On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles extended defensive end Fletcher Cox to a deal worth $102.6 million over six years, with $36.3 million of it being fully guaranteed. It was about 27 months ago that the Seattle Seahawks re-signed Michael Bennett to a four-year deal; the total value of that contract was $28.5 million, or to put it another way, $2.5 million more than what Cox got in his signing bonus alone.
Is that right? Is Cox that much more valuable than Bennett (if he is at all) and how should this deal, plus the other huge contracts handed out to defensive linemen this year, make him and his new agents feel about any ongoing or upcoming negotiations?
It was also on Tuesday, after day on the Seattle Seahawks mandatory three-day mini-camp, that Bennett had this to say about whether or not he's a player who should be paid like those other guys: "Of course I am. If you look at the stats of those guys that have been what they have done the last couple of years, I'm at the top of the list in every statistical category — if you look at tackles for loss, hurries, games played, positions played. It speaks for itself."
But Bennett added that he's also not trying to pay too much attention to things like his own deal and the contracts being given to others because he's more focused on things like the "Super Bowl" and "Donald Trump" and "People eating too much beef." (Bennett will be sitting out the mini-camp with an injured ankle (I won't put injured ankle in quotes, but speculation is inevitable) but is already in mid-season interview form.) However, is he right about being better than those players and being better than the contract he signed?
The contract he signed?
The contract he signed?
The contract he signed?
Oh yeah, we must address the fact that this is the contract he signed. In fact, this isn't the first time that Bennett has noted he could be or should be making more money than he is: It was also addressed on the day that he signed his contract on March 10, 2014. Per Adam Schefter, two teams offered to pay Bennett more than what he received from the Seahawks, but he's literally one of the only players in history to actually take a "hometown" discount.
Why'd he do it?
I m back I m happy super bow champ .The 12th man is the biggest reason I came back the best fan— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) March 10, 2014
Bennett had just won a Super Bowl and he wanted the opportunity to keep going back to the playoffs with a chance to win another. In the two seasons since Seattle won the Super Bowl, they immediately went back to the big game the following year and made it to the divisional round next season. So if a big reason he signed was to be on a good, successful team, there are still few other franchises that have had that much success over the last two years. We'll get back to that in a minute.
So how does he compare to some of these other players who signed huge contracts in 2016?
Fletcher Cox, Eagles, $17.1 million APY
Last season, Cox had 71 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 33 QB hurries, six stuffs, and three forced fumbles.
Bennett had 52 tackles, 10 sacks, 24 QB hurries, 13 stuffs, and two forced fumbles.
First off, there are a lot of good reasons why Cox is paid more than Bennett:
- He's five years younger and since Bennett is turning 31 this year, you could never really sign him to a new deal longer than four years, realistically. So the "total value" would be misleading. Because of his age, Bennett will never be a "$100 million player."
- He quite possibly is better. Bennett said that if you look at the stats, you'll see he's as good or better than these other guys. The stats show that they very well might be close to even, but in the case of Cox, he'd win out over Bennett if anything.
Interestingly, the Seahawks had the chance to draft Cox in 2012, but traded down and took Bruce Irvin instead.
I think another thing to take into consideration with Cox's deal, like any deal, is what the "real" value is. He's scheduled to make $34.3 million over the final two years of the contract, but the Eagles could cut him and only carry $1.2 million in dead money over those two years. In fact, his 2020 salary of $20.3 million is so big for a defensive lineman (he played defensive end last year but will move inside this year) that it wouldn't be crazy to even see Philly release him before that season and save $12.7 million against the cap.
In a way, you could say that Cox signed a three-year extension for $49.3 million with a very likely option for a fourth year. A shitload of money, yes, and much better than Bennett's contract, definitely, but how many players are actually "$100 million players"?
Olivier Vernon, New York Giants, $17 million APY
The Giants signed Vernon to a five-year, $85 million deal with $40 million fully guaranteed.
Over the last three seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Vernon had 25.5 sacks. Last year, he had 61 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 20 QB hurries, nine stuffs, and zero forced fumbles. He turns 26 in October.
I can't really justify Vernon being paid more than Bennett. I think playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, you should be even more dominant than that. I would be a little surprised to see him play the final two years of his deal, when he's scheduled to count $19.5 million against the cap both years. His "real" APY may be more like $15.3 million. Still twice as much as Bennett.
Malik Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars, $14.25 million APY
Last season, Jackson had 50 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 21 QB hurries, two stuffs, and zero forced fumbles. Is Jackson better than Bennett? Of course not. He's being paid in large part due to the fact that he was a good player on a Super Bowl champion defense. But isn't that the point?
Jackson just left the defending Super Bowl champions for the Jaguars.
Bennett turned down two offers that were better than the contract he signed with Seattle because he wanted to have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl again. He was totally in Jackson's position two years ago, and he turned that opportunity down. He didn't even test free agency. Bennett can't really complain about not being paid as much as Jackson because Bennett willingly turned down the opportunity to be Malik Jackson.
Coming off of that 2013 Super Bowl season when Bennett signed his new contract, he had 31 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and eight QB hurries. Has he outplayed his deal? Sure. But we need to remind ourselves of the player he was when he signed the deal and he's only halfway through it. He will just end up being the victim of bad timing once his career is all said and done.
Vinny Curry, Eagles, $9.25 million APY
Yes, it must be pretty aggravating to see players of this caliber make more than you. The Eagles signed Curry to a five-year, $46.25 million deal, with $18 million fully guaranteed. He has zero starts and 16.5 sacks over his four-year career. He had 12 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season.
You just can't really expect any good franchise to start making decisions based off of a reaction to what Philadelphia's front office does.
Again, that's sort of the point. Bennett is in a good organization that has a very good chance to get back to the playoffs next season. He doesn't play for the Eagles, Jaguars, or Giants. He doesn't play for the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, LA Rams, Buffalo Bills, or Miami Dolphins. No offense to any of those organizations specifically, because Seattle has been in that position for the vast majority of their history, but Bennett chose to stay with the Seahawks for this specific reason. He knew that if he went out on the market, a $75 million deal from the Browns might have very well been on the table, but how unhappy would he have been losing every week? How much of that $75 million is legitimately guaranteed? Would he even be a notable NFL player, the type to make the Pro Bowl last season and win the game's Defensive MVP honors, if he played for a team that went 5-11 every season? What's it worth to be a notable player on a winning team? And what will he do this season knowing that per Seattle's own admission, they are willing to re-negotiate when you've got one year left on your deal?
Is Bennett underpaid? Based on how he's been playing over the last two seasons and on what the market has set based on over-paying players like these ones, yes. But is he underpaid based on the deal he signed in 2013?
Not according to the Michael Bennett who signed the contract that day.