Each NFL team’s worst contract in 2018
NFL contracts are often a hot-button issue. People love to debate who’s making too much, too little, who deserves more, and who is overpaid. Some athletes outplay their deals, while others cash in and fail to deliver. Teams obviously try hard to avoid the latter situation, but sometimes things don’t work out as hoped.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at the worst contract on every NFL team entering the 2018 season.
Arizona Cardinals – Jermaine Gresham, TE
After signing him to two consecutive one-year deals, the Cardinals suddenly decided to invest heavily in Jermaine Gresham, signing him to a four-year, $28 million deal with $16.5 million guaranteed. The $7 million annual salary far exceeds any contract Gresham had previously signed, which is curious considering he hasn’t exceeded 500 yards in a single season since 2012 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Add in that Greshman is now on the wrong side of 30, and it’s easy to understand how he made this list.
Atlanta Falcons – Robert Alford, CB
The Falcons signed Robert Alford to a four-year, $38 million deal with $21 million guaranteed in 2016, and he hasn’t exactly lived up to those numbers. Although Alford hasn’t been bad, he hasn’t really been good, either. He finished the 2017 season with a Pro Football Focus grade of 76.7 (average) and continues to have a problem with pass interference. Alford could, of course, come into his own and justify the $9 million-plus he accounts for in each year remaining on his current deal, or he could continue to eat a large chunk of salary and hover around the “average” range for a player.
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco, QB
In 2016, the Ravens signed Joe Flacco to a three-year, $66.4 million extension just three years after signing him to a six-year, $120.6 million extension. Those are big numbers for the league’s most elite quarterbacks, and while Flacco is Baltimore’s franchise signal caller, he’s not quite among the top-tier NFL quarterbacks. In 2018, Flacco will account for a cap hit of $24.75 million, which is fourth-most at quarterback in the NFL. Flacco has only had one 4,000-yard season and two seasons with 25 of more touchdowns. To continue warranting his salary, he’ll need to eclipse those numbers this season. Now past his back issues and with Lamar Jackson behind him, Flacco could be in for a nice season.
Buffalo Bills – Charles Clay, TE
In 2013 and 2014, Charles Clay looked like an ascending tight end with the Miami Dolphins. And when he became a free agent, the Bills were quick to scoop him up on a five-year, $38 million deal, which made him one of the league’s highest-paid players at his position. Since then however, Clay has failed to eclipse 560 yards receiving and four touchdowns, while earning a 70.7 (average) Pro Football Focus grade a season ago. He’ll account for $9 million against the cap in 2018, which is excessive for a marginal tight end on a rebuilding team.
Carolina Panthers – Matt Kalil, OT
As a rookie, Matt Kalil was a Pro Bowl player and many believed he’d turn into an All-Pro. However, several down seasons and an injury-riddled 2016 campaign changed that perception and trajectory. The Vikings gave up on him, but the Panthers believed he could return to rookie form. They signed him to a five-year, $55 million deal prior to the 2017 season and although he appeared in all 16 games, he recorded a Pro Football Focus grade of just 63.1 (below average). In 2018, after a small change to his contract, Kalil will earn just $1 million in base salary, but account for $6.9 million against the cap.
Chicago Bears – Dion Sims, TE
The Bears made several big signings in 2017, but the vast majority of the players did not pan out and have already been let go. Dion Sims is one of the few holdovers, but that’s simply because he established himself as the best of the worst. After signing a three-year, $18 million deal with $10 million guaranteed, Sims went out and gained 180 yards on 15 receptions while scoring just one touchdown. Those are hardly the kind of numbers you want from a player who will account for $6.33 million against the cap this season.
Cincinnati Bengals – Vontaze Burfict, LB
In 2013, Vontaze Burfict was one of the most dominant linebackers in all of football. In 2018, he’ll likely be the same. The major difference in the two versions of Burfict are salary and games played. In 2013, Burfict was working on a rookie salary and playing 16 games per year. In 2018, Burfict is earning nearly $11 million per season and hasn’t played more than 11 games in four seasons as the result of injuries and suspensions. That won’t change in 2018 as Burfict is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy while eating up a cap hit of $8.619 million.
Cleveland Browns – Jamie Collins, LB
When the Browns originally acquired Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots, he came with high expectations. And in his first half a season with Cleveland, Collins recorded 69 tackles to go along with two sacks, earning him a four-year, $50 million deal — an elite-level contract for a linebacker who had only ever flashed that type of skill. In 2017, things went downhill as Collins suffered a torn MCL and finish his shortened season with a dismal Pro Football Focus grade of 35.9. That’s quite a bit for a player on the books for $12.15 million in 2018.
Dallas Cowboys – Tyrone Crawford, DL
The Cowboys rushed into a contract with Tyrone Crawford and there are no two ways about that. Jerry Jones & Co. believed he would evolve into a top-end pass rusher, but that has yet to come to fruition. As a result, Dallas is on the hook for five years, $45 million and $24.7 million guaranteed, including a cap hit of $9.1 million in 2018 for a player that has never recorded more than 5.0 sacks in a 16-game season.
Denver Broncos – Menelik Watson, OT
When the Broncos signed Menelik Watson to a three-year, $18.4 million contract with $11 million guaranteed, it propelled him into the top 10 highest-paid at his position. That alone made Watson expensive, but he became even more expensive after failing to appear in 60% of the team’s snaps a season ago and leaving them in desperate need of additional offensive line help. Now there’s a possibility Denver will eat Watson’s remaining contract, which includes a dead cap hit of nearly $8.3 million in 2018.
Detroit Lions – Ezekiel Ansah, DE
The Lions have done a good job eliminating bad contracts in recent years, but after failing to agree on a long-term extension with Ezekiel Ansah, they will now be forced to pay him in excess of $17 million in 2018 on the franchise tag. Making matters worse, Ansah was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the start of training camp due. Whether he returns to the field or not, that’s a hefty price tag for a pass rusher that has recorded 14 sacks over the previous two seasons and hasn’t played a full 16-game slate since 2015.