May 24, 2023
There are usually a lot of bad contracts in the NFC East, so it's fun ranking the top 10 each year and watching fans get all riled up about it. This year, there isn't quite as much low-hanging fruit as there was a year ago, for example, when guys like Carson Wentz, Ezekiel Elliott, and Kenny Golladay still played in the division. Still, we'll rank the 10 worst contracts in the division, because why not?
10) Mark Glowinski, OG, Giants: When the Giants experienced a regime change from Dave Gettleman to Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll, one of the the immediate goals was to field an offensive line that was at least semi-competent, so they signed some older vets like Glowinski and Jon Feliciano to help out Daniel Jones.
They did the right thing with Feliciano, signing him to a one-year deal, in essence buying a year to find a long-term answer at center. That should have also been the tact at guard, but they overpaid for Glowinski, who scored a three-year deal worth $18.3 million. Glowinski is a decent enough run blocker, but he struggled in pass protection in 2022, and the Giants are just kind of stuck with him for another season.
9) Adoree' Jackson, CB, Giants: Jackson is the only trustworthy corner on the Giants' roster, so he is a valuable short-term player, but with the second-highest cap number among cornerbacks in the NFL in 2023 and only 3 INTs in 6 seasons he is pretty wildly overpaid.
He was also brought aboard with bad process when the Giants signed him in 2021. To refresh your memory, the Titans cut Jackson that offseason because they didn't want to pay him $10.2 million for one year on his fifth year option. The Giants subsequently signed him to a three-year deal worth $39 million, which was significantly more money, and for a longer period of time. Had they simply thrown the Titans a conditional seventh-round pick before Tennessee cut him, the Giants could have had him on a less expensive deal with a shorter commitment. Ah, the Dave Gettleman days.
8) Logan Thomas, TE, Commanders: After what seemed like a breakout season in 2020 when he had 72 catches and 6 TDs, Thomas was rewarded with a three-year, $24 million extension. In his two follow-up seasons in 2021 and 2022, Thomas had a combined 57 catches for 519 yards and 4 TDs.
7) Leonard Williams, DT, Giants: After a disappointing first five years in the NFL, Williams had a very good 2020 season in which he had 11.5 sacks. He cashed in during the 2021 offseason, landing a three-year deal worth $63 million, making him the second-highest paid interior defensive lineman in the NFL behind Aaron Donald (he's now fifth). He had a lot of tackles (83) and 6.5 sacks on a terrible team in 2021. 45 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2022.
6) Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys: Last offseason, the Cowboys made the odd choice of signing Gallup to a five-year deal worth $57.5 million after a season in 2021 during which he missed seven games early in the season with a calf injury, and suffered a torn ACL Week 17. In 2022, Gallup had 39 receptions for 424 yards (on a very low 5.7 yards per target) and 4 TDs, prompting the Cowboys' front office to trade for the Texans' Brandin Cooks.
5) Derek Barnett, DE, Eagles: In 2021, in his first truly healthy season in years, Barnett had eight penalties and 2.5 sacks. After one such penalty, Nick Sirianni was caught on camera mouthing, "It's always him." The Eagles then signed Barnett during the 2022 offseason to a two year deal worth $14 million. Barnett tore an ACL Week 1 in 2022, and his season was over. He is now no better than the Eagles' fifth edge rusher.
4) Curtis Samuel, WR, Commanders: Samuel signed a three-year contract with Washington in 2021. He has since produced 70 catches for 683 yards (9.8 YPC) and 4 TDs. Samuel was at least useful even if still underproducing in 2022 (64-656-4), whereas he did virtually nothing in an injury-riddled 2021 (6-27-0).
3) Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: This is less an indictment on Prescott, and more on the Cowboys' botching of his contract situation over the last half decade.
