Read the Fine Print

Latavius-Murray

The NFL recently finished the first phase of free agency and with it came large contract dollars that make agents, and the players they represent, feel good about the deals that were doled out. And like other years, the initial contract numbers presented to the public largely distort the actual contract implications.  This article takes a more in-depth look into a few selected multi-year contracts of offensive players, examining short and long term NFL impacts plus consequences for RSO leagues.

Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago Bears

Published Contract: 3 years / $45 Million, $18.5M guaranteed

Real Contract: 1 year with two team option years

What it means: The contract likely paid Glennon more than was warranted or necessary for his services.  However, the Bears commit to the former Buccaneer for only one year with just $4.5 million owed after 2017.  Chicago’s overpay is tempered by cheap contract years in 2017 ($16M) and 2018 ($15M) with cap hits which project toward the low end of the spectrum for non-rookie deal starting quarterbacks if Glennon proves to be a good quarterback for the Bears. The one-year commitment also does not prevent the Bears using a high draft pick on a quarterback this season.

RSO league consequences: You should only consider Glennon useful in 2QB/Superflex leagues as a low-end starter or bye week/injury reserve.  There is very little upside on a Chicago team with lots of unknowns at receiver, who just lost its top receiving threat, Alshon Jeffery, to the Eagles, and figures to be run-heavy in the near future led by a strong offensive line and rookie-sensation Jordan Howard.  Glennon is not a player I would invest in for the long haul at the moment.  We will have more information about the Chicago’s future quarterback plan following the NFL draft.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills

Published Contract: 2 years / $30.5 Million, $15.5M guaranteed

Real Contract: 1 year with one team option year

What it means: Taylor remains in Buffalo on another team-friendly contract.  This contract and teams’ lack of interest in Colin Kaepernick (although there are other issues at play for Kaepernick) says a lot about the market for “running” quarterbacks with limited passing skills.  This situation could go in a lot of directions in 2018 depending on how he meshes with the new coaching staff.  The contract contains $8.6M in dead cap after 2017 (of which $5.6M is locked in through 3 voided years at the end of contract).  Taylor’s $18M cap hit is not outrageous if he is retained in 2018.

RSO league consequences: Taylor is a great one year option for those looking to go cheaper at quarterback. He does not have the passing skills to challenge the top performers but his rushing abilities give him a nice weekly floor which resulted in QB1 numbers on a PPG basis for 2015 and 2016.  Those running skills also help open lanes on the ground for LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Bills rushing attack.  The lack of pocket passing traits, on the other hand, severely limits Buffalo receivers’ upside including Sammy Watkins.  While I like Taylor in 2017, I am not looking for a longer contract.  There was not much of a market for Taylor during pre-free agency talks which resulting in Taylor taking a reduced contract to stay in Buffalo.  The Bills have now passed on the chance to commit to Taylor twice.  If teams will not commit, neither should you.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Bucaneers

Published Contract: 3 years / $33.5 Million, $18.5M guaranteed

Real Contract: 2 years with one team option year

What it means: Jackson solves massive offensive speed issues in the receiver group for Tampa Bay.  He can help a young Jameis Winston who enjoys throwing the football deep but has not been particularly effective at it.  Jackson creates far more separation than other receivers Winston throws to however.  The Bucs could conceivably cut Jackson in year two, but that option is highly unlikely with only $3.5 Million out of $11M not guaranteed and probably occurs only in the case of catastrophic injury or other major issue.  This is one of my favorite deals so far in free agency filling a major team need with reasonable contract terms.

RSO league consequences: Jackson remains a high-volatile WR3 in Tampa Bay, although one with higher upside than many receivers in this range.  Tampa Bay’s passing targets concentrated heavily on Mike Evans in 2016. The next two targets, Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries, together totaled fewer targets than Evans alone.  With only Brate and Humphries challenging for secondary targets to Evans, Jackson could easily see more targets than in his time in Washington.  I am very comfortable giving Jackson a 2 or 3 year deal as his weekly volatility generally results in cheaper RSO contracts.

Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Published Contract: 5 years / $34 Million, $15M guaranteed

Real Contract: 1 year with four team option years

What it means: This contract is a great example of how misleading the generic contract terms can be.  The Rams are only locked in for the first season of the five year contract.  Even the guarantees are not guaranteed.  $8M of the $15M in guarantees lock in for injury only.  Woods will be a year to year rental for Los Angeles.

RSO league consequences: Nothing to see here.  Woods theoretically slots in as a starting receiver for Sean McVay’s offense.  This is a Rams team that likely adds major receiving weapons over the next couple of years, however.  Woods could garner enough targets in 2017 to be useful in deeper leagues but should not be considered as more than a depth player on a one year contract.

Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Published Contract: 3 years / $15 Million, $8.55M guaranteed

Real Contract: 1 year with two team option years

What it means: Oh how the mighty have fallen.  The fact that this is the premier contract given to a running back in free agency says all you need to know about the running back market.  Former heavyweights at the position including Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Eddie Lacy have gathered only marginal interest (Editor’s Note: Lacy signed a 1-year deal with Seattle that guaranties him $2.865M and could earn him up to $5.55M depending on his performance and his weight).  A number of factors including a deep running back draft class plus analytics research detailing the minimal effect of the run game generally and the running back specifically have suppressed the demand for running backs.  Only $2.7M of Murray’s contract is fully guaranteed.  The cap number balloons from a small sub-$3M number in 2017 to well over $6M in 2018 with only $1.2M in dead money left.  The contract is tailor-made for Murray’s release or contract restructure in 2018.

RSO league consequences: Murray moves in as the top back in Minnesota, splitting time with incumbent Jerick McKinnon.  This is likely more of a timeshare rather than players with separate, strict roles in the offense.  McKinnon is competent catching flares and screens out of the backfield but is not a particularly good receiver or route runner.  Murray is better in pass protection and likely takes most goal line work based on Minnesota’s previous use of the departed Matt Asiata.  The offensive line was a mess in 2016, but Minnesota spent a lot of money shoring up the position in free agency.  The Vikings are also prime candidates to add offensive line talent in the draft.  Minnesota could also look at running back in the draft.  Overall, consider Murray a low upside borderline RB2/3 in RSO leagues.  Murray has not demonstrated special talent so far in the league and given his NFL contract, I would not sign Murray to more than a 1-year RSO contract.

*Contract details were taken from Spotrac.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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