Link: La Canfora reviews the league’s worst contracts

Here’s an interesting article from Jason La Canfora detailing the NFL’s worst contracts. Not unexpectedly, the Jets figure extensively.

Jets fans, my apologies. The reckless spending of the former regime there continues to cast a pall over the franchise, though, new GM John Idzik will be able to extricate himself out of most of this mess by 2014.

He includes the contracts of Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris as being among the worst in the league at their respective positions.

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

La Canfora has a point here, although he undermines it slightly with a few comments in the article with which I don’t entirely agree. Also, he talks about each contract in terms of current year cap and cash charges rather than the deal as a whole, which can be misleading. More nitpicking after the jump.

Starting with Mark Sanchez, it’s difficult to defend the extension they gave him last year in light of how much he struggled in 2012. However, that was a short term gamble and they are not on the hook for any guaranteed money after this season. In fact, although La Canfora describes Sanchez as “un-cut-able and virtually un-trade-able”, that’s not strictly true, as the Jets currently have sufficient cap space to cut him or absorb most of his salary in a trade.

Santonio Holmes’ deal also looks bad, but La Canfora’s suggestion that he “was battling injuries last season, offered little production yet still was among the higher-paid receivers in the league” is an unfair representation of what happened last year. He was actually very productive through four games (on course for 80 catches and 1,100 yards), but suffered one injury in that fourth game, which ended his season. Still, even when healthy, it’s fair to say that Holmes’ production has fallen short of expectations, although his recent pay-cut did go some way towards addressing that imbalance going forward. Again the Jets are not financially tied to Holmes beyond this year.

David Harris had a disappointing year last year and has never really lived up to his four year, $36m deal, which was obviously higher than market value at the time. However, if you think back to the lockout, Harris had to play out the last season of his rookie contract for just over $500K because it was virtually impossible for the Jets to extend him due to the final eight plan restrictions (and, in particular, the reallocation rule and the 30% rule). It’s therefore almost certain that they agreed to compensate him for that in his new deal, so I really see the whole deal as a five year, $36.5m deal, which at the time would have been market value. Unfortunately, even if that was his deal, he hasn’t lived up to it and it would probably deserve to be included in this list anyway. However, Jets fans will hope for a bounce-back year from Harris now they’ve solidified the rest of the front seven around him.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson seems out of place on this list. La Canfora bashes the Jets for giving him a top three OL salary saying “The Jets extended Ferguson expecting he would be the best player on an elite offensive line, but he and the unit have sagged since”. This is a disappointing viewpoint considering that Ferguson just had an outstanding Pro Bowl caliber season, where he didn’t surrender a sack until week 14. It’s difficult to name three tackles who’ve been consistently better than Ferguson over the last 3-5 years while still being left on a island the majority of the time like he is. La Canfora mentions that Ferguson earns more than William Beatty of the Giants, but Beatty’s cap numbers will balloon to $8.5m per year over the next four years and although he had a good year last year, it was the first of his four year career (and he still had eight more penalties than Ferguson did). Also, statistical analysis sites like Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus do still view the Jets’ offensive line as one of the best units in the league, so it’s not fair to pin their downfall on Ferguson, when they didn’t even fall that far.

Finally, Antonio Cromartie – another Pro Bowler – also seems out of place on that list. La Canfora cites his consistency as a reason not to like the deal, but every Jets fan will tell you his consistency has been getting better all the time. For the Jets to have Cromartie under contract at $8m per year when Darrelle Revis earns double that amount seems like pretty good value to me. Revis does not make LaCanfora’s list despite similar concerns to Holmes about injuries and the effect these have had on his recent production. Of course, the Bucs don’t owe Revis any money beyond this year, but that’s true for the Jets and four of the above five contracts too.

These types of articles are always interesting, but you can usually pick holes in them, because it’s not easy to summarize 32 teams’ cap positions at once. I’m sure bloggers of other teams will have their own views on which contracts should or shouldn’t have been featured. Without question the Jets have made some contract missteps over the last couple of years, but they have maintained sufficient cap flexibility to address needs all along and most of these contracts listed can be off the books if required next season.

It would be interesting to see a list of the teams with the worst cap situations looking ahead to next year, because the Jets figure to have major cap room and flexibility, whereas teams like the Saints and Cowboys could be in serious trouble.

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