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Top 15 Worst Contracts in the NFL Today

When the new Collective Bargaining agreement was agreed upon in 2011, NFL players were guaranteed to receive at least 47% of revenue accrued over the previous season. Teams are also required to have s

When the new Collective Bargaining agreement was agreed upon in 2011, NFL players were guaranteed to receive at least 47% of revenue accrued over the previous season. Teams are also required to have spent 89% of their cap by the 2017 season. Combine these two figures with the fact that teams are allowed to carry over their unused cap-space from the previous season, it is inevitable that teams will be throwing an unnecessary amount of cash to less-than-deserving players.

Look across the league at many big-name players and you will see mediocre numbers with a contract that reflects past accomplishments or jersey sales more than their on-field performance. Teams nowadays are also more willing to overpay for a player that has thrived in a system, in hopes of that player turning around their franchise. This theory has seldom turned out for NFL GM’s. It is a startling trend in the NFL that appears to be gaining steam rather than dying out.

Though this isn’t always the GM’s fault. It is the GM’s job to scout good talent, encourage players to leave the franchise they have had success at, to join your team in hopes of increasing their chance at winning. Sometimes that player gets lazy and less interested in risking their body after earning his big payday, and sometimes that player has simply peaked and is now watching their game decrease.

As the NFL’s popularity grows every year, the salary cap will in-turn increase, resulting in teams being more likely to throw that extra cash at under-deserving players. Here is a look at 15 players that have been granted a contract beyond what their worth is as a player.

*All stats were taken from Pro-Football-Reference.com.

15 Adrian Peterson

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

No one can deny the fact that Adrian Peterson has been one of the best runners in NFL history. Only twice in AP’s career has he failed to put up at least 1,200 rushing yards, and those were in 2011 when he suffered his ACL tear, and last year when he was suspended for most of season. So why is this contract so bad? Any NFL GM will tell you that it’s dangerous to rely the team’s running game on a back that is in his 30’s (Peterson turned 30 this year). Not only did Peterson miss all but one game last season, he has carried the ball over 2,000 times and amassed over 10,000 yards during his eight year career. So how could it remain logical to pay Peterson $12.75 million this year, and increase that base salary by $2 million in each of the next two seasons?

14 Carson Palmer

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, Carson Palmer had a 95.6 QB rating and was off to one of the best starts in his career before tearing his ACL in the Arizona Cardinals tenth game of the season (Palmer's sixth, he missed weeks 2-5 with a shoulder injury), the second such injury to the same ACL in Palmer's career. Cardinals back up QB, Drew Stanton, was equally impressive, posting a 5-3 record before ultimately being sidelined for the season with a knee injury, leaving Arizona without a reliable starting quarterback in the most important part of the season.

It may be worth it for the Cardinals to keep Palmer on the roster this season as he will only count roughly $7 million against their cap. That number, however, increases to $17 million next year, and over $20 million in each of the two seasons after that, a lot to be paying a 35 year old with two major knee surgeries.

13 Colin Kaepernick

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick is proof that sometimes the quarterback is rewarded more than the rest of the team when the team becomes successful. After a two year run that consisted of two NFC Championship appearances and a loss in the Super Bowl, Kap was rewarded for the 49ers success in the form of a six-year, $114 million contract, that won’t expire until 2021. Good for the third-highest quarterback contract in the league. His $61 million guaranteed stands alone and is $6 million greater than the next highest guarantee. The money so far has proven to not be worth it, as the 49ers missed the playoffs last year in a sometimes up, but mostly down year for Kaepernick.

12 Jeremy Maclin

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The problem with this contract isn’t the player, it's the system the player will be playing in. Since his rookie year in 2009, Maclin has put up solid numbers, and that was while having to split receptions with DeSean Jackson. Maclin missed 2013 with an ACL injury, and came back in 2014 with a ton of question marks about how he will play. He responded with career bests in receptions, yards, touchdowns, and YPR. It was also the first time since 2010 that Maclin played in every game. However, Maclin decided to sign a 5-year, $55 million contract with the running back and tight end friendly Kansas City Chiefs, a team that had 0 wide receiver touchdown receptions in 2014. This contract will likely look like a bust considering the scheme he's in.

11 Jared Allen

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Since his 22-sack season in 2011, Jared Allen has shown a steady decrease in that number every year. With the biggest drop coming in 2013-2014 (11.5 in 2013 to only 5.5 in 2014). Jared Allen turned 33 years old this year and will be one of the highest paid defensive ends in football when he collects $12.5 million of his guaranteed $15.5 million. Even if Allen does put up numbers that warrant a better-than-average contract, the Bears will more than certainly be forced to cut him before the start of next season. With a base salary valued at $8 million for the next two years, it will be hard to keep around an aging player that has played 172 games over his 11-year career.

10 Eric Decker

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When Eric Decker hit free agency in 2014, the Denver Broncos believed that his large numbers were more because of the system than the player. Putting up number one receiver stats in his last two years with Peyton Manning as his quarterback, Decker was rewarded by the receiver-desperate New York Jets with a 5-year, $36.2 million contract. At the time, Decker had become the ninth highest paid receiver in the game. In 2015, he scored his fewest number of touchdowns since his rookie season and also saw his receptions and yards dip to pedestrian numbers. Though the addition of Brandon Marshall will take some coverage off of Decker, it appears he needs a quarterback with a better skill set than Geno Smith to succeed.

