with him because the bulk of the money is fully guaranteed.
Best value contract: Casey Hayward, $4.25M cash, $5M cap hit – Hayward was coming off a down season when he hit free agency, allowing the Chargers to sign him to a lower-cost deal and he performed well as their No. 2 cornerback.
Worst value contract: Corey Liuget, $8M cash, $9.5M cap hit – Since signing his contract extension, Liuget hasn’t performed at a level to justify it, even though his cap and cash commitments fall under the $10M mark.
Best value contract: Donald Penn, $6.1M cash, $7.1M cap hit – Penn became a free agent at a time when the offensive tackle market was soft, allowing the Raiders to retain him at an excellent price.
Worst value contract: Sean Smith, $5.5M cash, $9.5M cap hit – Smith was supposed to provide the Raiders with a true No. 1 cornerback and played like anything but that last season.
Best value contract: Richie Incognito, $3.7M cash, $4.9M cap hit – Incognito continues to play well despite his age. It’s one of the few contracts the previous Bills regime handed out that proved to be worthy of what the player brought to the field.
Worst value contract: Charles Clay, $4.5M cash, $9M cap hit – Though the cash isn’t bad, the cap hit ranks fourth among tight ends and Clay isn’t even a top-five player at the position. It was a bad contract from the start, one the Bills had to restructure, leaving them stuck with a player who isn’t living up to the deal.
Best value contract: Nate Allen, $3.4M cash, $3.4M cap hit – Allen is coming off a down season, so the Dolphins did well to protect themselves by making this a one-year, low-cost deal. Though all the money was fully guaranteed, it’s a fair price to pay to see if Allen can bounce back.
Worst value contract: Ryan Tannehill, $18M cash, $20,3M cap hit – Tannehill’s ceiling has been reached, that of an average-to-good (third tier) quarterback, but he’s being compensated like a second tier QB (good QB capable of great games).
Best value contract: Tom Brady, $1M cash, $14M cap hit – It’s too easy to pick Brady, but we have to recognize that the odds of paying a starting QB a $1M base salary are non-existent these days.
Worst value contract: Stephon Gilmore, $23M cash, $8M cap hit – People can talk all they want about how Gilmore could be a good fit for the Patriots’ defensive scheme, but $23M is a massive commitment to a cornerback who most would not consider top five at the position.
New York Jets
Best value contract: Morris Claiborne, $5M cash, $4.7M cap hit – Claiborne is coming off a solid season but has underachieved most of his career. So the Jets were wise to treat him as only worthy of a one-year “prove it” deal.
Worst value contract: Muhammad Wilkerson, $15M cash, $18M cap hit – After placing the franchise tag on him last year, the Jets unexpectedly gave him an extension and his production fell off the cliff.
Best value contract: Eric Weddle, $4M cash, $5.75M cap hit – The Ravens got Weddle signed to a good value contract overall, not overpaying for him given his age, yet getting quality play from him that makes his deal look like a bargain.
Worst value contract: Joe Flacco, $6M cash, $24.5M cap hit – The cash payout is low but the massive cap hit is a lesson about why you should be careful about tying yourself down to a massive contract when your cap space is tight.
Best value contract: JC Tretter, $6.5M cash, $3.6M cap hit – I loved this contract from the moment it was signed. The Browns got themselves a good starting center at excellent value and protected themselves in case he doesn’t live up to expectations/
Worst value contract: Joe Haden, $11.2M cash, $14.4M cap hit – Injuries have affected Haden the past few seasons and he is no longer consider a top five cornerback. It was a deal that seemed reasonable at the time, but no longer is.
Best value contact: Andy Dalton, $13.1M cash, $15.7M cap hit – Dalton’s play has fluctuated in recent seasons but the Bengals were wise not to overpay him. His cap and cash commitment fit the type of QB he is.
Worst value contract: Dre Kirkpatrick, $12.4M cash, $9.3M cap hit – Though not a bad contract overall, I’m not sure that Kirkpatrick warranted such a high first-year cash payout given his production in 2016.
Best value contract: Marcus Gilbert, $4M cash, $7.3M cap hit – Even after a recent contract restructure, the Steelers were able to keep Gilbert’s cap hits reasonable and are getting good cash value when other teams paid more for right tackles.
Worst value contract: Mike Mitchell, $5M cash, $8.1M cap hit – I’ve never understood why the Steelers thought so much of Mitchell when they signed him. He has the third highest-cap hit among safeties when he’s not top five at the position.
Best value contract: JJ Watt, $10.5M cash, $14M cap hit – The Texans were wise to lock up Watt when they did, given how much money has been handed out to pass rushers since, most who are not at Watt’s level.
Worst value contract: Brian Cushing, $6.75M cash, $9.3M cap hit – Though the Texans don’t really have any bad contracts after unloading Brock Osweiler, I’m not sure if Cushing has been playing at a level that justifies a $9.3M cap hit.
Best value contract: Frank Gore, $3.5M cash, $3.5M cap hit – At one point, this contract looked like a bad deal to me. But he had a good season in 2016 and the cap and cash the Colts commit to him this year are reasonable.
Worst value contract: Jack Doyle, $8M cash, $8M cap hit – Though the Colts can get out of the deal after just one season with no dead money, I don’t think Doyle’s play in 2016 justified that much cash to keep him around.
Best value contract: Tashaun Gipson, $5.5M cash, $6.3M cap hit – The Jaguars did a good job protecting themselves when they first signed Gipson to this deal. He played well in 2016 and justified the Jaguars’ cash commitment for 2017.
Worst value contract: Chris Ivory, $5M cash, $6M cap hit – On the other hand, the Jaguars did a poor job with this deal, falling in love with a player based on one quality season in which he never proved to be more than a rotational player in the past.
Best value contract: Derrick Morgan, $6.5M cash, $7.9.M cap hit – The Titans locked up Morgan to an extension before he could hit free agency in 2015 and it paid off. He is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro.
Worst value contract: Logan Ryan, $11M cash, $8.6M cap hit – The Titans don’t really have any bad contracts, though Ryan might be an overpay based on the cash standpoint, particularly because he’s played more like a No. 2 cornerback throughout his career.