Four Pass-Catcher Contracts That Don’t Add Up


With this years NFL salary cap increasing $10 million, and every team other than the St. Louis Rams carrying over their remaining space from 2014, I expected to see teams throwing around money. Especially considering some teams are far below the required 89% of cap space spent (cash from 2013 through 2016) required by the start of the 2017 league year.

While some teams are spending that money wisely, and getting the most out of their dollar to sign players at what they are worth, or below it. Some teams managed to live above their means in what appears to be paying for the name, rather than the actual talent of the player.

Here’s a look at four players who cashed in on being in the headlines rather than actually receiving a comparable payment to other free-agents of the same caliber.

Charles Clay

Age: 26

Position: TE

Team: Buffalo Bills

Contract: 5 years, $38M ($20M guaranteed)

Notable Players Making Less:

It’s easier to say who’s making more: Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski. Thats it.

Why The Move Doesn’t Make Sense:

With viable options in Jermaine Gresham and Zach Miller still on the market at a much cheaper price tag, the Bills reached for a  6th round pick out of Tulsa that has only played one full season (2013).

Clay has managed only 161 receptions for 1,809 yards and 14 TDs over 4 seasons. Not exactly pro-bowl numbers, and virtually the same numbers as Zach Ertz and Mychal Rivera. The Bills are clearly hoping that Clay can play tight end, while also filling the need for another wide receiver  to play along Sammy Watkins. A lot to ask of a fifth-year player that doesn’t have a resume to supports his contract.

Blind Taste Test:

Player A: 62 receptions, 460 yards, 5 TDs

Player B: 58 receptions, 605 yards, 3 TDs

For half the money that Buffalo threw at Player B, they could have gotten a comparable talent in Jermaine Gresham (Player A).

Dwayne Harris

Age: 27

Positions: WR/KR

Team: New York Giants

Contract: 5 years, $17.5M ($7.9M guaranteed)

Notable Players Making Less:

Julio Jones, Emanuel Sanders, Alshon Jeffrey

Why it Doesn’t Make Sense:

Harris was likely brought in to return punts and kicks, but with the possibility of getting some playing time on offense if Rueben Randle and the other young guys the Giants have money committed to continue to play inconsistently.

Harris’ career return numbers are equally as mediocre as his receiving numbers. Averaging 11 yards per attempt on punts with 2 touchdowns, to go along with 26.5 yards per attempt on kickoffs (0 TDs).

Jerry Reese had the right idea last year when he signed a hot Trindon Holliday to a dirt-cheap one-year deal. Only to cut Holliday after being injured most of training camp, and never seeing how he panned out. The Giants have so much to address, and over-spending for a WR that isn’t actually a WR is inexcusable.

Blind Taste Test:

Player A: Career 26.5 YPA and 0 TDs on kickoffs

Player B: Career 27.3 YPA and 5 TDs on kickoffs

Player B is a desperate-to-prove-his-worth Percy Harvin, who could also be plugged in as a playmaker on offense if the young guys continue to struggle and Victor Cruz doesn’t completely recover from his 2014 knee injury. Not to mention there is the constant threat of him scoring on a kick-off.

Torrey Smith

Age: 26

Positions: WR

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Contract: 5 years, $40M ($22M guaranteed)

Notable Players Making Less:

Jordy Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall

Why it Doesn’t Make Sense:

Though this is an upgrade from Michael Crabtree and it teams Smith back up with old teammate Anquan Boldin, his numbers by no means warrant number one receiver money. Ignore the 11 touchdowns last season for a second. Smith has only caught more than 50 balls once, and that was in a hot 2013 where he still caught just 65 passes. Also the only time in Smith’s career that he amassed more than 1,000 yards.

Blind Taste Test:

Player A: 58 receptions, 838 yards, 5 TDs

Player B: 53 receptions, 885 yards, 7.5 TDs

Player B (Smith) who has slightly better career numbers than Player A came at a much steeper price than an incredibly valuable option in Hakeem Nicks.

Jeremy Maclin

Age: 26

Position: WR

Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Contract: 5 years, $55M ($22.5M guaranteed)

Notable Players Making Less:

Victor Cruz, Antonio Brown, Randall Cobb

Why The Move Doesn’t Make Sense:

The problem here isn’t the player, its the system and the team. Maclin racked up huge numbers last year playing in an offensive scheme that was receiver friendly and complimented his talents. He is being relied on to fix an offense that totaled 0 touchdown receptions from its receivers in 2014. I believe that Maclin can be and is a number one receiver in this league. Just not on a team that runs first, looks to tight ends second, and uses their receivers as the last resort.

Blind Taste Test:

Player A: 69 receptions, 954 yards, 7 touchdowns

Player B: 69 receptions, 955 yards, 6.5 touchdowns

Player A are the career numbers for Jeremy Maclin, Player B are Dwayne Bowe’s career averages before the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith.

Now What?

The numbers overwhelmingly point to a trend in higher pay-day’s for pass catchers. The NFL is rapidly changing into a pass-dominated league. It is alarming, however, to see such large portions of a team’s valuable salary-cap allowance being thrown in the direction of plug-in players rather than having that money spread out, creating more balance at the average salary per position.

About the author: Matthew Palmateer