Who has the worst contract on the Seattle Seahawks right now? I would say that for this season, the Seahawks have gotten pretty lucky in that nobody stands out as very egregious. For the time being, Doug Baldwin has unfortunately not been able to produce anything through three weeks, making his $11 million salary count in the positive column only for spiritual purposes.
Only seven players are counting more than $6 million against the salary cap this season, and most of those players are quite vital: Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Duane Brown, and Justin Britt. Of course, Wright has also missed two games, while Britt has missed one and not stood out as an anchor at center like many were hoping. Seattle is also throwing $9 million of the cap at Kam Chancellor, with a little more than $5 million in dead money going to Michael Bennett.
It could be a lot worse.
The San Francisco 49ers have a cap hit of $37 million going to Jimmy Garoppolo alone and he’s going on injured reserve with a torn ACL. He’ll join backfield mate Jerick McKinnon there, who is making $10.5 million this year. Those are injuries though, a mostly-uncontrollable part of the game. (Though there solid arguments to be made that both of those players were paid more than one could have expected.)
Through three weeks of the season, there are many offensive players who are performing way below the expectations of the contracts they signed in 2018.
It’s early, but I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the returns so far on contracts that made these players among the highest-paid at their positions; in many cases, I also found that the deals are not just questionable three weeks in, but looked kinda bad from the time the ink was still wet. I am looking just at quarterbacks and skill position players today because A) time and B) I don’t know that I could properly tell you anything about the offensive linemen deals quite yet.
(However, I do think it’s fair to say without looking that many of the free agent offensive linemen were overpaid and will under-perform their deals because that’s what usually happens.)
The Seahawks are not included anywhere because the Seahawks rarely sign anyone to big free agent contracts. I still think league-wide perspective is important. Even three games in.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
3-years, $84 million (fully guaranteed)
Cousins did throw for 425 yards and four touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers but it came on 48 throws and five quarters, ending in a tie. He completed just 6.78 Y/A against the 49ers at home and was simply terrible against the Buffalo Bills, also at home. Cousins’ job was not to be better than the Case Keenum we were all used to, but to be better than the Keenum who would’ve been a more than adequate Pro Bowl selection last season. Can he do that? Yes. But to what degree and will it match his cost? Cousins has zero in his resume to prove he can elevate Minnesota as a playoff team; Washington’s best record with him was 9-7, and he is 0-1 in his playoff career.
Keenum was a starter for 11 wins last season, and even if it took a miracle, added a postseason victory.
Also, compare Cousins not just to who he is replacing, but who replaced him. Alex Smith signed a four-year, $94 million in Washington after his trade there, and he’s continuing to play at the level he was at in Kansas City. Cousins will make $84 million in the next three years, for an average of $28 million against the cap; Smith’s cap hits for the next three seasons are $18.4, $20.4, and $21.4.
There’s no escaping it. Cousins has Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen now, he has to be playing better than this. If he doesn’t, the Vikings defense will continue to have the pressure on them to do everything, which didn’t work in Green Bay or against Buffalo.
Sam Bradford, QB, Cardinals
2-years, $40 million
His career earnings are $129 million. His teams are 34-48-1 when he starts. He’s never heard of the playoffs. The Rams got better after he left. The Philadelphia Eagles got better after he left. The Minnesota Vikings got better last season after he was injured.
At his best, Bradford is the 20th-best QB in the league. He’ll make $15 million for starting three games for the Cardinals, the first team since 2002 to score 20 or less over their first three games.
Case Keenum, QB, Broncos
2-years, $36 million
We can bemoan Keenum’s three touchdowns against the Seahawks, but what would he do against the Seattle defense if they played next week? I would expect it to be even worse than the 59% completions, no touchdowns, two picks, 64.5 rating, 6 Y/A that he’s had in the last two weeks.
But Keenum’s got the Chiefs at home this week and they have the worst defense in the NFL by DVOA. If he doesn’t put up really good numbers, concern should start to set in, if it hasn’t already. Keenum has $25 million fully guaranteed, but I would give it another few games before people start asking for Chad Kelly if he doesn’t turn it around.
That being said, the Broncos’ problem isn’t just Keenum, it’s that their pass defense has gone from elite to average. They aren’t going to contend this season barring a surprising turnaround from that part of their defense.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars
3-years, $54 million
When he got injured, the Jaguars couldn’t get away from paying Bortles in 2018, so they just decided to extend him instead. He’s simply not going to get any better than this, folks. He had 5.3 Y/A in Week 1 and 4.56 Y/A in Week 3, a 9-6 loss at home to the Tennessee Titans. Would you pay Marcus Mariota $54 million? Unfortunately the answer for some GMs is probably yes. I mean, Mariota has more upside than Bortles does. But neither appear to be good as far as starting in this league goes. Jacksonville opted for Leonard Fournette over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, with some sort of plan to just surround Bortles with weapons — you’ll see in a moment how that’s going.
