Last week, I examined what I considered to be the best and worst value contracts for each AFC team, based on the current cap and cash commitment for the player as opposed to the total contract.
This week, I am reviewing the same for NFC teams. Again, I have excluded franchise tag players, rookie deals and RFA tenders – but if you will recall, last time, I said there was one team for which I was tempted to name a franchise tag player. That team just happens to be one of the NFC teams.
And I will start with the NFC West, then go to the remainder of the NFC, allowing me to start with the team who happens to have the franchise tagged player I really wanted to name.
Los Angeles Rams
Best value contract: Rodger Saffold, $4.8M cash, $6.3M cap hit – You will recall that the Raiders originally attempted to sign Saffold as a free agent but they pulled the contract because of concerns about his shoulder. He then returned the Rams for less money and they have gotten a pretty good return on the investment, with Saffold settling in as the left guard.
Worst value contract: Tavon Austin, $14.9M cash, $14.9M cap hit – I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the Rams thought Austin was worth this much money. He is useful in the running game but that doesn’t justify paying him like an elite receiver, which he clearly is not.
The contract I really wanted to name the worst value: Trumaine Johnson. He was given the franchise tag for the second year in a row and will command a $16.7M cap hit. There is zero justification for doing this – the fact that cornerback is a premium position still doesn’t justify the commitment.
Best value contract: Antoine Bethea, $4.75M cash, $3.4M cap hit – The Cardinals were wise not to overspend on Bethea, who bounced back in 2016 after missing more than half of 2015 with injuries, but is 32 years old. To Arizona’s credit, the team treated him as a player who is about to exit his prime.
Worst value contract: Carson Palmer, $15.5M cash, $24.1M cap hit – Arizona took a bigger risk when the team chose to extend Palmer late in 2014, then converted a roster bonus into a signing bonus in 2015. Last year, his play sharply declined and it doesn’t appear likely he’ll bounce back at the age of 37.
Best value contract: Ahmad Brooks, $4.5M cash, $6.1M cap hit – Brooks enters the final year of his contract and continues to put up good numbers despite his age. His cash and cap commitments fit what is expected for a pass rusher of his talents.
Worst value contract: Malcolm Smith, $9.3M cash, $3.7M cap hit – This contract is harder to understand, though. Smith has been nothing more than a rotational player and I don’t see why the Niners would think it was a good idea to pay him like a second-tier option.
Best value contract: Russell Wilson, $12.6M cash, $18.8M cap hit – I think most people would put Wilson in the lower half of the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, which is fast becoming a group that is demanding $20M or more per year in either a cash or cap commitment. So the Seahawks did well with the extension they originally gave Wilson and are retaining him at a reasonable value.
Worst value contract: Luke Joeckel, $7M cash, $7.25M cap hit – Even as a one-year deal, the Seahawks are paying Joeckel like an upper tier starter, rather than the average player at best that he is. The Seahawks may have been desperate for O-line help, but this was too much to pay Joeckel.
Best value contract: Orlando Scandrick, $3M cash, $5.2M cap hit – After missing 2015 because of injuries, Scandrick played in 12 games (10 starts) and showed he could still be a good No. 2 cornerback. The Cowboys were wise not to overpay him when they gave him the new contract and some might think he’s a slight bargain.
Worst value contract: Tyrone Crawford, $7.25M cash, $10.3M cap hit – While the one-year cash commitment isn’t bad, the cap hit is a bit high. This goes back to the Cowboys having to restructure deals to get under the cap. The good news is the Cowboys won’t have to do this as much in future seasons, so situations like Crawford’s shouldn’t happen so much.
New York Giants
Best value contract: Brandon Marshall, $7M cash, $4.4M cap hit – The Giants didn’t commit a lot of money to Marshall, paying him about what you would expect for a talented player who is getting up there in years. I do believe some of Marshall’s struggles last season went back to QB issues and, if he bounces back, this will be an even better value.
Worst value contract: Jason Pierre-Paul, $22.5M cash, $7.5M cap hit –Pierre-Paul played well in 2016 but not at the level of one of the top pass rushers. Yet the Giants paid him like one, just as they did to Olivier Vernon last year. While the Vernon deal wasn’t bad, it represented a slight overpay and I think the JPP deal is a slightly bigger overpay.
Best value contract: Jason Peters, $11.25M cash, $6.9M cap hit – Other left tackles got higher one-year cash payouts than Peters in free agency, even though it can be argued that Peters played better than them despite his age. And if Peters’ play does decline, the Eagles could still get out of the contract after this season.
Worst value contract: Vinny Curry, $7M cash, $9M cap hit – Curry is merely a rotational player but he’s getting paid like a player who takes the majority of the snaps. While it might be justifiable for a player who puts up bigger numbers, Curry posted just 3.5 sacks last season.
Best value contract: Terrelle Pryor, $6M cash, $6M cap hit – There was talk that Pryor would get the franchise tag from the Browns or otherwise cash in on free agency, but neither happened and Washington got him on a one-year “prove it” deal. I think it’s fair because, while Pryor did good things last season, he hasn’t yet established himself as a true No. 1 wide receiver.
Worst value contract: Josh Norman, $16.5M cash, $20M cap hit – Though Norman’s stats didn’t drop that much when the Panthers didn’t extend him, removed the tag and he joined Washington, they didn’t reach levels you would expect for a top cornerback. In the end, while the Panthers can be criticized for not properly addressing the CB position, I believe they were right not to give into his demands as Washington paid him like a top-five player and he hasn’t yet performed like one.
