Every NFL Team's Best Value Contract

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIMarch 29, 2013

Every NFL Team's Best Value Contract

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    The NFL is built—and stays atop the North American sports landscape—largely because of the names on the back of the jerseys. Rightfully so, those star players are paid richly for their stature within the game.

    Organizations can only afford so many big names, however, as the bulk of rosters are comprised of younger and cheaper contributors. It is when those particular players outplay their salaries that teams receive a massive return on their investments.

    The new collective bargaining agreement helped assure that rookies would have to earn their keep, rather than being paid on promise—and the teams have benefitted significantly.

    Here is a list of contracts for each NFL team that possess the most value.

    *All salary information via Spotrac.com

    *Some figures are rounded up or down for concision

    *Figures are the total cap hit

    *Salary rankings are for the 2013 season

Arizona Cardinals

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    Player: Bobby Massie, Right Tackle

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.54 million (three years and $2.04 million remaining)/78th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Whether or not Massie is the long-term answer for the Arizona Cardinals should not matter at this point. Starting all 16 games as a rookie while improving each and every time out is the key here.

    Even from the right side, Massie's outlook is definitely on the rise considering his low salary over the next three seasons.

    The Cardinals struggled to protect the quarterback last season and could opt to draft a higher-profile tackle in the first round this year. Massie will still be around, however, and provides a serviceable option either way.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Player: Peter Konz, Center

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $3.59 million (three years and $2.94 million remaining)/34th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Expected to move to center after starting most of the 2012 season at right guard as a rookie, Konz ushers in a new era as the anchor of the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line.

    With Todd McClure retiring after 13 seasons in Atlanta, Konz will play his natural position and show exactly why he deserved a second-round selection last year. If he can provide anything close to his predecessor, expect plenty of continuity in the trenches for the Falcons.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Player: Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $3.39 million (two years and $2 million remaining)/80th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: While the Baltimore Ravens would be smart to talk contract extension with their top receiving target, Smith's value to the team is heightened by the fact that he has outplayed his current deal.

    With the Ravens trading away Anquan Boldin, Smith will also be very integral in helping to prove that quarterback Joe Flacco was indeed worth of his own lofty contract (via ESPN.com).

    Smith is aware that his payday will come soon as well, so expect much of the same out of him over the next couple of seasons.

Buffalo Bills

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    Player: Cordy Glenn, Offensive Tackle

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $4.87 million (three years and $3.98 million remaining)/55th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Taken in the second round of last year's draft, Glenn started 13 games at left tackle for the Buffalo Bills as a rookie.

    Assuming the Bills do not see the need to upgrade early in this year's draft, expect Glenn to keep improving in protecting the quarterback's blindside as his career progresses. The low salary attached to his services—even if moved to the right side—would be a bonus for Buffalo.

Carolina Panthers

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    Player: Amini Silatolu, Guard

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $4.94 million (three years and $4.04 million remaining)/45th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Taken in the second round of last year's draft, Silatolu was to play an integral part for the Carolina Panthers' offense. For a team that thrives on running the football,  the interior of the offensive line is crucial to the overall success.

    Silatolu started 15 games as a rookie and should benefit from the experience. If he can shake the growing pains associated with the NFL, expect a vast improvement in 2013.

Chicago Bears

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    Player: James Brown, Guard

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Three years for $1.44 million (two years and $1.05 million remaining)/111th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: From a projected third-round pick to going undrafted last season, Brown could end up being a steal for the Chicago Bears. He finally saw solid game action late in the season and should compete for the starting left guard job in 2013.

    Brown played tackle in college, and if he doesn't start at guard, provides solid depth along the entire offensive line for Chicago. 

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Player: Andy Dalton, Quarterback

    Age and Service Time: 25 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $5.2 million (two years and $3.08 million remaining)/44th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though shaky at times, Dalton is a bargain as a starting quarterback in the NFL, not to mention having taken the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs each of his first two seasons.

    Dalton saw increases in every major statistical measure from his rookie campaign. While having A.J. Green catching his passes helps, the second-rounder's outlook is definitely on the rise.

    Both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will look vastly different in 2013. If the Bengals can take advantage, expect Dalton to benefit the most from their success.

Cleveland Browns

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    Player: Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $5.09 million (two years and $3 million remaining)/66th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Sheard has tallied 15.5 sacks and started all 32 games in his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

    After an active offseason, Cleveland's biggest splash was the addition of Paul Kruger—who will play opposite of Sheard in the team's 3-4 defense.

    Though it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the new defense and faces, Sheard's ability to get to the quarterback could rise to a whole new level in 2013.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Player: Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/three seasons

    Contract Info: Five years for $11.81 million (two years and $6.075 million remaining)/55th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Entering his fourth year in the NFL, Bryant’s future looks to be on the upswing after posting career highs in receptions (92), receiving yards (1,382) and touchdowns (12) in 2012.

    Though there are two years left on his deal, Bryant is in line for a huge payday when his contract is up following the 2014 season—assuming a long-term agreement isn’t reached before then.

    Considering that he put up No. 1 wide receiver numbers while earning No. 3-type money for his position means the Dallas Cowboys have themselves quite a bargain—especially if the oft-troubled wideout has indeed turned the corner.

Denver Broncos

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    Player: Derek Wolfe, Defensive End

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $6.25 million (three years and $3.96 million remaining)/63rd in average salary at position

    Quick Take: When a team features pass-rushers such as Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, it is not difficult to imagine that others will be talked about much less. Wolfe, however, deserves plenty of praise after starting all 16 games last season as a rookie.

    A lot of what Wolfe does will not show up on the stat sheet; as he did most of the dirty work, allowing his linemates to do their jobs more easily. He still finished with six sacks in 2012 and will be expected to improve on that number with Dumervil now a Baltimore Raven.

Detroit Lions

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    Player: Riley Reiff, Offensive Tackle

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $8.04 million (three years and $6.59 million remaining)/39th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Expected to become a full-time starter in 2013 after being used as a utility offensive lineman last season, Reiff will get the chance to live up to his first-round status. The question is where exactly his permanent spot will be.

    While Reiff would be expected to take over for the retired Jeff Backus at left tackle, the Lions could use their first-round pick again this year on one of the high-rated bookends—either Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson, depending on how the top of the draft shakes out.

    Regardless of how Detroit handles this situation, Reiff holds tremendous value at either tackle spot.

Green Bay Packers

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    Player: Casey Hayward, Cornerback

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $3.31 million (three years and $2.71 million remaining)/81st in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Finishing third in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race, Hayward exceeded expectations at cornerback for the Green Bay Packers in 2012.

    In addition to his six interceptions, Hayward knocked down 21 passes and solidified himself as one of the league's best shutdown corners early on in his career. With three years left on his deal, the Packers have quite a bargain here. 

Houston Texans

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    Player: J.J. Watt, Defensive End

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $11.24 million (two years and $6.64 million remaining)/44th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though somewhat of a disappointment in his rookie season—only tallying 5.5 sacks while starting all 16 games—Watt was the exact opposite for the Houston Texans in 2012.

    On his way to a near-unanimous honor of being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Watt racked up 20.5 sacks and knocked down 16 passes.

    While it might be difficult to duplicate those numbers next season, the addition of Ed Reed to Houston's defense could be the type of presence to boost Watt's performance—setting the example carried over from the championship atmosphere of the Baltimore Ravens.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Player: T.Y. Hilton, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.64 million (three years and $2.12 million remaining)/100th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Andrew Luck led an impressive group of rookies for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 that included tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, running back Vick Ballard and, maybe most importantly, Hilton at wide receiver.

    Hilton outplayed his third-round status and provided Luck with the deep threat needed to complement veteran Reggie Wayne.

    With another year under the collective belt of this group, look for an improvement on Hilton's 50 catches, 861 yards and seven touchdowns from last season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Player: Cecil Shorts, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 25 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.67 million (two years and $1.58 million remaining)/95th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: After providing virtually nothing during his rookie year in 2011, Shorts broke out for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

    The team's most reliable target, Shorts led the Jaguars in receiving yards, touchdowns and yards per reception. For a team with such issues under center, the wide receiver's presence was a plus—in addition to the emergence of Justin Blackmon during the second half of the season.

    Having these two catching passes gives Jacksonville a good start as it tries to get back on the winning track.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Player: Justin Houston, Outside Linebacker

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.79 million (two years and $1.59 million remaining)/113th in average salary at position (all linebackers)

    Quick Take: The Kansas City Chiefs have benefitted here by paying third-round money for a linebacker who was once thought of as a first-round talent since taking Houston with the 70th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

    If not for a positive drug test at the combine that year (via Fox Sports), the pass-rushing specialist would have been selected much higher. Instead, Kansas City snagged Houston to pair with Tamba Hali, forming one of the best young sack duos in the league.

    Since Week 13 of his rookie season—a span of 21 games—Houston has tallied 15.5 sacks, including 10 as a full-time starter in 2012. The arrow is definitely pointing up here, with expectations of a breakout season on the horizon.

Miami Dolphins

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    Player: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $4.78 million (three years and $3.91 million remaining)/56th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Jake Long's departure after five seasons with the Miami Dolphins should result in Martin taking over at left tackle in 2013.

    Martin filled in for Long at the end of last season and struggled to adjust to the speed of the position. His experience there, however, will be vital for the young tackle's development.

    If Miami is comfortable plugging Martin in to protect Ryan Tannehill's blind side, he will represent tremendous value as a left tackle over the next few seasons.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Player: Harrison Smith, Safety

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $7.14 million (three years and $5.84 million remaining)/38th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: If not for a crowded rookie class of defenders in the NFC, Smith would have gotten a lot more praise for his accomplishments last season at safety for the Minnesota Vikings.

    Smith started all 16 games for the Vikings, tallying 69 tackles, three interceptions, 11 passes defended, one forced fumble, one recovery and one sack. He also returned two of those picks for scores.

    Though first-round picks are expected to perform right away, those are solid numbers that provide the Vikings with a rock in the back of their defense.

New England Patriots

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    Player: Stevan Ridley, Running Back

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.95 million (two years and $1.75 million remaining)/64th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: It takes a special player to be noticed as a running back in an offense that featured Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but Ridley did just that by rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012.

    It seems the New England Patriots are suddenly committed to running the football, finishing seventh in the league in rushing last year. Ridley should continue to receive the lion's share out of the backfield.

    With New England's affinity to being picky with who they sign to long-term deals, expect the Patriots to get all they can out of Ridley. If that indeed proves to be the case, his low salary represents one of the biggest bargains in the NFL.

New Orleans Saints

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    Player: Jimmy Graham, Tight End

    Age and Service Time: 26 years old/three seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.46 million (one year and $1.49 million remaining)/64th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though he has just one year left on his contract, Graham is as important to what the New Orleans Saints do on offense as any player to their respective team in the entire NFL.

    Over his last two seasons, Graham has racked up 184 catches, 2,292 yards and 20 touchdowns. When discussing tight ends, only Rob Gronkowski can be mentioned in the same breath during this span.

    Assuming Graham keeps on his same path, 2013 will be the last season of having his services at below-market value.

New York Giants

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    Player: David Wilson, Running Back

    Age and Service Time: 21 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $6.68 million (three years and $5.47 million remaining)/40th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: With Ahmad Bradshaw out of the picture, it would appear that Wilson is the front-runner for the starting job in the New York Giants' backfield. The second-year running back is slated to compete with Andre Brown and Ryan Torain for the bulk of the carries.

    Though it took a while for Wilson to get going on offense, the first-rounder did find success as a kick returner.

    If he wins the starting job, however, expect that role to be diminished drastically. If Wilson lives up to expectations, that is a tradeoff New York will gladly make.

New York Jets

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    Player: Quinton Coples, Defensive End

    Age and Service Time: 22 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $8.8 million (three years and $7.2 million remaining)/49th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though expectations are usually high for first-round draft picks, Coples showed that there is still a steep learning curve in the NFL compared to the college game. As things slowed down for the defensive end, he did wind up finishing the season strong with 5.5 sacks—including 3.5 over the season's final four games.

    While his contract doesn't necessarily represent tremendous value, Coples' ceiling  exceeds the Jets' financial commitment should he realize his full potential.

Oakland Raiders

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    Player: Denarius Moore, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.3 million (two years and $1.295 million remaining)/127th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: As a fifth-round draft pick in 2011, Moore came into the NFL with little expectations with the Oakland Raiders. But after two seasons, the wide receiver is now the team's go-to target.

    Starting 15 games last season, Moore tallied 51 receptions, for 741 yards and seven touchdowns—all improvements over his rookie totals.

    In addition to the wideout's natural progression in this league, Moore will be expected to step up in a major way with Oakland giving up on the Darrius Heyward-Bey project. 

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Player: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle

    Age and Service Time: 22 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $10.24 million (three years and $8.38 million remaining)/32nd in average salary at position

    Quick Take: It isn't often when a second-year player is relied upon to help solidify an entire defense, but that is exactly what Cox's role will be as the Philadelphia Eagles endure a massive transition during the 2013 season.

    Chip Kelly is the new head coach and has revamped things on defense.

    Cox was drafted in the first round last year and was expected to make an immediate impact. While his production won't always show up on the stat sheet, he did a good job of making the jump from the college game—tallying 5.5 sacks and holding his own against the run.

    If Cox can help unify the Eagles on defense, his presence will be invaluable.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Player: Kelvin Beachum, Guard

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.15 million (three years and $1.74 million remaining)/84th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though not expected to start in 2013 unless an injury occurs, Beachum provides the Pittsburgh Steelers with a versatile option along the offensive line.

    Drafted in the seventh round last year, Beachum impressed the Steelers enough to make the team out of camp. He actually started a few games at right tackle later in the year.

    Depth in the NFL is crucial, so don't make light of Beachum's role with the Steelers because they surely do not.

St. Louis Rams

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    Player: Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $4.99 million (three years and $4.39 million remaining)/69th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Considered a gamble because of off-the-field issues coming out of college, Jenkins fell to the St. Louis Rams with the 39th pick in last year’s draft. After a stellar rookie campaign, it is obvious that his talent outweighed any character flaws and that Jeff Fisher and Co. wound up with a steal.

    On his way to finishing fourth in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, Jenkins recorded 64 tackles, picked off four passes, recovered a fumble and scored four touchdowns.

    With that type of impact, Jenkins will eventually cash in when his first chance at free agency rolls around. Until then, the Rams will benefit greatly from his services.

San Diego Chargers

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    Player: Danario Alexander, Wide Receiver

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/three seasons

    Contract Info: One year for $1.32 million/67th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Alexander's value to the San Diego Chargers is all about his upside. When healthy, the wideout has put up fantastic numbers in this league.

    That is the biggest concern, however, as Alexander has played in just 28 games in his three years in the NFL. However, in the final nine games with the Chargers last year, he caught 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns.

    The one-year low tender is tricky, as it is possible that Alexander doesn't even suit up for the Chargers this season. Should another team not deem him worth the risk, though, San Diego will have a solid target at a very low cost. 

San Francisco 49ers

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    Player: Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback

    Age and Service Time: 25 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $5.12 million (two years and $3.03 million remaining)/45th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though drafted to eventually take over under center for Alex Smith, no one expected that Kaepernick’s learning curve in the NFL would be so short—not even the San Francisco 49ers.

    In parts of 13 games (seven starts), Kaepernick completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns, while tossing just three interceptions. The dual-threat quarterback added another 415 yards and five scores on the ground.

    Extrapolated out over a full season, Kaepernick’s numbers would have looked like this: 4,146 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions, 949 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

    Talk about outplaying one’s contract.

    Throw in the fact that he has already made one Super Bowl appearance and is the leader of one of the top teams in the NFL, and Kaepernick is just scratching the surface of his full potential.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Player: Russell Wilson, Quarterback

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.99 million (three years and $2.45 million remaining)/52nd in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Quarterbacks drafted in the third or later round usually come into the league as additional depth or are considered projects. Wilson was supposed to be just that after the Seattle Seahawks threw a hefty free-agent contract at Matt Flynn earlier in the offseason.

    Wilson outplayed Flynn in the preseason and won over the coaching staff with his infectious work ethic. The rest is history.

    Leading the Seahawks into the postseason and an opening-round win over fellow rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, Wilson became a household name in a very short period of time. Not to mention that he tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record with 26 touchdown passes in the regular season.

    The addition of Percy Harvin to the Seahawks' offense will only add to Wilson’s value.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Player: Lavonte David, Linebacker

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $3.47 million (three years and $2.84 million remaining)/103rd in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Though running back Doug Martin would be a great choice in this spot, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers possess tremendous value with lDavid at linebacker over the next three seasons.

    David—who was taken with the 58th overall pick in last year’s draft—finished fifth in a crowded NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year race. The linebacker started all 16 games for Tampa Bay, posting 112 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five passes defended.

Tennessee Titans

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    Player: Akeem Ayers, Linebacker

    Age and Service Time: 23 years old/two seasons

    Contract Info: Four years for $4.93 million (two years and $2.91 million remaining)/78th in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Drafted in the second round by the Tennessee Titans in 2011, Ayers has played very well in his two seasons at linebacker in the NFL.

    Starting in 29 of 32 possible games, Ayers increased his tackle and sack totals in his second year. Improvement in 2013 isn't out of the question as the linebacker is becoming more comfortable with the speed of the pro game.

Washington Redskins

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    Player: Alfred Morris, Running Back

    Age and Service Time: 24 years old/one season

    Contract Info: Four years for $2.22 million (three years and $1.8 million remaining)/92nd in average salary at position

    Quick Take: Other than Russell Wilson taking over out in Seattle, the ascension of Morris for the Washington Redskins might have been the biggest surprise in the entire league.

    Morris was drafted in the sixth round last season and was expected to only provide depth at running back for the Redskins. Instead, he almost outshined fellow rookie Robert Griffin III.

    Though the rest of the league will know what to expect moving forward, Washington seems to have hit the jackpot with Morris.

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