Over 90% of Top NFL Free Agents don’t collect on Long-Term Contracts

javon-walker-long-term-dealWe’re smack dab in the middle of the 2014 NFL free agency period. Some big deals have already been signed, with DE Michael Johnson signing with Tampa Bay for 5 yrs/$43 million, S Jairus Byrd signing with the Saints for 6 yrs/$54 million and CB Alterraun Verner signing with Tennessee for 4 yrs/$26.5 million.

These deals are just the tip of the iceberg, though, because there have been several other big contracts, and there figure to be plenty more before the 2014 offseason ends. But interestingly enough, the large majority of these huge, multi-year deals mean very little in the long run.

As The Big Lead discovered from looking at the top 50 free agents each year from 2005 to 2010, only 8% of contracts with five years or more reached the end of the deal. Many NFL fans are probably well aware that long-term deals have essentially become worthless in a league that only guarantees a portion of contracts. But to know that over 90% of these deals end well before the agreed terms is a little mind-boggling.

drew-breesThe handful of players who actually completed their deals were Drew Brees, Charles Woodson, Adam Vinatieri, Derrick Mason, Reggie Hayward and Justin Smith, provided he makes next year’s San Francisco roster as expected. The Big Lead (TBL) broke the average contract length down with the following:

5-Year Deals – The average player lasts 2.9 years with their team
6-Year Deals – The average player lasts 3.1 years with their team
7-Year Deals – The average player lasts 3.7 years with their team

So not only are these guys not reaching the end of their contracts, but they are falling well short of the deals’ duration. TBL provided further information on this subject in the form of how well each position does with meeting most years of their contract length. Kickers and punters lead the way by lasting 17 of the 21 years (81%) they collectively signed for. Quarterbacks (72%) and defensive ends (70%) also do fairly well with making their deals last. At the lower end of the spectrum are wide receivers (46%), safeties (44%) and offensive tackles (42%).

Based on this data, TBL concludes that the offensive tackle position just doesn’t age well, with many teams looking to get good, young tackles early in the draft. The article attributes the low duration of receiver and safety contracts to teams frequently cutting overpaid players at these positions.

What will the New England Patriots do with Tim Tebow?

tim-tebowJust last month, reports surfaced that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick “hates” Tim Tebow as a player. Given all of the unwarranted animosity towards Tebow by the rest of the NFL, it didn’t seem like a far-fetched story.

But just days ago, Belichick came out and said that the reports of him hating Tebow’s game were completely false. “I wouldn’t get into the probability of us pursuing any free agent. Every single player has strengths and weaknesses but regardless of that, for anyone to have represented that is the way I feel about Tim Tebow is completely untrue, baseless and irresponsible,” Belichick told ESPN. “It is unfortunate that something so inaccurate was reported.”

Perhaps this statement foreshadowed what was later to come as Belichick and the Patriots signed Tebow to a deal. This is a very interesting move, given that some people wondered if any NFL teams would even want the former New York Jets backup quarterback.

tim-tebow-1The Patriots current offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, probably had a lot to do with convincing the New England organization to sign Tebow. After all, McDaniels got Denver to draft the Florida product in the first round. And now that the Patriots have Tebow, the question is what they’ll do with him.

Last year, the Jets claimed that they were going to use number 15 quite a bit in Wildcat packages. But in reality, he rarely saw the field and generated just 75 passing yards and 102 rushing yards throughout 2012. Given what happened in New York, the Patriots aren’t making any guarantees about Tebow’s playing time or role with the team.

Belichick said, “Tim is a talented player, is smart and works hard. We’ll see how it goes.” When asked about what position he’ll play, Belichick added, “We will see.”

One thing that has been revealed about Tebow is how he’s been signed as a quarterback. He’ll compete with Ryan Mallett and any free agent(s) the Patriots bring in for the two backup spots behind Tom Brady. New England cut third-string QB Mike Kafka on Monday, thus giving Tim a better opportunity to make the roster.

Divisional Playoffs - Denver Broncos v New England PatriotsAssuming he makes it, Tebow won’t have to worry about the pressure of fans calling for him to start like in New York. Brady is arguably the NFL’s best quarterback and is completely solid in his role. This is a different story from the Jets’ Mark Sanchez, whose shaky play caused a controversy when some fans thought that Tebow should start.

Since he obviously won’t be starting, some people think that the former Broncos and Jets QB was brought in to handle short yardage duties. However, it’s worth mentioning that Brady has the best QB sneak percentage on both third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations since 2006. He’s converted 97.8% of his attempts, which is far higher than second place David Garrard (91.7%), who retired this offseason.

Another thought is that, given the Patriots’ injuries to the tight end position last year, they could use Tebow here. Sure he has nothing on Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski because they’re two of the NFL’s top tight ends, But if they were to miss significant time again, some believe that Tebow could step in and provide help.

Belichick isn’t entirely above doing this since he’s used wide receivers Troy Brown, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater as defensive backs. But making the switch from backup quarterback to tight end is a little more of a leap, and Tebow may not be quite as good as somebody who’s trained for this position their whole life.

In the end, signing Tebow seems like more of a development move than anything. Belichick and McDaniels are great at taking projects and shaping them into usable on-field talent. Tim Tebow is still young enough to where he could be groomed and take over for Brady – or at least be trade bait – if his throwing mechanics significantly improve. And if this doesn’t work out, well then, the Patriots can simply cut their losses like they did with Chad Johnson and Albert Haynsworth.