If you'll recall, when Prescott was eligible for a contract extension after the 2018 season, nothing got done and the Cowboys had the benefit of having a starting quarterback continuing to play on his crappy rookie deal for a fourth season in 2019. They franchised tagged him in 2020, before finalizing a four-year deal worth $160 million, with $126 million in guarantees, including a $66 million signing bonus in 2021.
Prescott was having an outstanding season in 2020, the year prior to his deal, when he suffered a serious leg injury and was lost for the year. The Cowboys' season subsequently went into the toilet, hammering home his value. Because the Cowboys had already tagged Prescott, a second tag would have been extremely cost prohibitive, which gave Prescott all the leverage in negotiations. There was reason to believe that he might get more than the $40 million per year he received, so in that sense, that was something of a minor win for the Cowboys to at least keep it at that number.
However, the benefits of that deal to Prescott were in the details, and they were significant. To begin, it was only a four-year deal, which meant that as the salary cap increased and quarterbacks pushed the market even higher over the next few years, the Cowboys and Prescott would be right back at the negotiation table in no time, when Prescott would be in a position to score yet another top-of-the-market quarterback contract.
That time might actually be now, just two offseasons later, considering that (a) Prescott is scheduled to count for $59,455,000 on the 2024 cap, and (b) his 2021 deal included a clause in which the Cowboys can't franchise tag him anymore. Once again, Prescott holds major leverage advantages over the Cowboys, even though he had his worst season as a pro in 2022, when he led the NFL with 15 INTs.
The Cowboys might very well become desperate to get a second long-term deal done with a quarterback who turns 30 in July, and who has not proven that he can lead a potent offense unless he has elite talent around him.
2) DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys: Lawrence took a pay cut last offseason in exchange for the Cowboys fully guaranteeing his salary in 2023, making his contract a little more palatable, but they're still on the hook for $45 million in cap charges over the next two seasons. In the four years since signing a five-year deal worth $105 million, Lawrence has 20.5 sacks. There are 54 other players with at least 21 sacks over that four-year span.
1) Daniel Jones, QB, Giants: Jones was a turnover machine the first couple years of his career, but protected the ball far better over the last two. He even had the lowest INT percentage in the NFL in 2022, at 1.1 percent. However, his improved ball security came at a cost. According to the NFL’s NextGen stats, Jones was the most conservative quarterback in the NFL in “intended average air yards,” at 6.3 yards through the air per throw, and “air yards to the sticks.” On average his passes landed 2.8 yards short of the first down marker.
The Giants' offense didn’t hit big plays in the passing game in 2022. They had 28 pass plays of 20+ yards, fewest in the NFL. For comparative purposes, the Eagles had 63. The league average was 49. Certainly the Giants' lack of quality receivers played a part in the Giants' ultra-conservative passing game, but there's still context that says that Jones' ball security improvements weren't as impressive as the numbers suggest. Sure, he didn't turn it over much, but he was also extremely non-threatening to opposing secondaries.
During the 2022 offseason, the Giants' declined Jones' fifth-year option. Had they picked that up, he would have counted on the 2023 cap for a little over $22 million. Whether it was the right or wrong decision at the time, it backfired, as the Giants were faced with three unappealing decisions on Jones' future with the team in the wake of his dink-and-dunk 2022 season:
They chose option No. 3, signing Jones to a four-year deal worth $160 million, tying him (at the time) for seventh among NFL quarterbacks at an average annual value of $40 million per season. (He has since been passed by Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson.)
In my opinion, option No. 3 was the least appealing of the three, as Jones is, at best, a middle-of-the-pack league starter. Exactly how high is his ceiling after four full NFL seasons? Will he grow as a quarterback to the point where you can win a Super Bowl because of him? There's currently no good argument to support that. Is he OK enough to win with if you have a loaded roster around him? Eh, I'm not sure even about that, but that's a moot point at the moment considering that the Giants don't have anything remotely close to a loaded roster.
Again, the Giants really had no good options with Jones this offseason, but hitching their wagon to him for at least the next two seasons was probably the worst option of the three, and was likely guided by fear.
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