A year ago when we published this exercise, there were no Philadelphia Eagles on the list. This year, they have the No. 1 guy. (Contract details via overthecap.com.)
10) Demarcus Lawrence, Cowboys: Lawrence finished the 2017 season with 14.5 sacks, which was tied for second in the NFL. He also had 4 forced fumbles. The Cowboys then used their franchise tag on him, which he played under in 2018 at $17,143,000. His production dipped that season, as he had 10.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
The following offseason, in 2019, the Cowboys tagged him again, which would have cost them $20,571,600 for the 2019 season. Lawrence was not happy about getting the tag two straight seasons, and he used his injured shoulder, which required surgery, as leverage. What does that mean? Well, he refused to have shoulder surgery, thus delaying his return to the field, until he and the team agreed to a long-term deal.
Jerry Jones and Co. caved, and Lawrence was rewarded with a five-year contract worth $105 million, making him the second-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL (on an "average per year" basis), behind only Khalil Mack. His cap numbers will be as follows the next four seasons:
- 2020: $21,900,000
- 2021: $22,000,000
- 2022: $24,000,000
- 2023: $26,000,000
In 2019, fresh off the surgery he delayed, Lawrence had 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Since he entered the league in 2014, Lawrence has 39.5 sacks, or 6.6 sacks per season. A list of players with more sacks during that span:
- Chandler Jones: 78.5
- Aaron Donald: 72
- Von Miller: 71
- Cameron Jordan: 65.5
- Ryan Kerrigan: 65.5
- Justin Houston: 63
- Khalil Mack: 61.5
- J.J. Watt: 59.5
- Everson Griffen: 57
- Danielle Hunter: 54.5
- Carlos Dunlap: 54
- Mario Addison: 51.5
- Calais Campbell: 51.5
- Jason Pierre-Paul: 50
- Cameron Wake: 49
- Melvin Ingram: 47
- Geno Atkins: 46.5
- Cameron Heyward: 46.5
- Michael Bennett: 46
- Robert Quinn: 46
- Terrell Suggs: 44.5
- Frank Clark: 43
- Ezekiel Ansah: 42.5
- Bruce Irvin: 42
- Clay Matthews: 41.5
- Gerald McCoy: 41
- Julius Peppers: 41
- Joey Bosa: 40
- Fletcher Cox: 39.5
- Brandon Graham: 39.5
- Olivier Vernon: 39.5
If you're getting paid Khalil Mack-type money, there's no excuse, as an edge rusher, to finish with only 5 sacks in 16 starts. Ironically, Lawrence commented on Carson Wentz's contract extension last June, tweeting, "The richer they get, the better it feels when we humble they a**." He later deleted that tweet.
9) Malik Jackson, Eagles: The Eagles signed Jackson to a three-year, $30 million contract last offseason, and he only played 32 snaps before being lost for the season. He has a low cap number in 2020 ($4,661,000), which rises to $13,611,000 in 2021, and an additional $9,033,000 spread across three dummy years after his contract expires.
After the Eagles' signing of Javon Hargrave in free agency, Jackson is not projected as a starter.
8) Paul Richardson, Washington: When Washington lost DeSean Jackson's ability to stretch opposing defenses, their offense took a hit, and their pursuit of a suitable replacement was understandable. However, they massively overpaid for the speedy Richardson during the 2018 offseason, when they handed him a five-year contract worth $40 million.
In four seasons in Seattle prior to suckering Washington into that deal, Richardson had 93 catches for 1,302 yards and 8 TDs. He had his best season in 2017, when he had 44 catches for 703 yards and 6 TDs.
In his two-year career in Washington, Richardson had 48 catches for 507 yards and 4 TDs, missing 15 games along the way.
Washington released Richardson this offseason, but he'll still count for $6 million in dead money on their 2020 cap.
7) Landon Collins, Washington: He's a box safety and the Washington team gave him $14 million/year. No INTs since 2017.
6) Travis Frederick, Cowboys: Frederick has been the starting center for the Cowboys since they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, racking up 96 starts, three All-Pro nods (one first-team, two second-team), and five Pro Bowl appearances.
He missed the entire 2018 season with a rare disease, but returned in 2019 and wasn't as effective. This offseason, he retired. In his wake, Frederick will leave the Cowboys with $11,040,000 in dead money. It appears that Frederick is waiting until after June 1 to officially file his retirement papers with the NFL, so the Cowboys can spread that dead money over this year and next year.
Most of the "worst contracts" on this list are on here because of "bad process" in giving them out. Frederick's is an exception, in that the process of his contract was fine, but some bad luck accelerated his retirement and left the Cowboys with a big bill for a player who won't play for them in 2020.
5) Blake Martinez, Giants: Yes, Martinez is a tackling machine, at least in the stat column. He had 155 tackles in 2019 (second in the NFL), 144 in 2018 (again, second in the NFL), and 144 in 2017 (tied for first in the NFL).
And yet, he really isn't a very good tackler. According to pro-football-reference.com, Martinez missed 18 tackles last year, giving him a bad missed tackle percentage of 10.4 percent.
