The Worst Contract on Every NFL Roster

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2018

The Worst Contract on Every NFL Roster

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    Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay
    Buffalo Bills tight end Charles ClayTom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    NFL general managers have to weigh the returns on their investments.

    Some players haven't or won't perform at a level that justifies their contracts. From that point, the team can wait for the deal to expire, attempt to trade the player or release him to avoid wasting salary-cap space. 

    Here, we'll examine the worst contracts currently on the payroll for each NFL team.

    Many of these players are underperformers with a top salary at their respective positions. For some, roster changes made it difficult for them to live up to the expectations tied to their lucrative deals.

    For players on one-year contracts, there's a clear emphasis on contributions this season. Longer financial commitments merit an in-depth look at the last few years. 

    Contracts that allow teams to cut players without owing any dead money have also been highlighted, as it's still a bad deal until the club pulls the trigger. 

         

Arizona Cardinals: TE Jermaine Gresham

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $28 million through 2020

    Ricky Seals-Jones' emergence as the Arizona Cardinals' lead receiving tight end makes Jermaine Gresham's contract look even worse. The 30-year-old has faded in the passing game, logging only six catches for 68 yards compared to 19 receptions, 216 yards and a touchdown for the 23-year-old.

    Between quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen, Gresham has drawn only seven targets. While blocking and veteran leadership can help salvage his value, it's tough to justify paying $7 million per year for those intangibles.

    If the Cardinals choose to release Gresham in the offseason, they will remain on the hook for $5.8 million in dead money. That's hardly an ideal situation with a tight end going into his age 31-campaign.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Brooks Reed

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Contract: 5 years, $22 million through 2019

    In 2015, the Atlanta Falcons gave a long-term contract to Brooks Reed, a rotational defensive lineman who's played less than 45 percent of the snaps in each of his first three years with the team. 

    This season, he's been on the field for 45.01 percent of defensive snaps, but he has only seven solo tackles and a sack. In 2019, Brooks' cap hit is 32nd among all defensive ends.

    Brooks has only one more season left on his contract, but the Falcons likely won't hesitate to release him to create cap space and opportunities for younger talent at the position.

Baltimore Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Contract: 4 years, $41.1 million through 2019

    The Baltimore Ravens restructured cornerback Jimmy Smith's deal in consecutive years, most recently for immediate cap relief, as Jeff Zrebiec explained for the Baltimore Sun

    "Smith's base salary for 2017 went from $8.5 million to $775,000. The $7.7 million difference was converted into a signing bonus. The move, which inflates Smith's salary cap number even more over the final two years of his deal, immediately creates $5.15 million of cap space for the Ravens."

    As it stands, Smith will have the most expensive cap hit among cornerbacks ($15.9 million) in 2019. If the Ravens cut him this offseason, they'd owe $6.4 million in dead cap.

    Brandon Carr has been the Ravens' most productive cornerback this season with eight pass breakups and an interception. They also have 2017 first-rounder Marlon Humphrey on the rise.

    The 30-year-old Smith still provides solid value, but he isn't worth what he's owed in 2019.

Buffalo Bills: TE Charles Clay

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $38 million through 2019

    Among the highest-paid tight ends based on cap hit for 2019, Charles Clay is sixth. 

    Yikes.

    The 29-year-old has eclipsed 500 receiving yards in each of the past five seasons, but he isn't a top-notch threat comparable to Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce or even Jordan Reed.

    Considering how much Clay's earning, the Bills need him to provide the total package—moving the chains between the 20-yard lines and finishing drives in the end zone. Instead, he has scored at least five touchdowns only once in his eight-year career.

    Buffalo has a rookie or subpar talent at quarterback, which adversely affects Clay's production, but he has only 19 receptions for 169 yards through nine games. That's acceptable for an average tight end, not one due a top-six salary at the position next season.

Carolina Panthers: LT Matt Kalil

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $55.5 million through 2021

    The Carolina Panthers reached deep in their pocketbooks to sign left tackle Matt Kalil to a gigantic five-year deal in March 2017. 

    Teams will overpay if it means adding protection for their quarterback. However, Kalil underwhelmed in that regard last year, per ESPN.com's David Newton: "While Kalil has allowed only five sacks and six quarterback hits this season, he has given up 35 total pressures. That's worse than all but nine other tackles." 

    Kalil has yet to play this season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in August. Even if he does take the field later this season, he has a ton of ground to make up to live up to his deal.

    With his cap hit ballooning to $12.2 million in 2019, expectations will only rise further.  

Chicago Bears: TE Dion Sims

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Contract: 3 years, $18 million through 2019

    The Chicago Bears have two tight ends earning at least $6 million this year. Based on the way head coach Matt Nagy has used Trey Burton, he's fulfilling his value. The 27-year-old leads the team in touchdown receptions (five) and is third in receiving yards (371). 

    Dion Sims' $6.3 million cap hit leads all Bears tight ends this season, and he'll make the same amount next year. But unlike Burton, he's a non-contributor in the passing attack, with two receptions for nine yards. 

