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.