By Ross Kelly
After months of negotiations, threatened holdouts, and possible collusion; both Dez Bryant of the Cowboys and Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos finally gave in and signed 5 yr, $70 million contracts with their respective teams. The contracts are virtually identical with the only difference being Dez getting slightly more in guaranteed money ($45 million as opposed to $43 million). The two receivers’ production over the past three years (which is what teams look at when negotiating) is virtually the same as well as they both rank in the top six among WRs in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Thus, their previous production justifies the big contracts they signed – they performed at an elite level and should get paid at an elite level. But there are other receivers, some obvious and some not-so, that are not living up to their fat contracts. Really, the team that signed them is more to blame as who in their right mind is going to say, “No that’s too much money. I’m not worth it.” But since calling out GMs is not as risque, here is my list of the most overpaid wide receivers in the NFL.
5. Dwayne Bowe (2yr – 12.5m, 2015-2016)
This may seem like an odd selection in that it’s just a two year deal, but when compared to recent similar contracts, Bowe is deserving to be on this list. His deal is virtually the same as the one Anquan Boldin signed with the 49ers last offseason. But despite being four years older, Boldin had vastly outperformed Bowe in the years preceding their deals. Though it’s not entirely his fault, every time you bring up Dwayne Boye you have to mention the fact that he’s gone 17 games without a touchdown. He’s also run afoul of the law (and the NFL) by being suspended twice in his career – the first for PEDs in 2009 and the second for possession of a controlled substance this past season.
4. Pierre Garcon (5yr – 42m, 2012-2016)
A Redskin on an overpaid list! No way!! To be fair, Pierre Garcon wasn’t overpaid until the Redskins signed DeSean Jackson on the cheap last year. In 2013 Garcon performed like a No. 1 receiver as he led the NFL in receptions (113) and had over 1300 receiving yards. But when Jackson was cut by the Eagles and revenge-signed with Washington, it rendered Garcon obsolete. He’s still a solid receiver but not the game-breaker that D-Jax is and Jackson’s contract makes him much more valuable. Both players are signed through 2016 but over the next two years would you rather pay Garcon $14.7 million or Jackson $7.5 million?
3. Victor Cruz (6yr – 45m, 2013-2018)
Cruz is in a similar boat as Garcon in that both signed their deals as the presumptive No. 1 receivers on their teams only to be unseated by a new receiver. In this case Odell Beckham has replaced Cruz as the G-Men’s No. 1. But unlike Garcon, Cruz is also coming off a potential career-threatening patella injury. He says he expects to be ready for training camp but that doesn’t mean he’ll be fully healthy when the season starts. Cruz’s production had declined each year since his breakout 2011 season and now has to deal with being a secondary option, along with the injury. With Cruz due nearly $24 million from 2016-2018 (and with Eli in need of a new contract), I think he is the player on this list most likely to get cut before his current contract expires.
2. Mike Wallace (5yr – 60m, 2013-2017)
When Wallace signed his deal with Miami before the 2013 season, it made him the second highest paid receiver in the NFL. After two pedestrian seasons in Miami, he was traded this offseason to Minnesota in what was essentially a salary dump. Wallace has a proven skill – the ability to take the top off the defense; however, we haven’t really seen that skill since the 2011 season. From 2009-2011 Wallace had 23 receptions of at least 40 yards but over the past three years he has just 11 such receptions. Now at 29, it’s not like he’s suddenly going to get faster so his main skill will continue to decline while his cap hit continues to soar. The one saving grace for Minnesota is that they only account for $3 million of Wallace’s guaranteed money going forward while the Dolphins have already paid him $27 million in guarantees.
1. Calvin Johnson (7yr – 113m, 2013-2019)
Sorry Detroit, I had to. This contract remains the measuring stick for WRs and was mentioned frequently when Dez and Demaryius were discussing terms. The 12 members of the $100 million contract club include eight quarterbacks, three front-seven defenders (Watt, Suh, Houston), and Mr. Calvin Johnson. I won’t go out on a limb and say Megatron’s contract is the NFL’s version of A-Rod’s contract; but I think a good comparison is the one Robinson Cano signed last year with the Mariners. Both contracts serve as outliers among their respective positions in that they are making about 150% of the next highest player at their position. I suspect that the Lions will do with Johnson what the Cardinals did with Larry Fitzgerald this offseason and restructure the terms in a another year or two. While Johnson is definitely elite and arguably the best WR in the league, his production isn’t that much greater than other elite receivers. That’s really the only reason he is on this list and it shows that you can be the very best and still be overpaid…unless you’re LeBron.