    After playing four years with the Miami Dolphins, the 27-year-old never gained significant traction as a receiver in Chicago. He has 17 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown across 22 games.

    This year, Burton has become Chicago's primary receiving option at the position, while Adam Shaheen flashed as a more effective red-zone target in 2017. Shaheen is a second-round pick and likely factors into the Bears' long-term plans, which makes paying Sims another $6.3 million unnecessary.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR John Ross

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    John Grieshop/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $17.1 million through 2020 (2021 option)

    Rookie deals aren't exempt from criticism, even though there's little flexibility in payment scales for incoming players. Wide receiver John Ross hasn't come close to producing at the level of a top-10 draft pick.

    As a rookie in 2017, Ross didn't catch a pass. In the offseason, he worked out with former Cincinnati Bengals wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he logged only seven receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns in five games before missing time because of a groin injury.

    In 2019, Ross' contract will carry a dead-cap hit of $10.1 million, and we've yet to see his upside as a No. 2 receiver. Instead, wide receiver Tyler Boyd has emerged as a viable alternative to A.J. Green downfield. 

    Ross could turn his career around, especially with Green sidelined for the next few weeks, but the Bengals are stuck paying a premium for potential.

Cleveland Browns: CB TJ Carrie

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $31 million through 2021

    TJ Carrie lined up in the slot, on the boundary and at safety during his four-year tenure with the Oakland Raiders, and he also served as a primary returner. The Cleveland Browns signed him during the offseason before selecting cornerback Denzel Ward in April's draft. 

    Carrie likely would have played a more significant role had another team acquired Ward. But with the rookie first-rounder in the secondary, the fifth-year veteran takes the slot position for most of his coverage snaps. 

    Quarterbacks are slinging the ball all over the field, so it's important to have a solid cover man on the inside, but Carrie's cap hit will rise from $5.3 million this year to $8.9 million in 2019. He can handle an expanded role, but he lacks impact plays on his resume. 

    Carrie intercepted only one pass in each of his first three seasons and never logged more than nine pass breakups. A top-25 salary at cornerback seems excessive for a defender who doesn't force turnovers.

Dallas Cowboys: DL Tyrone Crawford

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $45 million through 2020

    Tyrone Crawford plays a key role on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line as a run-stopper with an occasional push for a sack. Furthermore, he's missed only three games in six years.

    However, he has only 21 combined tackles and 2.5 sacks this season, which makes his $9 million average salary seem excessive. His cap hit will rise to $10.1 million next season, tied for 18th among defensive ends

    Crawford can line up on the inside or outside, but he took the field for less than 60 percent of the Cowboys' defensive snaps last season. He's at 71.51 percent this year, but his production hasn't increased with the extra time on the field. 

    Even with the increase in playing time, the Cowboys aren't getting enough bang for their buck from Crawford.

Denver Broncos: ILB Brandon Marshall

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $32 million through 2020

    Before the trade deadline, the Denver Broncos were willing to listen to trade offers for Brandon Marshall, per Troy Renck of Denver7 ABC, whose cap hit will rise to $9 million in 2019. That'll rank sixth among inside linebackers.

    Marshall missed the Broncos' Week 9 loss to the Houston Texans because of a bone bruise in his knee. Rookie fourth-rounder Josey Jewell has fared well in spot duty, logging 17 solo tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup. 

    After embracing a youth movement at wide receiver with Courtland Sutton moving into Demaryius Thomas' spot, the Broncos may look to move on from Marshall in the near future. Cutting him this offseason would result in a dead-cap hit of only $4 million.

    Marshall plays in a non-premium role in a 3-4 base defense. Given his enormous salary in 2019, expect the Broncos to move on or restructure his contract.

Detroit Lions: S Glover Quin

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Contract: 2 years, $13 million through 2019

    Safety Glover Quin's production is trending in the wrong direction, particularly with a cap hit that ranks 12th among safeties next year.

    During the first nine seasons of his career, Quin recorded 24 interceptions and 81 pass breakups, but he hasn't made the same impact this year. In eight starts, he has one pass breakup, zero picks and 33 solo tackles.

    Given Quin's 2019 cost of $7.9 million, the Detroit Lions need to see more production out of him.

    Front offices have been reluctant to allocate significant cap space to the safety position over the last year. Coming off a career-best season with five interceptions, Tre Boston signed a modest one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cardinals in July. The Bengals cut George Iloka to save $4.1 million and start a cheaper option in rookie safety Jessie Bates. 

    The Lions selected Tracy Walker, who logged eight interceptions at Louisiana, in the third round of April's draft. Quin's drop in takeaways and an increase in salary at his age doesn't bode well for his future in Detroit.

Green Bay Packers: OLB Nick Perry

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $59 million through 2021

    Coming off an 11-sack season in 2016, outside linebacker Nick Perry signed an extension in March 2017 worth an average of nearly $12 million through 2021, but his production has significantly dipped since his breakout year.

