Buying or Selling Contract Value for Notable NFL Free-Agent Signings

Eric MackFantasy Football Lead WriterMarch 19, 2014

Buying or Selling Contract Value for Notable NFL Free-Agent Signings

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    We won't know for months, if not years, how well all this money thrown around through the first week of free agency was spent, but that won't keep us from trying to qualify it.

    When players hit free agency, they usually do so because their original team decided they didn't want them. Well, they at least decided they didn't want them at their asking price.

    There are no Jimmy Graham-like franchise-tag bargains in this free market. It takes top dollar and some bold maneuvers by front offices.

    We broke down all of the deals agreed upon in the past week that averaged more than $6 million per year. We count 22 of them—there could be more—and outline whether we buy or sell the final numbers of each in this jam-packed slideshow.

    Note: The contract data referenced, including total value, average per year and full guaranteed dollars, comes from OvertheCap.com, unless otherwise noted.

CB Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots

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    Team: New England Patriots

    Length: Two years

    Total: $32 million

    Average per year: $16 million

    Guaranteed: $11.5 million

    The Patriots lost Aqib Talib to the Denver Broncos, but they replaced him with a corner who "allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap," according to Pro Football Focus. Revis should be even better playing for a top contender with a solid supporting cast and another year removed from reconstructive knee surgery.

    The second year of the contract is the tough one to swallow. Revis will make $20 million if the Pats pick up his option—and they cannot franchise tag him—as NESN's Doug Kyed reports. It ostensibly makes the deal one year for $12 million and spreads the cap hit over two years. They didn't have to trade anything for him either.

    Pure Patriots genius.

    Verdict: Buy

DE DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    Length: Three years

    Total: $30 million

    Average per year: $10 million

    Guaranteed: $16.5 million

    If you ignore the name value of DeMarcus Ware and the potential of what he could do in a pass-rushing combination with Von Miller, you might not like this signing as much for John Elway. Yes, Ware is potentially productive, but he is also going to be 32 next season and is coming off an injury-plagued year.

    This is a lot of guaranteed money to pay a 32-year-old, injury-plagued defensive end who had a mere six sacks—a career low—last season. 

    Verdict: Sell

CB Aqib Talib, New England Patriots

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    Team: Denver Broncos

    Length: Six years

    Total: $57 million

    Average per year: $9.5 million

    Guaranteed: $11.5 million

    While adding Aqib Talib was a home run for a Broncos defense that sorely needed him, it wasn't without a cost. The Broncos might not have offered the largest total value deal of the offseason to Talib if they had known Darrelle Revis was going to be available for the same amount of guaranteed money.

    You can debate Talib vs. Revis for months, but look at this from the New England Patriots' perspective. They are the team that helped make Talib a legit shutdown corner. Talib suffered some untimely injuries in his time with the Patriots.

    Ultimately, they decided they wanted Revis instead.

    Verdict: Sell

LT Branden Albert, Miami Dolphins

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    Team: Miami Dolphins

    Length: Five years

    Total: $47 million

    Average per year: $9.4 million

    Guaranteed: $20 million

    Yes, this is the most guaranteed money handed out this winter, according to OvertheCap.com, but the Miami Dolphins had massive issues with their offensive line and had to overpay to lock up a premier pass-protecting left tackle.

    You can argue fellow left tackle free agents Jared Veldheer and Eugene Monroe are better players in the long term—not to mention they signed for less—but Albert fills a huge hole for a team with ample cap space. Albert's pass-protection skills also fit Joe Philbin's plan with Ryan Tannehill, even if took a princely sum.

    Verdict: Buy

FS Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints

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    Team: New Orleans Saints

    Length: Six years

    Total: $54 million

    Average per year: $9 million

    Guaranteed: $18.3 million

    Few could have seen the Saints being a major player in free agency. They had such limited cap space going in, as Spotrac.com analyzes. Ironically, the Saints landed arguably the most sought-after free agent on the market.

    You can wonder why the Buffalo Bills didn't franchise Byrd again for about $1 million less than the Saints committed to him annually, but Byrd is a game-changer for a contender. The Bills haven't done anything since the days of Jim Kelly.

