Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The 53 - Five Worst Contracts for 2013 GBP

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson finalized the first incarnation of The 53 on Saturday.  I say first incarnation because just two days later Thompson shook up The 53 when he cut backup quarterback B.J. Coleman and signed quarterback Seneca Wallace.

All NFL teams need to be under the $123 million salary cap, up from $120.6 million in 2012, by 3 pm today.  Despite giving out two of the largest contracts in NFL history during the off-season to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, the Packers were still more than $9 million below the salary cap when you factor in the $900,000 minimum salary benefit so complying with the salary cap was never going to be a problem for the Packers.  Keep in mind that number only accounts for the 51 most expensive players on the current roster.  That cap number will go up a fair amount when you add in everyone on the 53-man roster, PUP list, injured reserve, the practice squad, injury settlements, and other dead cap charges.

Although it looks like the Packers have a fair amount of salary cap room, they will need to use it wisely because they have a number of quality starters (Evan Dietrich-Smith (C), Jermichael Finley (TE), James Jones (WR), Ryan Pickett (DL), B.J. Raji (DL), Sam Shields (CB), and C.J. Wilson (DL)) that are set to become free agents this off-season.

Last year I dealt with the five worst and five best contract together.  Since these posts get long, I decided to split them up this year.  I will look at the five best contracts tomorrow but first let's look at the five worst contracts on The 53:

5. Jarrett Bush (CB, $1.8 million, 19th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers tried Bush at cornerback and safety a number of times over the past few seasons.  Sure Bush had a crucial interception in Super Bowl XLV but otherwise he has struggled playing in the base defense.  The same cannot be said for special teams because Bush excels on special teams.  There is no doubt that Bush is one of the hardest workers on the team, unfortunately that hard work has only payed dividends on special teams as opposed to defense, which makes his salary a tad expensive for my taste.  Often times teams say you can't put a price on certain things like special teams play but apparently three-year, $5.25 million is that price, which means Bush carries the 53rd highest salary cap number for cornerbacks in 2013.  Bush has two years left on that deal.  If the younger cornerbacks (Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Micah Hyde) can get close to Bush's level on special teams, he might be playing elsewhere in 2014.

4. Brad Jones (MLB, $2.5 million, 14th highest cap charge on The 53): The Packers handed out a bunch of smart extensions this off-season to Morgan Burnett (S), Matthews, and Rodgers.  Unfortunately the three-year, $11.75 million contract they gave Jones was not a smart extension.  The Packers had so many talented linebackers on the roster that they had to cut linebackers with tons of potential like Terrell Manning so the cupboard is far from bare at linebacker.  Traditionally the Packers let other teams overpay players after their rookie contract unless they are potential franchise cornerstones.  Sure Jones only has the 46th highest salary cap number for middle linebackers in 2013 but his cap number jumps to $4 million in 2014 and a ridiculous $4.75 million in 2015.  Jones struggled in pass coverage last season, he as to improve in that phase of the game this season otherwise he might be in danger of getting cut this off-season if any of the younger linebackers (Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington) show they can be an every down middle linebacker.

3. Jermichael Finley (TE, $8.75 million, 2nd highest cap charge on The 53): Following the 2011 season the Packers and Finley agreed to a two-year, $14 million "prove it" contract.  After paying Finley $5.25 million last season, his salary cap number jumped $3.5 million to $8.75 for this season, which means Finley carries the second highest salary cap number for tight ends in the NFL behind Zach Miller.  Sure Finley is a physical freak, which makes him a match-up nightmare, but his inability to block and catch passes consistently have been his achilles heels.  Look for Finley to concentrate on blocking and catching since he is a contract year because if he adds those two elements to his game, I could actually see the Packers paying top dollar to retain Finley.

2. A.J. Hawk (MLB, $5.2 million, 8th highest cap charge on The 53): Even after agreeing to cut $7.25 million off the last three years of the five-year, $33.75 million contract that Hawk signed after the 2010 season, he still has the 22nd highest salary cap number for middle linebackers in 2013.  I've often referred to Hawk as the Business HJ because he gets the job done but there is nothing special about it, which is why a salary cap number of over $5 million a year through 2015 is too much for a pedestrian middle linebacker like Hawk.

1. Tramon Williams (CB, $8.5 million, 3rd highest cap charge on The 53): When the Packers signed Williams to a five-year, $38 million extension it looked like they got a steal but Williams suffered shoulder injury that limited his ability to play physical at the line of scrimmage the last two seasons, which makes him overpaid since he carries the 8th highest salary cap number of all cornerbacks in the NFL.  Trust me, Williams is a much better player than Hawk but I am not sure Williams is worth $3.2 million more even thought he plays a premium position like coernerback.  The Packers are going to have an interesting decision to make on Williams this off-season because Williams will is due $9.5 million in 2014 in the last year of his contract and the Packers have a ton of young talent at cornerback on the roster.

A special thanks to sportrac for their detailed NFL salary numbers, which made this post possible.

Check back tomorrow when I look at the five best contracts on The 53.

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