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The Three Worst Contracts In The NFL

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

These three contracts represent why every team must have a good general manager.

In the NFL, like the NBA and NHL, teams have to be very careful when deciding which players to sign and how much to sign them for. With a salary cap in these leagues, one bad contract can submarine a team’s chances of winning a championship. Over the course of NFL history, teams have given out some catastrophic contracts. Think Nnamdi Asomugha, Jeff George, Michael Vick, Albert Haynesworth, the list goes on and on. In 2016, there are countless contracts around the league that general managers probably regret handing out. After reviewing all of them, there are three contracts that stand out as being the worst in the league today. Without further ado, let’s get into the three worst contracts in the NFL.

Jay Cutler: Quarterback, Chicago Bears

Contract: Seven years, $126.7 million (5 years remaining)

The Bears giving Jay Cutler this contract has made no sense right from the beginning. Before the 2013 season, Cutler flashed great potential with his natural talent as a passer but was not able to put it all together. In the years 2007-2012, this is where he ranked in passer rating among qualified quarterbacks: 12th, 16th, 21st, 16th, 13th, and 20th. Then in the 2013 season he had all the weapons a quarterback could ask for with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett. In 11 games he put up a mediocre stat line (19 TD, 12 INT, and 89.2 passer rating) and the most damning part of that is journeyman quarterback Josh McCown put up much better numbers than Cutler in 5 games: (13 TD, 1 INT, and 109.0 passer rating). Even though there was overwhelming evidence that Cutler at 30 years old was never going to be a top ten caliber quarterback, the Bears still decided to make him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL after the 2013 season. 

The Bears are currently paying the price, literally and figuratively, for this Cutler contract. In the first year of the new deal, Cutler was the face of a dysfunctional Bears team that went 5-11 and got both coordinators, the head coach, and the general manager fired. He finished a mediocre 16th in passer rating and then was eventually benched in week 16 for Jimmy Clausen: an embarrassing end to a terrible season. Cutler had his best season last year with the Bears throwing 21 TDs and 11 INTs with the best passer rating of his career of 92.3. Unfortunately, that season was the first season Cutler played under well respected offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who has since departed to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. 

With five years left on this massive contract, it doesn’t look like the Bears will be contending for Super Bowls any time soon. In the years before the contract, Cutler only made one Pro Bowl and his team made the playoffs once. In those years, he played from age 24 to age 30, which are his prime years. At age 33, it looks like things will only get worse for the next five years with Cutler and that is a very bad sign with the Bears hoping to improve their team. It almost won’t matter what the Bears do because with an aging Cutler at quarterback the Bears aren’t going to come close to a Super Bowl.

LeSean McCoy: Running Back, Buffalo Bills

Contract: Five years $40 million (four years remaining)

The value of running backs has steadily declined in recent years as the league has become more pass happy. The rule changes starting in 2009 that made the game more pass oriented has made general managers realize that running backs, for the most part, are interchangeable. Since 2009, only 13 running backs have been selected in the first round of the draft and only three of those picks have come within the last four seasons. By contrast in the years from 2001-2008 (pre-rule changes) there were 24 running backs selected in the first round. 

The interchangeable nature of the running back position has never been more noticeable than it is today. In 2015, there were only seven running backs who rushed for 1,000 yards or more, which is tied for the least amount of 1,000-yard rushers in NFL history in seasons where 16 games were played. Also, Adrian Peterson was the only running back in 2015 to get over 300 carries, which is the first time since 1990 there haven’t been at least two running backs with 300 or more carries. 

With the running back position relatively easy to fill, the Bills giving LeSean McCoy that huge contract last offseason is the exact wrong way a team should approach building an offense. This proved itself out last season with McCoy rushing for 895 yards, 3 TDs, and a good but not great yards per carry average of 4.4. Making the Bills look even worse, their two back up running backs Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee combined for 784 yards, 10 TDs, and an excellent yards per carry average of 5.7. Both players were found in the 5th round and are taking up less than $1 million of cap space for the duration of their contracts. Buffalo now has McCoy on the books for four more years taking up salary cap space they could be using for passing game players. 

An argument can be made that McCoy was hurt last season and he will be the star running back that they signed him to be this coming season. Even if that’s true, a player like that is not going to take you very far in this day in age. The 2015 Minnesota Vikings are a perfect example. They had a very good defense and an offense centered around a star running back. Once the Vikings ran into a good defense in the playoffs, Adrian Peterson was taken out of the game rushing the ball 23 times for only 45 yards and the Vikings scored only nine points.

And that is the best-case scenario with McCoy, which is less likely than the worst-case scenario of him declining every season. If that happens, it wouldn’t be the first time. Great running backs such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, Maurice Jones Drew, and Steven Jackson all started declining at McCoy’s current age of 27. 

Ndamukong Suh: Defensive lineman, Miami Dolphins

Contract: Six years $114 million (five years remaining)

When Ndamukong Suh became a free agent last off-season he was regarded as one of the best players of all-time to become an unrestricted free agent. He was being compared to the legendary Reggie White when it came to making an impact on the new team that signed him. While Suh isn’t quite the player White was, Suh went into free agency at age 28 while Reggie White went into free agency at age 31. With the three years of age difference, it seemed fair to compare the two players as it relates to impact Suh would have on the Dolphins.

Stats/Years Total Defense DVOAPass Defense DVOARun
Passer Rating 
1992 Packers defensive ranks without White18th22nd11th19th23rd
1993 Packers defensive ranks with White 6th7th7th3rd4th

White obviously lived up to the hype, transforming an average defense to one of the best defenses in the league, ultimately setting up a Super Bowl victory three years later against the New England Patriots. Meanwhile, the complete opposite has happened since Suh joined his new team:

Stats/YearsTotal Defense DVOAPass Defense DVOARun
Passer Rating
2014 Dolphins defensive ranks without Suh17th16th18th18thTied for
2015 Dolphins defensive ranks with Suh25th29th20th24thTied for 

* DVOA Stats courtesy of Football Outsiders

It is staggering how the defense without Suh was average and then when he joined, it got noticeably worse. With Suh being a 4-time Pro Bowler, a 3-time first team All-Pro, and known as one of the best defensive players in football, his presence should’ve made an immediate positive impact. But instead it seems to have made a negative impact with not only the numbers dropping, but also there being reports of him “free lancing” after a loss to the Jaguars. This is a major risk when handing out huge contracts that protect players’ job security. They feel like they have all the leverage in the world and feel as if they can get away with doing what they want. 

This type of contract is bad for the team the minute it is signed, but the hope of getting an all world type of player for the first few years that transforms the team makes up for it. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, in the very first year they didn’t get what they wanted on the field or off the field with the dysfunction. Suh better produce up to his capabilities on the field and be a better team player off the field or else this will be one of the worst contracts in NFL history.

Edited by Justin Peroff, James Malloy.

What college did Jay Cutler play for?
Created 6/24/16
  1. Michigan
  2. Purdue
  3. Vanderbilt
  4. USC

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