    We will side with the Saints' front office versus the Bills' here.

    Verdict: Buy

CB Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Team: Indianapolis Colts

    Length: Four years

    Total: $36 million, according to Spotrac.com

    Average per year: $9 million

    Guaranteed: $20 million

    Vontae Davis, 25, has legitimately emerged as one of the best young cover corners in football, but that doesn't mean he is going to stay there over the life of this deal. The Colts paid him as an elite player, despite getting just one truly elite year out of him.

    The Colts had to ink this huge deal to keep him, because he is so young and talented and coming off a great year, but they might regret handing this much guaranteed money to someone so frustratingly inconsistent, as Pro Football Focus' 2014 Free Agency Deal Grader critiques.

    Verdict: Sell

DE Michael Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Length: Five years

    Total: $43.75 million

    Average per year: $8.75 million

    Guaranteed: $16 million

    Pass rushing isn't a defensive end's only job, but it is an important one. Michael Johnson fell off last year with just 3.5 sacks. If you look at his five-year totals, 2012 (11.5 sacks) was the only year he was a true impact pass-rusher.

    Sure, Johnson grades highly against the run, according to Pro Football Focus, but the size of his deal is one you give to an elite pass-rusher. The Bucs had to overpay here.

    You have to figure if Johnson was worth the price, the Bengals would have bid for him. They are a top contender and are in the top five of the NFL with the most cap space, according to Spotrac.com. They haven't signed anyone. Johnson apparently wasn't good enough.

    Verdict: Sell

DE Julius Peppers, Green Bay Packers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Team: Green Bay Packers

    Length: Three years

    Total: $26 million

    Average per year: $8.67 million

    Guaranteed: $7.5 million, according to Spotrac.com

    The Green Bay Packers are famously a fiscally responsible franchise, so when they hand out a free-agent deal like the one they gave Julius Peppers, you have to take note. The best part of this deal is the mere $7.5 million guaranteed.

    B.J. Raji re-signed for a mere $4 million, according to Spotrac.com, so the move for Peppers allows Raji to move inside at nose tackle, which is where his big body belongs. Peppers is a high-reward, low-risk move. When coupled with the re-signing of Raji, the move has the potential to make the Packers' front a lot more formidable.

    Plus, the Bears will have to deal with a Peppers who is still in the NFC North and will be motivated to prove they made a mistake.

    Verdict: Buy

DE Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Team: Minnesota Vikings 

    Length: Five years

    Total: $42.5 million

    Average per year: $8.5 million

    Guaranteed: $19.8 million

    This is a head-scratcher. Sure, Griffen's arrow is pointing up at the ripe age of 26, but this deal is one you give to lure a player—not to retain him before he truly proves worthy of elite money.

    The Vikings are allowing Jared Allen to leave and paying boatloads of cash to Griffen, who has just 17.5 sacks in his four-year career. Allen had 22 in a single season once.

    They should have retained Griffen for a lot less...perhaps even given him a one-year deal to see how he performs without Allen drawing the attention of pass-protection schemes.

    Verdict: Sell

LT Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Team: Baltimore Ravens

    Length: Five years

    Total: $37.5 million

    Average per year: $7.5 million

    Guaranteed: $19 million

    It was a competitive market for offensive tackles, and the Ravens were in the unenviable position of having both of their bookends entering free agency. They retained the right one.

    Monroe was a top-10 tackle in 2013 and has posted back-to-back strong years, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens paid Monroe far less than the Miami Dolphins had to give Branden Albert. That alone makes this deal a win.

    Verdict: Buy

WR Eric Decker, New York Jets

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Team: New York Jets

    Length: Five years

    Total: $36.25 million

    Average per year: $7.25 million

    Guaranteed: $15 million

    Don't look at this deal from Eric Decker's perspective. He clearly took a big risk leaving Peyton Manning for the poorly quarterbacked Jets.

    Criticize Decker's potential with Geno Smith or any Jets quarterback. Heck, you can even say he drops too many passes, has the tendency to disappear from games, never has been a true No. 1 and was a product of Manning and the system.