9 Marques Colston

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Though Marques Colston has put up consistent numbers throughout his career, the 31 year-old Saints receiver has seen a dip in receptions, yards and touchdowns (5 TDs in 2013 and 2014) in each year since playing the first year of a 5-year, $36.3 million contract in 2012. Colston has proven reliable and has remained on the field in all but four games during the past six seasons for the Saints. He has, however, proven to have slowed in his game as his percentage of missed targets has increased every year since 2011.

8 Dwayne Harris

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants made one of their most questionable free agency moves in history when they threw a five-year, $17.5 million contract at a return specialist that has middle-of-the-pack YPR average and has scored a total of two touchdowns on 171 return tries. Dwayne Harris is listed as a wide receiver but with a stacked team of proven players and hopeful youngsters on the Giants roster, it’s hard to see Harris ever contributing to anything more than bringing back punts and kicks. Even if he does see time on the offense, guaranteeing more than $7 million to a player with 33 career receptions and 3 touchdowns isn’t smart spending.

7 Marcedes Lewis

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

In 2010, Marcedes Lewis hit the free agent market as a hot commodity after having the best season of his career in posting numbers of 58 receptions, 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Jacksonville Jaguars rewarded Lewis to the tune of 5 years and $34 million. At the time it was the third-highest tight end contract in the NFL. Since then, Lewis, in return, has rewarded the Jaguars to the tune of averaging 33.5/391/2.5 over the next four seasons and missing fourteen games. With this, the final year of Lewis’ contract, hitting the Jags for $8.2 million, combined with the $10.3 guaranteed to newly-signed Julius Thomas, Jacksonville has nearly $19 million of this years salary cap tied up in tight ends. By far the highest in the league.

6 Sam Bradford

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement took effect in 2011, Sam Bradford was able to cash in on what used to be uncapped contracts for rookies. Without having proven anything in the NFL, the St. Louis Rams signed Bradford to a $78 million contract, with $50 million of that being guaranteed. Though Bradford has been productive when he has played, he has been plagued by serious injuries to the same knee two times in his career, resulting in him missing a lot of games. The Rams have gotten solid production from their back ups which made it easier to send Bradford to the Eagles, who will pick up the last three years of this contract that holds base salaries of $9 million, $14 million, and $13 million, respectively. Bradford has the potential to be worth the money he is owed, it is however uncertain how good he will be when he continues playing, or if he will even be the starter.

5 Jonathan Stewart

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

When Jonathan Stewart signed his 5-year, $36.5 million contract extension with the Carolina Panthers in 2012, one would assume he had been one of the leagues best in order to become the third-highest paid back in the NFL. But if you look at his stats in the two years before signing the extension, you see mediocre numbers, as Stewart ran for 770 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2010 and 760 yards with 4 touchdowns in 2011. Since signing the contract, things haven’t gotten any better for Stewart as he has averaged 441 yards and just 1.3 touchdowns while missing 20 games over that time. Stewart will hit the Panthers salary cap for $8.3 million this year, and that number jumps higher than $9.5 for next season.

4 Julius Thomas

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Much like the Denver Broncos did when Eric Decker hit free agency in 2014, they felt the same about Julius Thomas in 2015. A player who had benefited from the system he was in, was allowed to take a massive pay-day that another team was blindly providing him.  The Jaguars decided to give him a 5-year, $46 million contract with $24 million guaranteed. Yes Julius Thomas has scored 12 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. But his other numbers? And his statistics before Peyton Manning was the quarterback? Thomas has never played a full season in his four year career. Missing all of 2012, and appearing in a combined 32 games over the other three seasons. He had one career reception before Manning became a Bronco, and averaged just 54 receptions for 638 yards during his last two seasons in Denver.

3 Charles Clay

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When Charles Clay left Miami to sign with the Buffalo Bills this offseason, he became the fourth-highest paid tight end in the NFL behind only, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. Clay’s $24.5 million guaranteed is second to none. While the Bills threw this money in Clay’s direction in hopes that he can fix the number-two-receiver question for the Bills, the numbers don’t show that to be a reasonable expectation of the fifth-year player. Clay has played all 16 games just once in his career, and that was during his best season in 2013, in which he still only managed 69 receptions for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those numbers dropped in every category last year when Clay totaled just 58/605/3, with 114 of those yards coming in a Week 16 win against the Vikings.

2 Mike Wallace

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Though it would be nearly impossible for anyone to touch Calvin Johnson's $113 million contract with nearly $49 million guaranteed, Mike Wallace, at number two, is still head and shoulders above the rest of the receivers in the NFL with his 5-year, $60 million contract, that holds $30 million guaranteed. The Miami Dolphins expected Wallace to come in and be their number-one receiver with the top-ten numbers he had in Pittsburgh. However, Wallace appeared to be a product of a system, as he managed to score just 15 touchdowns over two seasons and never reached 1,000 yards in a season for the Dolphins. Which was probably why it was easy for them to ship this mediocre player and awful contract off to the Minnesota Vikings.

1 Jay Cutler

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler hasn’t played a full season since 2009 and has thrown at least 12 interceptions per season every year except in his rookie campaign when he played only 5 games, and in 2011 when he played in just 10. He continues to be the most inconsistent quarterback in the league by alternating good game with atrocious games. Cutler has also managed to lead his team to the postseason just one time in his career and that was in 2010 when the Chicago Bears still had one of the league’s best defenses. So why is it that he has the highest valued contract in the entire NFL? Not even Jay Cutler can answer that.

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Top 15 Worst Contracts in the NFL Today