With the end of the 2015 National Football League season nearly upon us, it is time to revisit the good, the bad and the downright awful that occurred in the league over the past several months. One thing that every NFL team will be doing, regardless of how those sides finish the campaign, will be evaluating all of the player contracts that are currently tied to that franchise. The hope is that the majority of contracts that are associated with any team are, at the very least, positive deals for that side that help make the club competitive on the field more often than not.
Flops and bad contracts happen in all professional sports. A player may pick up a costly injury that prevents him from being at his physical best for a significant period of time. Others may find it overly challenging to settle in with a different team and in a different city. Then, there are the cases of a team merely overpaying for a player or a player not living up to the amount of money that he is being paid that year. The man who sits atop this list is a proven commodity who has been merely part of his club’s woes since September. One cannot help but wonder, however, if he has peaked as a top-tier NFL offensive weapon.
Contract values and cap hits via Spotrac
20. Darrelle Revis – New York Jets: $16 Million
Fans of the New York Jets scoffing at seeing Darrelle Revis among the worst NFL contracts for 2015 may want to point out that Revis has not been 100 percent all season. That’s fair, but it would also be a fair assessment to suggest that Revis has appeared to have lost a step or two at this portion of his career. The man who has patrolled Revis Island for so long is 30 years old, after all, so it would be understandable if age and also some health concerns have kept him from being a shutdown corner. Be honest with yourselves, Gang Green followers, and you’ll admit that Revis has not completely earned that cash just yet.
19. Tony Romo – Dallas Cowboys: $14.973 Million
It seems mean-spirited, in a way, to even include Tony Romo on a list of the worst NFL contracts for 2015. Romo may very well be the Most Valuable Player in the league in that the Dallas Cowboys went from being Super Bowl contenders when Romo was healthy to cellar-dwellers in the division standings when Romo was sidelined because of injuries. The harsh truth of the matter is that Romo is 35 years old, he isn’t getting any younger, and the Cowboys can no longer blindly believe that he will remain healthy for an entire season. Are you thinking what we are thinking? Will Johnny Football be playing in Texas next year?
18. Joe Thomas – Cleveland Browns: $10.2 Million
Failing to understand how the man who is thought to be one of the best left tackles of his generation could be responsible for one of the worst NFL contracts for 2015? Just ask the Cleveland Browns about that. It was widely reported that the Browns attempted to deal Joe Thomas to the Denver Broncos before the trade deadline, but no transaction could be reached in time. As good as Thomas has been over the years – he will one day be in the Hall of Fame – he is at the beginning of the downside of his career. The Browns, in need of lots of talent these days, should consider trading Thomas before the 2016 NFL Draft.
17. Mike Wallace – Minnesota Vikings: $9.9 Million
The Minnesota Vikings have not needed Mike Wallace to be an elite wide receiver who produces home-run plays on a weekly basis. That is what happens when a club is able to feature one of the greatest running backs of his generation who will, not long after he retires, be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Wallace has been serviceable with Minnesota, but it is not a stretch to say that the Vikings could have spent that $9.9 million on other talent. There still remains a chance that Wallace could prove to be worth every penny of this deal, especially if the Vikings do make it to the playoffs.
16. Vontae Davis – Indianapolis Colts: $11.25 Million
Stephen Holder of the Indy Star asked a question about the cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts in December 2015: “Is Colts’ Vontae Davis still a shutdown corner?” Davis, per the information posted in Holder’s piece, gave up seven touchdown passes in 2015 up through December 9. That is a high number for a defensive back who has a cap hit of over $11 million. Davis is only 27 years old, so one would hope that he is not nearing the end of his physical prime. Anybody can have a down year, and Indianapolis will need Davis to find his form if the Colts are to do anything of note in 2016.
15. Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars: $10.3 Million
One probably would have imagined that Julius Thomas checking in on a list of the worst NFL contracts for 2015 would have something to do with Thomas no longer playing with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. While that probably has not helped Thomas’ cause, Thomas has been left in the cold because second-year quarterback Blake Bortles has built up in-game chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. While the trio has been lighting it up for fantasy football owners, Thomas has been somewhat of a free agency bust.
14. Joe Haden – Cleveland Browns: $11.7 Million
Joe Haden struggled with injury problems even before symptoms stemming from concussions ended his season early. That does not eliminate the fact that Haden never looked or played like a shutdown cornerback starting all the way back in Week 1 of the 2015 season. Haden is beloved among fans of the Cleveland Browns, and he has done great things in the local community. What Haden has not done, however, is show that he is worth a cap hit of over $11 million a season this year. The Browns may have some contemplating to do regarding Haden during the upcoming offseason.
13. Vincent Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $12,209,777
It is not the worst thing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that Vincent Jackson is no longer a No. 1 wide receiver on the field or on a depth chart. Tampa Bay does, after all, have Mike Evans as the top target for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Jackson is being paid like a top wide receiver, however, but he is well on his way to having the worst season of his Tampa Bay tenure. In his ten regular season appearances in 2015, Jackson has averaged only 3.3 receptions. Jackson found the end zone only three times in those ten games.
12. Chris Long – St. Louis Rams: $12.5 Million
What could have been a special season for the St. Louis Rams was derailed in part because of injuries impacting different portions of the roster. A knee problem made Long a spectator for roughly one month during the fall, and the defense of the Rams missed the defensive end. Even Long returning to the lineup would not be enough to save St. Louis considering the other problems that plagued the club as it fell out of playoff contention. Long’s contract likely would have been worth the money had he been able to stay on the field, but fate had other plans for the player and for the Rams.
