Top-10 best contracts in the NFL
1. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle): 3 years, 1.987 million remaining
You could make a case for Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin here, but Luck and Griffin are making 3 times as much money as Wilson and Wilson has still two more years left on his deal before he becomes eligible for a monster extension, while Kaepernick will probably get one next off-season.
2. QB Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco): 2 years, 1.713 million remaining
Kaepernick will probably get a monster extension next off-season, but for now the 49ers can enjoy having him signed for less than a million dollars for 2013. He’s not necessarily a better player than Luck and Griffin, but if you take salaries into account, I think Kaepernick has to be the choice.
3. QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis): 3 years, 7.198 million remaining
Griffin won Rookie of the Year over Luck and rightfully so and he’s also a little bit cheaper than Luck, but long term, I think it’d rather have Luck than Griffin solely because of Griffin’s knees. Griffin’s chances of a career ending injury sometime in the next 5 years are infinitely greater than Luck’s, unfortunately.
4. QB Robert Griffin (Washington): 3 years, 6.928 million remaining
However, Griffin still checks in at #4 and I would argue, totally healthy, he’s the best player of the 4 mentioned thus far. The Redskins built their entire offense around him and mortgaged their entire future for him by giving up 3 1st rounders and he delivered, at least before he got hurt, dragging his team into the playoffs and having 8 combined interceptions and fumbles to Luck’s 27. He also didn’t have nearly the supporting cast Wilson and Kaepernick had.
5. DE JJ Watt (Houston): 2 years, 3.304 million remaining
Watt can’t be in the top-4 because he’s not a quarterback and, at the end of the day, you’d rather have a ridiculously cheap, ridiculously young, ridiculously talented quarterback than anyone at any other position. However, Watt forced himself into the top-5 by submitting arguably the best single season a defensive lineman has ever had last year and doing so at the age of 23. Watt almost broke Michael Strahan’s single season sack record and did so from an interior position and set the NFL single season record for most combined sacks and swats. He was also ProFootballFocus’ highest rated player in their 5 year history.
6. QB Tom Brady (New England): 5 years, 57 million remaining
Sure he’s making a lot more than the 5 guys named above him, but anytime you can get a proven Super Bowl quarterback for the deal Brady just gave the Patriots, you have to be pretty happy about that. Plus, while the 5 guys listed above will all get massive extensions in the next 2-3 years, Brady will be signed this cheaply for the rest of his career. Yeah, he’s older, but he’s arguably more valuable right now than any of the 5 mentioned above and in 2-3 years he’ll still be cheaper than all of them. For that reason, you could actually make a case for him at #1.
7. QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay): 2 years, 19.75 million remaining
I’m not saying Brady is a better player than Rodgers (it’s a debate) or that he’s younger (not a debate) and or that currently makes less per season (also not a debate). However, while Brady is locked in at his current salary for the remainder of his career, Rodgers will likely become the highest paid player in NFL history sometime in the next 2 off-seasons as his current bargain of a contract reaches its end.
8. OLB Von Miller (Denver): 2 years, 5.523 million remaining
None of these remaining three players are franchise quarterbacks or JJ Watt, but they’re still ridiculous bargains. Miller was the only other player to receive a defensive player of the year vote this season other than Watt and 9 times out of 10, he would have won it. Like Watt, he still has one more ridiculously cheap year before he’s eligible for a massive extension.
9. OLB Aldon Smith (San Francisco): 2 years, 4.019 million remaining
Miller gets the nod over Smith because, while he’s more expensive, he’s also far less one-dimensional. Smith can get to the quarterback, but doesn’t play the run or cover like Miller and his lack of pass rush production after Justin Smith got hurt late last season is concerning. Still, he’s a fantastic bargain for at least one more year before he’s eligible for a massive extension.
10. DT Geno Atkins (Cincinnati): 1 year, 575K remaining
Atkins, like Miller, would have been the defensive player of the year 9 times out of 10. Atkins’ 2012 was the highest rated season for a defensive lineman not named Watt in ProFootballFocus’ history. Unfortunately, he is eligible for a massive extension this off-season and the Bengals may end up having to pay him a lot more than 575K this season. Because of his position, however, they could let him play out his contract and franchise him fairly inexpensively next off-season. This is the best defensive tackle in the game.
QB Cam Newton (Carolina): 2 years, 5.755 million remaining
He would have been in the top-10 a year ago, but performances by Wilson, Kaepernick, Luck, and Griffin in 2012 all push him out as he had just a little bit of a sophomore slump in 2012.
OLB Clay Matthews (Green Bay): 1 year, 3.730 million remaining
Like Newton, he would have been in the top-10 last year, but with just one year remaining on his rookie deal, he’ll either get a massive extension this off-season or a massive contract next off-season on the open market or be franchised at a high price. The Packers want to make sure it’s the first one and that he doesn’t hit the open market, but that’s what separates him from the guys in the top-10, with the exception of Geno Atkins. All of those guys will be incredibly cheap for at least one more year.
CB Richard Sherman (Seattle): 2 years, 1.200 million remaining
He might not be the best cornerback in the league (he might be though), but when you consider that he’s under contract for just 550K in 2013 and 650K in 2014, while Darrelle Revis is owed 6 million in 2013 in the final year of his deal and that the Jets may trade him to avoid having to pay him a megadeal, Sherman is easily the best value among the NFL’s cornerbacks. You could easily make a case for him to be in the top-10.
RB Alfred Morris (Washington): 3 years, 1.710 million remaining
Morris is another guy you could make a case for in the top-10. If not for Griffin, Luck, and Wilson, Morris could have easily been rookie of the year this year and he’s signed ridiculously cheaply for at least 2 more years just like the aforementioned trio. However, you can’t ignore his position and the incredibly short shelf life running backs tend to have.