    What you need to realize is the Jets had to overpay to get any receiver to play for them. You can argue Decker's production the past two years would have been worth $10 million a year. Even the Jets didn't have to go that far.

    Verdict: Buy

DE Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Team: Seattle Seahawks

    Length: Four years

    Total: $28.5 million

    Average per year: $7.125 million

    Guaranteed: $10 million

    This contract pales in comparison to what the Seahawks were able to get Bennett for a year ago, but the cost of winning the Super Bowl was supposed to be losing a productive pass-rush specialist to free agency. Instead, the Seahawks retain him under reasonable terms.

    Sure, DeMarcus Ware can make a case to be worth more annually than Bennett, but it is laughable that Michael Johnson and Everson Griffen got more—even if Bennett isn't an every-down player like them. Bennett's production is worth this freight.

    Verdict: Buy

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants

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    Team: New York Giants

    Length: Five years

    Total: $35 million

    Average per year: $7 million

    Guaranteed: $13.98 million, according to Spotrac.com

    Few could have given the Giants much of a chance to land a top cornerback, but they pulled it off with Monday's signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. If DRC plays like he did in Denver versus Philly, this deal is going to be a home run, despite the long-term commitment.

    The Giants already have a first-rounder Prince Amukamara starting on one side, free-agent bargain Walter Thurmond as the nickel corner, Pro Bowler Antrel Rolle at strong safety and Stevie Brown at free safety. This stands to be a pretty good secondary now.

    DRC should help the Giants deal with the loss of pass-rusher Justin Tuck.

    Verdict: Buy

LT Jared Veldheer, Arizona Cardinals

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Team: Arizona Cardinals

    Length: Five years

    Total: $35 million

    Average per year: $7 million

    Guaranteed: $10.5 million

    What makes this deal a good value is the same thing that can make it a risk: injury. Jared Veldheer just hasn't been healthy the past two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

    The Cards are gambling that Veldheer, 26, can make good on his immense promise in Year 5 after playing in just five games last season. This is a reasonable gamble when you consider Veldheer's age, pass-protection ability, strength and those bigger contracts handed out to older left tackles Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe.

    Verdict: Buy

DE Lamarr Houston, Chicago Bears

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    Team: Chicago Bears

    Length: Five years

    Total: $35 million

    Average per year: $7 million

    Guaranteed: $8.95 million

    The Chicago Bears had the worst run defense in football last season, so they had to sign one of the football's best run-stuffing defensive ends in Lamarr Houston—who graded plus-14.9 at Pro Football Focus—even if it meant releasing a pass-rushing end like Julius Peppers. The fit is ideal here.

    The Bears didn't have to pay Houston like a pass-rusher, but that doesn't mean the 26-year-old cannot improve in that area. When you compare Houston's run defense capability and the size of his deal to the likes of Michael Johnson and Everson Griffen, he is a relative value at $7 million per year and just $8.95 million guaranteed.

    How did the Oakland Raiders not use their cap space on this guy?

    Verdict: Buy

SS Donte Whitner, Cleveland Browns

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    Team: Cleveland Browns

    Length: Four years

    Total: $28 million

    Average per year: $7 million

    Guaranteed: $11 million

    The Cleveland Browns not only could have franchise-tagged T.J. Ward, who took less to sign with the Denver Broncos, but they also had to overpay former Ohio State Buckeye Donte Whitner to come back to his home state. So much for a hometown discount.

    That is the cost of being an annual also-ran versus the Super Bowl contender Whitner used to play for in San Francisco, or the one Ward will play for in Denver. Whenever you fail to retain a comparable player in Ward and are forced to pay more for an older player in Whitner, it has to go down as an unfavorable deal for the team.

    Verdict: Sell

DE Arthur Jones, Indianapolis Colts

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Team: Indianapolis Colts

    Length: Five years

    Total: $33 million

    Average per year: $6.6 million

    Guaranteed: $10 million

    Arthur Jones will improve the Colts' run defense, but this deal seems to be a lot of commitment to a player who is more steady than spectacular. Pro Football Focus calls him "a very expensive role player in the Colts' rotation."