11. Clay Matthews – Green Bay Packers: $12.7 Million
Those who follow the Green Bay Packers and the play of Clay Matthews in 2015 probably noticed that Matthews went roughly two months without a sack. The end of that sack drought resulted in Matthews having a total of 5.5 sacks after December 13, which would be a disappointing output for a defensive player who is making over $12 million in guaranteed money. Since 2009, Matthews has only played in all 16 games in a regular season twice: In ’09 and then in 2014. Matthews is on pace to make it through the entire campaign this time around, but his stats are nevertheless unimpressive.
10. Sam Bradford – Philadelphia Eagles: $12.985 Million
Have you been struggling to understand just what it is Chip Kelly has been trying to accomplish as the boss of the Philadelphia Eagles? The play of Sam Bradford has probably not helped provide any answers. It has been years since Bradford has proven himself to be a franchise quarterback who can stay on the field for any length of time, and injuries once again sidelined the former first-round pick in 2015. The possibility exists that Bradford could eventually find his form and prove his worth to the Philadelphia faithful. More likely, however, is that Bradford is not the long-term solution for the Eagles.
9. Calais Campbell – Arizona Cardinals: $14.75 Million
It has been somewhat of a surprising season for Calais Campbell. While the defense of the Arizona Cardinals has been a positive for the club as it pursues a potential berth in the Super Bowl, the defensive end is on pace to have the worst season of his career since he was a rookie. Campbell is averaging slightly over one sack for every six regular season games in 2015. His lowest sack total for a season from 2009 through 2014 was 6.0 back in 2010. Campbell may struggle getting to even that mark in the final three contests of the 2015 campaign.
8. Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers: $15,265,753
Some would probably think that Colin Kaepernick deserves to be higher on any list of the worst NFL contracts for 2015. What you have to remember is that the San Francisco 49ers are able to cut ties with Kaepernick every spring before his salary turns into guaranteed money. It was also hardly a secret in the football world earlier this year that Kaepernick was likely not in the long-term plans of the club. San Francisco is, as of December 2015, starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. Kaepernick, meanwhile, will likely end his tenure in San Francisco on injured reserve.
7. Robert Quinn – St. Louis Rams: $16,774,111
Bad luck hits even high-level professional athletes, and that is the case with Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams. While Quinn did manage to notch five sacks in eight regular season games, injuries have sidelined the defensive end. It was learned earlier in December that Quinn would need back surgery, and that operation will officially end his season. The Rams sure did miss Quinn while he was attempting to return to the field, as St. Louis fell out of playoff contention. Quinn is currently set to be a member of the St. Louis franchise up through the end of the 2019 season.
6. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions: $17,721,250
Football analysts rank quarterbacks by placing them into invisible “tiers.” Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions has never played himself into the highest of those tiers, and yet he continues to be paid as if he is one of the best players at the position. Interceptions were once again an issue for Stafford in 2015, as he was averaging one pick per contest as of the middle of December. Stafford will only be 28 years old at the start of next season, and thus the Lions should not yet be willing to end his time with the club. The time to trade him could come sooner than later, though, as Stafford is only signed up through the end of the 2017 season.
5. Mario Williams – Buffalo Bills: $19.4 Million
The hope among those running the Buffalo Bills way back in January 2015 was that former New York Jets head coach and defensive guru Rex Ryan would make players such as Mario Williams even greater forces en route to Buffalo competing for a division title. That, as fans of the Bills know, did not happen. Williams is on pace to have his lowest sack total since 2011, his final season with the Houston Texans. Unless he finds his old form in the closing weeks of the current campaign, this will be the first season that Williams does not accumulate double-digit sacks since signing with the Bills.
4. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos: $17.5 Million
We would be lying if we said that we did not feel sadness having to put Peyton Manning on this list in general, let alone at fourth. Odds are that you are aware of Manning’s sad stats, particularly his woeful interceptions-to-touchdowns ratio. You have probably read and/or heard about all of the physical setbacks keeping the greatest regular season quarterback on the sidelines during the holiday season. Maybe, just maybe, The Sheriff will have one more run left in the tank before he rides off into the sunset. It is more likely, however, that we will never again see the Manning of old.
3. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons: $19.5 Million
The very first thing that popped up when searching “Matt Ryan” via Google on the afternoon of December 16 was trade rumors involving the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. That says quite a lot about how lackluster Matty Ice has been this season. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Ryan is second in interceptions to only Peyton Manning as of the posting of this piece. Maybe Ryan is merely the latest victim of playing underneath offensive coordinator and alleged quarterback-killer Kyle Shanahan. Whatever the case, Ryan has undoubtedly been a letdown in 2015.
2. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions: $20.558 Million
The numbers would tell you that Calvin Johnson was once again his Megatron self throughout the 2015 NFL regular season. Numbers sometimes lie, however, and those numbers don’t inform you that the Detroit Lions started the campaign with five straight losses and by losing seven of the team’s first eight games. There is one number, other than the guaranteed money paid to him, that Johnson and the Lions cannot escape: 31, which is the number for Johnson’s age by the time October 2016 rolls around. Do not at all be surprised to see the Lions attempt to trade Johnson during the upcoming offseason.
1. Charles Johnson – Carolina Panthers: $20.02 Million
What do you do when the team that you play for is 13-0 and when you are making millions upon millions in guaranteed money? If you are Charles Johnson of the Carolina Panthers, you take to social media to complain about how you are not receiving what you deem to be adequate playing time. Johnson has, as of December 16, appeared in only six regular season games this year, and he accumulated only a single sack in those contests. Unless some drastic change were to quickly occur, Johnson is well on his way to his worst NFL season since 2007. Johnson is currently signed with the Panthers up through the end of the 2016 season. Will he see a change of scenery before that contract expires?