As important as it is to find the right players, signing them to the right contracts can be just as crucial. General managers Dave Gettleman and John Dorsey were both shockingly let go in recent weeks from Carolina and Kansas City, respectively. The reports surrounding each firing suggested contractual missteps were involved. Every team wants to build its roster around cheap rookies and veterans who are making less than market value, but what is market value, anyway?
Let’s try to define that today, and in doing so, we can figure out which teams often hand out deals that exceed market value and whether they’re right to do so. I’ve gone through every multiyear contract I could find since the new collective bargaining agreement was signed in July 2011 and measured each deal’s three-year value, which is the actual money a player would take home if he stayed on the roster for three seasons without departing or renegotiating his contract. Several NFL organizations use this metric as a simple measure of a contract’s value.
The NFL’s biggest three-year contract belongs to Andrew Luck, who will take home $75 million over that span in his extension. That’s useful information, but it’s not very helpful in setting the market for a right tackle or a punter. So I built a baseline three-year value for each position by taking the average of the top 20 contracts during this time frame at each spot. This includes both active and inactive contracts signed since 2011, because the latter still play a part in defining the market. In some cases, the biggest contracts at a position are ones that are no longer on the books. The top five running back contracts (led by Adrian Peterson) and top two wideout deals (Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald) aren’t currently active, but they’re used here to help set the baseline value.