Best value contract: Willie Young, $5M cash, $4.1M cap hit – Young came into his own after he signed with the Chicago Bears in 2014, posting 24 sacks in three seasons. To the Bears’ credit, they didn’t overpay when they extended him on a two-year deal during the offseason. Consider that other pass rushers who are considered the secondary, rather than the primary, pass rusher are paid much more and the Bears still kept Young at a reasonable price.
Worst value contract: Mike Glennon, $16M cash, $14M cap hit – Even though the Bears can get out of the contract after one season, they are still committing a lot of cash and cap space to a quarterback who hasn’t started a game in the past two seasons. The fact that they traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky makes it clear they don’t think Glennon is a long-term solution, so why pay him like he is?
Best value contract: Golden Tate, $6M cash, $8.3M cap hit – The Lions originally signed Tate to be the No. 2 wide receiver alongside Calvin Johnson. After Johnson retired, Tate became the No. 1 option and turned in a very good season with 91 receptions for 1,077 yards. Though his touchdowns were low, he still did enough to justify his spot as the top receiver and did so at a very reasonable salary.
Worst value contract: Marvin Jones, $7M cash, $8.6M cap hit – Compare that, though, to the contract the Lions gave Jones. They will be paying him more money than Tate but got less production last year – Jones caught just 55 passes and fell short of 1,000 yards. Jones has never proven to be anything better than a No. 3 receiver and I’m not sure why the Lions felt justified in paying him like a top No. 2.
Best value contract: Letroy Guion, $3.3M cash, $3.6M cap hit – The cost for 3-4 defensive tackles went up considerably during the offseason. So the Packers were fortunate to have extended last offseason when those players came at cheaper salaries. His recent DUI arrest is cause for concern but the Packers at least didn’t overpay for his services.
Worst value contract: Randall Cobb, $9.5M cash, $12.6M cap hit – Cobb was coming off a strong season when the Packers extended him in 2015. Time has told us, though, that the Packers overpaid for his services. He hasn’t come close to his 2014 numbers and he missed three games last season. Chalk this one up to how even the best-run franchises don’t always make the best contract decisions.
Best value contract: Everson Griffen, $7M cash, $8.2M cap hit – At the time Griffen signed this contract, some people raised their eyebrows, but it turned out the Vikings knew what they had in Griffen. Though he didn’t reach double-digit sack numbers last season, he still played at a level that more than justified the commitment the Vikings made to him.
Worst value contract: Riley Reiff, $17.2M cash, $8.5M cap hit – The Vikings were one of those teams who got caught up in the market for offensive tackles, where teams overpaid for the top names. They are committing elite left tackle money to Reiff after the Lions determined he was better off playing the right side.
Best value contract: Ryan Schraeder, $7M cash, $2.3M cap hit – The Falcons got Schraeder extended during the 2016 season, thus avoiding the market that developed in which several offensive tackles got overpaid. The bulk of the cash was originally to be paid as a roster bonus but got converted into a signing bonus, yet that does not detract from the importance of the Falcons extending him when they did
Worst value contract: Mohamed Sanu, $6M cash, $7.4M cap hit – Sanu benefitted from the player’s market for wide receivers last season, though he didn’t get as much money as Jones. Still, it remains hard to justify the commitment the Falcons made to Sanu when he wasn’t that productive.
Best value contract: Charles Johnson, $4.5M cash, $4.3M cap hit – Johnson is the perfect example of a team finding a player who fits their system well and is willing to take less money to remain part of it. He took a one-year “prove it” deal in 2016 after missing most of 2015 with an injury, but played well enough to warrant another low-cost deal.
Worst value contract: Matt Kalil, $13M cash, $3.4M cap hit – Here’s another offensive tackle who benefitted from a player’s market at the position and is being paid for more than he’s probably worth. The way the Panthers structured the deal will make it difficult for them to get out of it if Kalil doesn’t perform up to expectations, making this one of the most puzzling deals given out to a player this offseason.
Best value contract: Adrian Peterson, $3.5M cash, $2.25M cap hit – Though it may seem puzzling that Peterson would be good value given his age, I like that the Saints kept the money is guaranteed to receive at a low amount and tied more of the deal toward incentives. That’s fine for a player who has proven to be elite in the past and still might be able to contribute to some degree.
Worst value contract: Cameron Jordan, $9.3M cash, $12M cap hit – To be fair, Jordan has played well in past seasons. The only issue I have with the contract is that the Saints had to restructure it because of previous bad contracts handed out. New Orleans has been able to get those bad contracts off the books, so as long as they are smart about things, they shouldn’t fall into the trap they did with Jordan’s deal again.
Best value contract: Lavonte David, $6M cash, $6M cap hit – The Buccaneers typically give players contract extensions in which the bulk of the money is tied to base salaries and roster bonuses. David is a good example of that. They paid him $10M last year and now get to keep him for $6M, then decide next year if they want to retain him at $8.75M or cut him with no dead money. If he keeps playing well, chances are good he’ll see that money.
Worst value contract: Doug Martin, $7M cash, $7M cap hit – While the Bucs generally do a good job with contract structures, they have fallen into the trap of overpaying for some players. Martin is a good example – he has been inconsistent throughout his career yet is being paid like a top five running back.