    Jim Irsay might regret making this deal once Andrew Luck becomes a larger portion of the salary cap after his affordable rookie contract expires.

    Verdict: Sell

DT Paul Soliai, Atlanta Falcons

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    Team: Atlanta Falcons

    Length: Five years

    Total: $32 million

    Average per year: $6.4 million

    Guaranteed: $11 million

    Paul Soliai is a nice veteran run-stuffer, but the Atlanta Falcons burned their big free-agent signing on a nose tackle type, despite the fact they are running a 4-3 defense that doesn't play one. Sure, Soliai can serve as a defensive tackle in the 4-3, but gambling your big offseason addition on a tackle who doesn't fix your weak pass rush and might not be an ideal fit for your base defense makes this a questionable deal.

    The contract is as big as Soliai (6'4", 340 pounds), too. Linval Joseph, 25, would have been a better buy.

    Verdict: Sell

CB Alterraun Verner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Length: Four years

    Total: $25.5 million

    Average per year: $6.375 million

    Guaranteed: $8 million

    Credit new Bucs GM Jason Licht for being bold enough to let Darrelle Revis and his huge contract go with nary a draft pick. Instead, he turned around and made a slew of free-agent acquisitions, the best of which is Alterraun Verner.

    The 25-year-old shutdown corner is younger and without a questionable knee, not to mention he's half the price the Bucs would have had to commit to Revis. New head coach Lovie Smith knows defense and cornerbacks, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt—if not an emphatic high five for this one.

    Verdict: Buy

LT Rodger Saffold, St. Louis Rams

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    Team: St. Louis Rams

    Length: Five years

    Total: $31.35 million

    Average per year: $6.27 million

    Guaranteed: $11 million

    Rodger Saffold nearly had a five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Oakland Raiders, but the deal was nixed due to a failed physical, according to Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News

    If Saffold has a bad year or is hamstrung by injury, released and then signed elsewhere, the Rams would get out of this deal by paying only $8 million for 2014, Thomas reports. It took the woebegone Raiders to botch Saffold's initial offer for the Rams to get their guard/tackle back, but it seems to have worked out for the best for them.

    Verdict: Buy

DT Linval Joseph, Minnesota Vikings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Team: Minnesota Vikings

    Length: Five years

    Total: $31.25 million

    Average per year: $6.25 million

    Guaranteed: $12.5 million

    The Vikings might be losing some sacks in the departure of Jared Allen, but they improve their run defense by signing former New York Giant Linval Joseph. He was a plus-8.6 against the run in Pro Football Focus' ratings system, a very good number for a 4-3 defensive tackle.

    Joseph, 25, was one of the youngest free agents on the market, so the high amount of guaranteed money shouldn't be too much of an issue long-term, particularly for a Vikings team with ample cap space, according to Spotrac.com. This move quietly makes the Vikings considerably better in the interior of their defense while the Giants get weaker.

    Unlike some of the free-agent deals from the previous 20-plus slides, Joseph's previous team feels a sting of his departure. That is noteworthy in itself with so much money getting thrown around in the first week of free agency.

    Verdict: Buy

WR Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Team: Detroit Lions

    Length: Five years

    Total: $31 million

    Average per year: $6.2 million

    Guaranteed: $10.5 million

    Pro Football Focus gushes about the value of Golden Tate's deal with the Detroit Lions, but we are not as sold. Tate has never been a 1,000-yard receiver or a 10-touchdown guy, but he is getting paid like one.

    Wide receivers with better numbers are out there, and you have to figure the Detroit Lions' pass-happy attack can make a 1,000-yard receiver out of a lot of different players. Sure, Tate can have a huge season as a complement to Calvin Johnson, but so could Hakeem Nicks, James Jones, Emmanuel Sanders and even Julian Edelman.

    You can make a case that those names would have been just as good of a fit in Detroit as Tate, and they could have been had for less than the $6 million per year to took to make this slideshow.

    Verdict: Sell

     

     

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, was the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this past season. He is now an NFL featured writer here. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.