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
2-years, $29 million
Bite my head off. Foles is a bad quarterback and he’s getting $14.5 million per season to do nothing.
Donte Moncreif, WR, Jaguars
1-year, $9.6 million
The Jags’ saving grace is Keelan Cole, a cheap UDFA who is actually good. DeDe Westbrook also appears to be a good bargain at receiver, which I guess gave them the financial flexibility to spend almost $10 million on a wideout who had done virtually nothing with the Indianapolis Colts? I mean the thing is that Moncrief’s numbers are not surprising at all, this is what I would have expected and the only thing that makes it stand out is his contract.
Jacksonville also signed Marqise Lee to a four-year, $34 million deal and he unfortunately went on injured reserve. Fournette is the seventh-highest paid back in football (because that’s what happens when you draft a RB in the top-10) and has missed two games. The Jaguars can win the Super Bowl because of their defense but it seems like they’ve kind of made a mess of the offense in their efforts to make it Super Bowl-quality.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
3-years, $42 million
17 catches on 28 targets and 6.9 Y/T is not enough for a guy being paid $14 million per season. This feels like a potential Alshon Jeffery situation (“He can be paid that much because he scores and opens up the field for others”) but Robinson is looking for his first touchdown and Chicago’s offense can’t open up with Mitchell Trubisky. Not yet. Not in the first year of a new head coach. Which is why this is early, and I know it’s early, but I’m just curious to see what those early returns are. It’s interesting that of all the receivers on this list, Robinson’s 83 yards against the Seahawks is the highest single-game total. And it came on 10 catches.
Paul Richardson, WR, Washington
5-years, $40 million
Richardson’s averaging almost the exact same yards per game he had in Seattle last season. He had a big play last week, but is he ever just gonna be a reliable guy you can throw the ball to 10 times? He was eradicated from the game in Arizona with 3.67 Y/T.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Ravens
3-years, $21 million
You may say that $7 million per season is not a lot of money, but if Crabtree were a running back it would be top-8 dollars. It’s not good business sense for any team to just throw around $7 million of the cap willy nilly, and cheap receivers who can do this same amount of production are oft-available. I think it is somewhat sensible to give $14m+ to elite receivers, but way too often we see middle-tier numbers that go way-high for guys who are virtually the fourth or fifth option in the passing game.
Tavon Austin, WR, Cowboys
1-year, $7 million
How in the world did the Dallas Cowboys ever settle on the idea that Tavon Austin was an acceptable acquisition even after negotiating him down to $7 million?
The two touchdowns are almost a non-factor for me at the moment. We all knew that Austin was capable of making a play now and then, but what about the other 900 snaps?
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Bears
4-years, $26 million
22 targets. 89 yards.
Allen Hurns, WR, Cowboys
2-years, $11 million
Hailed as the new number one in Dallas, Hurns has nine targets, four catches, and 51 yards. How can you not be anything than utterly fascinated with how bad the situation is at receiver for the Cowboys? Somewhere Dez Bryant is in a Kermit costume, but to be fair, when it comes to Dez, Jerry Jones is probably also in a Kermit costume? They both think the other party is worse off without them, and they’re both probably right.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
3-year, $39 million extension
Blame the head coach. Blame the offensive coordinator. Blame the offensive line. Blame the quarterback. Blame the GM. If you don’t want to blame Johnson, that’s fine. But the fact remains that until you’ve sorted out the offensive line, the offensive coordinator....before you get to a running back, who is so dependent on all of those other factors, maybe don’t waste $39 million. Because it’s made that investment completely useless anyway.
Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns
So roughly $10 million annually on a RB duo that you hope to replace with Nick Chubb anyway? Smart business model. I wonder if Cleveland’s football talent will outplay the poor decisions by Hue Jackson and the front office.
Dion Lewis, RB, Titans
Hey, they’re 2-1, right?
Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers
Enjoy your Jimmy Grahamenfreude.
Much like his start in Seattle, Graham had an ugly Week 1 and questions of his value and usage are already popping up. He’s got 19 targets, 13 catches, and 148 yards with no touchdowns. He still can’t block, I assume. He’s the highest paid tight end in the game and he’s no Rob Gronkowski. He’s also expected to play through a knee injury this weekend. If you thought that playing with Aaron Rodgers would change something, you likely thought wrong.
Trey Burton, TE, Bears
I never understood the Burton hype. And I mean, look, if he continues down this path of production, maybe $8 million is worth it? He’s kind of playing like Charles Clay and making what Charles Clay makes. Maybe I’m just interested in how much a tight end of this caliber makes now.
Cameron Brate, TE, Bucs
As far as I know, he was healthy in the first two weeks. Tampa Bay didn’t need him and O.J. Howard could be developing into the league’s best tight end, but any money that they’re “saving” on Howard’s rookie deal is just going to be spent on his backup. I don’t know if I quite get that. Not if there isn’t more usage of him directly in the passing game. A blocking tight end can be had on day three of the draft.