Racking up a lot of tackles doesn't move the needle in today's NFL. What does matter in today's NFL is being able to cover, and Martinez struggles there. He is a player that maybe should have had some appeal in 1980, but in 2020, it's hard to justify his 3-year deal worth $30.75 million.
4) Leonard Williams, Giants: After consecutive losses to the Cardinals and Lions last October, the Giants were 2-6, and their season was basically over. So what did Dave Gettleman do? He traded a third-round pick (which became the 68th overall pick) in 2020 and a fifth-round pick (that could become a fourth-round pick) in 2021 to the Jets for Williams, essentially for eight games. Lol.
At his year-end press conference, Gettleman faced a line of questioning about the Williams deal, that went like so:
Q: I know previously you spoke to a team employee about the Leonard Williams trade. Can you talk about the thought process of trading a top seven pick and multiple other draft picks to bring Williams in when he was going to be a free agent at the end of the year?
Gettleman: Basically, you know, it was a three and a five. If we sign him it moves up to a four. The thought process was, I really believe that as much as the style of play evolves, there are basic truths— you have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, you have to rush the passer. If you are seriously deficient in any one of those three areas, it makes it tough. It's going to be tough sledding. By bringing in Leonard, we looked at it, we obviously evaluated the film, by bringing him in, we felt he could be a disruptive force inside. And, he has been. He has been.
Q: Couldn't you have gotten him at the end of the year?
Gettleman: Well, that's hypothetical. I understand what you're saying, I really do, but at the end of the day, we felt good about him, he did what we wanted him to do, and he wants to be here.
Q: Why not wait until free agency?
Gettleman: Because now we know what we have, and we were willing to do that.
Q: So, you were willing to give up two draft picks, whether it's three, four, or three, five, in order to get that information?
Gettleman: Exactly. We felt we needed him. Again, we felt good about it and we feel, and he's proven, he's disruptive in there. He improved our rushing defense with him in there, he buzzes around the quarterback, we've just got to get him to finish now. But, the bottom line is we felt it was worth the deal. The juice was worth the squeeze.
They couldn't get a long-term deal done with Williams, and since the loss of a pair of draft picks for a team that went 4-12 the year before would have been wholly indefensible, they compounded their mistake by franchise tagging him.
Williams has been a disappointment as the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft (17.5 career sacks in five years, 0.5 in 2019), but he's still a decent interior defensive line starter. He is obviously not worth $16,126,000 for one year, and his agent had to have been thrilled to get the tag.
3) Alex Smith, Washington: Bruce Allen traded for Smith, giving up a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller in the process, and then signed him to a four-year, $94 million extension with $55 million guaranteed at signing.
Of course, at the time, nobody knew that Smith would suffer an awful, gruesome injury that ended his career, and almost cost him his leg (and life). In that respect, I don't like having him on this list.
However, giving out that kind of guaranteed money to a then-34-year-old mobile quarterback with below-average arm strength was not likely to end well. Washington was stuck with a $20,400,000 cap number for Smith in 2019, and he'll cost $21,400,000 in 2020.
2) Nate Solder, Giants: Considering how awful their offensive line was in 2017, particularly with Ereck Flowers at left tackle, the Giants clearly felt like adding a competent left tackle during the 2018 offseason was worth the price of not having to worry about some RDE wrecking the game from week to week. And so, they made Solder, a good (at the time), but certainly not great offensive tackle the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. The deal? Four years, $62 million.
Solder is now 32 years old, and he showed signs of decline in 2019. By the time the Giants will be good enough to compete for a Super Bowl -- which doesn't appear to be anytime soon -- Solder will be long gone. He'll count for $19,500,000 on the cap in 2020, and he'll count for $6.5 million in dead money when they release him during the 2021 offseason. What a huge waste of money.
1) Alshon Jeffery, Eagles: When the Eagles drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, it felt a lot like Jeffery's time with the team would soon be coming to an end, seeing as Arcega-Whiteside's skill set closely mirrored Jeffery's.
Just before the start of the 2019 season, the Eagles made the error of guaranteeing Jeffery’s 2020 salary in exchange for a small pay cut. It was a puzzling move at the time, and it turned out to be disastrous, as Jeffery proceeded to have the “bad year trifecta.”
- He had a down year as a player on the field, both in the stat sheet and on the "eye test."
- In November, the Eagles' radio network partner's sideline reporter, WIP's Howard Eskin, outed Jeffery as the anonymous (Alshonymous) source who criticized Carson Wentz in each of the last two seasons to national ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, which created significant distractions for the team. (This matches with what I know about Jeffery's anonymous criticisms of Wentz behind the scenes, which are not limited just to Josina Anderson, if indeed Jeffery was Anderson's source.)
- And then in December, Jeffery suffered a Lisfranc injury, had surgery, and the typical nine-month recovery period puts him on track to maybe be healthy for Week 1, though that's only if all goes well.
A release of Jeffery would come with a $26 million dead money charge. A trade of Jeffery would knock about $10 million off of that, but it's unlikely that any team is trading for a slow, aging, injured, quarterback-criticizing receiver who might also not even be ready for the 2020 season.
Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | @thePhillyVoice
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports
Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader