Unresolved Contracts Haunting NFL Teams This Summer
Contracts throughout the NFL landscape are rarely honored to their full extent. Players and organizations find ways to renegotiate and change contracts to best suit themselves.
Sometimes players outplay what they are owed, sometimes they outstay their welcome in a city and sometimes outside factors come into play that are rarely foreseen.
Whatever the case, this offseason has numerous contracts situations that are haunting an assortment of NFL teams.
The New York Giants are trying to keep two talented wide receivers on the depth chart, the Denver Broncos have to keep Peyton Manning upright and the Buffalo Bills are in danger of losing one of the most talented safeties in football.
These are just some of the most interesting unresolved contracts that are currently haunting NFL teams. Let's peel back the curtain and see what other scary situations are out there.
Matthew Stafford—QB, Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is a somewhat surprising inclusion on this list because his contract is not actually up for two more seasons (the Lions also have a club option for 2015).
Stafford was one of the last rookies to get a massive deal before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) took effect, so he is still making a handsome salary this season. His rookie contract netted him $72 million over six seasons, including $12.5 million in 2013.
Still, the Lions are in uncharted waters right now. Detroit has rarely had a franchise quarterback in place, and there is definite pressure to keep Stafford in town for a long time. He has a blossoming on-field relationship with receiver Calvin Johnson, and the Lions have one of the most talented offenses in all of football.
The organization has already said that talks will be put on hold once the season starts, so this is is a contract issue that likely won't be resolved until at least next year. However, speculation and concern regarding Stafford will be relentless until then.
Jared Allen—DE, Minnesota Vikings
Haunting seems like a strong word for Jared Allen's current contract situation with the Minnesota Vikings.
The 31-year-old defensive end has one year left on his contract, but unlike many of his peers, he does not seem to be in a big rush to work out a new deal this offseason.
Allen had the following to say on the issue, per Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com:
A lot of guys try to get more money before (the deal's up). Hey, I signed a contract for six years. They signed a contract for six years. It's very, very rare when both sides honor that. A lot of guys get let go in the last year or restructure in the last year. A lot of guys ... they play one good year and they want to re-up.
Still, this is one of the best defensive ends in the league and there is an inherent risk in allowing him to become a free agent and then beginning contract negotiations.
So while haunting may seem like a strong word for now, that could change as the season wears on.
Anthony Spencer—DE, Dallas Cowboys
Anthony Spencer has already signed a franchise tender with the Dallas Cowboys, so there is no issue with him showing up to training camp and playing through this season. However, the July 15 deadline for a long-term deal is inching ever closer, and talks between these two sides are reportedly moving at a snail's pace.
There is always the possibility of a holdout, but again, the franchise tender renders that a poor choice for Spencer, as he would be fined throughout camp. Dallas is a team that needs Spencer's underrated abilities in its defense.
Spencer racked up 11 sacks a season ago and has had at least five sacks in each of the past four seasons. The players behind him on the depth chart, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber, are not exactly exciting prospects, so the Cowboys are best served to ink Spencer to the lengthy deal he desires.
Spencer laid out the situation pretty clearly to Fox Sports when he said, "I want to be here for the rest of my career. Hopefully we can get that done. If we can't, then so be it."
Victor Cruz—WR, New York Giants
The contract issues between Victor Cruz and the New York Giants have gone on for seemingly forever, but a resolution of sorts has been found. Well, kind of.
Cruz, like Anthony Spencer, has signed a franchise tender in order to be on the field this season. That is a stark contrast from his appearances during the spring workouts, which were nonexistent. Cruz was absent for minicamp, organized team activities and all workouts.
Signing the tender locks in his $3 million contract for the season and gives him plenty of reason to show up for training camp. Fines loom if Cruz for some reason skips training camp, but these two sides are going to continue working on a long-term deal.
Again, they have been talking for well over a year, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen would be "shocked" if a deal wasn't reached before training camp (via Rotoworld).
Hakeem Nicks—WR, New York Giants
What is it with the New York Giants and wide receivers?
On most teams, having contract issues with one star receiver would be more than enough to worry about, but the Giants have problems with both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks' problems may not have garnered quite the attention and headlines that Cruz's have, but No. 88 missed training camp (although he said the contract was not the reason), and is set to become a free agent after the season.
His current contract guarantees him $2.725 million this season, so he has plenty of reason to show up and play, but this is a player with a history of injuries who clearly wants to secure his future.
Nicks struggled to the tune of 692 yards receiving and three touchdowns last season, but he did have over 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns over the two previous seasons.
Branden Albert—OT, Kansas City Chiefs
The negotiations between Branden Albert and the Kansas City Chiefs have taken more turns than anyone could have possibly imagined, but here we stand well into the offseason and no progress has been made.
Kansas City made the decision to secure the future of the position by drafting Eric Fisher out of Central Michigan University with the top selection in April's draft, so the likelihood of Albert and the Chiefs coming to a deal that both sides are happy with has become all the less realistic.
Albert wants to be paid like an elite left tackle, but Kansas City has already brought in Fisher. That means that Albert will have to play out his one-year contract he signed in March and then probably head out into free-agency waters next offseason.
Albert can handle left tackle duties this season while Fisher learns at right tackle, but that will likely be the extent of Albert's remaining time with Kansas City.
Jairus Byrd—S, Buffalo Bills
Here comes one of the more intriguing cases on this list, because Jairus Byrd has not signed a franchise tender. The Buffalo Bills safety has not been seen at minicamp during the offseason, and reports have said that contract negotiations are not going well.
It is hard to see the Bills not finding a way to bring Byrd back, but the fact remains that the All-Pro could legitimately sit out training camp and continue to be a headache until the deadline.
Byrd is someone that the Bills have already franchise-tagged in the past, but that would actually be more expensive this time around and he has clearly earned a big contract. Buffalo has been willing to spend big bucks for stars like Mario Williams in recent seasons, so it makes sense to lock up a player who has spent his entire career with the organization.
Buffalo's defense ranked 10th in the NFL against the pass last season, and Byrd was a huge part of that success. Still, these contract negotiations are likely to go on until the July 15 deadline.
Ryan Clady—OT, Denver Broncos
Ryan Clady's 2012 campaign proved that his 2011 injuries are a thing of the past, and he is clearly one of the best left tackles that the NFL has to offer. However, contract negotiations between Clady and the Denver Broncos have been anything but smooth.
Denver placed the franchise tag on Clady earlier in the offseason, but he wants a long-term contract and sat out minicamp because of it. There have been reports that the two sides are at least talking, but there are few signs of positive momentum and an unhappy Clady cannot be a good thing.
He is tasked with protecting the blind side of Peyton Manning, and Denver knows it must protect the aging quarterback at all costs. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has said that the Broncos are working towards Clady's asking price, but there is still uncertainty surrounding the contract and whether or not Clady will show up to training camp.