    Through eight games this season, Perry has 1.5 sacks. At this rate, the Green Bay Packers should look for another edge-rusher in the first round of the upcoming draft because they can't depend on Clay Matthews or his well-paid counterpart on the opposite end. 

    Perry's $14.7 million cap hit in 2019 is fifth among all outside linebackers, trailing only Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram. However, the 28-year-old has only one strong campaign on his resume and has never started more than 12 games.

    If Perry doesn't ramp up his production, general manager Brian Gutekunst should approach him about restructuring his deal in the offseason.

Houston Texans: WR Demaryius Thomas

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $70 million through 2019

    The Broncos sent Demaryius Thomas' bloated contract over to the Houston Texans, who should think about renting him before his cap hit rises from $4.5 million this year to $14 million in 2019. To put his salary in perspective, he'll carry the same cap hit as DeAndre Hopkins next season. 

    Thomas arrived in Houston with a decorated resume, including five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Broncos from 2012 through 2016. But he's averaging 11.9 yards per reception this year, the second-lowest mark in his career, and he experiences the dropsies periodically. 

    The Texans acquired Thomas for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick swap, and he isn't owed any dead money after this year. Don't expect the front office to keep two $14 million wide receivers on the payroll with Will Fuller V on the mend from a torn ACL and rookie fourth-rounder Keke Coutee on the roster as well.

Indianapolis Colts: DT Denico Autry

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Contract: 3 years, $17.8 million through 2020

    The Indianapolis Colts don't have any horrendous contracts on their books, but the front-loaded deal for defensive tackle Denico Autry is a bit excessive. He has a $7 million cap hit this season. 

    Even though Autry's salary drops to $5 million next year without dead money owed, he's clearly underperforming at his current rate. The 28-year-old missed four games with ankle and hamstring injuries, limiting his production to two sacks and 10 solo tackles. 

    Autry has the team's fifth-highest cap hit, but he plays a non-premium position on the defensive line and doesn't have a track record as a primary starter over the last four years. The 6'5", 270-pounder occasionally flashes as a pass-rusher in the trenches, but he isn't worth an average of nearly $6 million given his current usage.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Donte Moncrief

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Contract: 1 year, $9.6 million

    After Allen Robinson departed in free agency to sign with the Bears, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed wideout Donte Moncrief to a head-scratching one-year, $9.6 million deal.

    Even though Marqise Lee will miss the season because of ligament damage in his knee, the Jaguars still have Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. For a team that excels relies upon a physical ground attack, signing Moncrief was unnecessary.

    The Jaguars also selected wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. in the second round of April's draft, which suggests they view him as a long-term asset at the position. The rookie's workload has gradually increased as the season progresses, including a season-high 75 percent of the snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8. 

    Moncrief leads the team in targets (57), but he has only 29 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Given the Jaguars' depth at the position, Moncrief isn't a great investment.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Sammy Watkins

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    David Eulitt/Getty Images

    Contract: 3 years, $48 million through 2020

    The Kansas City Chiefs had the right idea to surround quarterback Patrick Mahomes with another dynamic perimeter asset, but they paid a steep price for their third-best pass-catcher.

    Watkins will average $16 million over the length of his deal, which ranks sixth among all wide receivers, but he's behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the Chiefs' offensive pecking order. The 25-year-old ranks third in targets (54), receptions (39) and yards (515) on the team. 

    Watkins is earning No. 1 wide receiver money, which doesn't fit his role. Additionally, his history of foot ailments makes his contract a risky long-term investment for the Chiefs. 

    Watkins carries $29.2 million of dead-cap hits over the last two years of his deal, which would make it difficult to move him if he underperforms or suffers recurring injuries.

Los Angeles Chargers: WR Travis Benjamin

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Contract: 4 years, $24 million through 2019

    After tallying 68 receptions for 966 yards and five touchdowns with the Browns in 2015, wideout Travis Benjamin signed a four-year pact with the then-San Diego Chargers.

    Quarterback Philip Rivers typically has multiple viable options in the aerial attack, making it difficult for one pass-catcher to break out. As a result, Benjamin's production has progressively decreased over the years.

    This year, a foot injury forced him to miss five games. But even when healthy in 2017, the 27-year-old ranked fourth on the team in targets.

    Running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are heavily involved in the passing game, which reduces the need to pay $6 million for a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver. 

    The Chargers signed Benjamin before Ekeler entered the league, but given their current roster makeup, it doesn't make much sense to keep him on the books next season. If they release Benjamin, it'll come with only a $1.25 million dead-cap hit.

Los Angeles Rams: FS LaMarcus Joyner

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Contract: 1 year, $11.3 million

    The Los Angeles Rams made some aggressive roster moves during the offseason, such as signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14 million deal and acquiring wideout Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib via trade. 

    All of those players have made a decent impact with the exception of Talib, who's been sidelined since September after undergoing ankle surgery.

    But free safety LaMarcus Joyner, who signed a one-year, $11.3 million deal under the franchise tag, hasn't been able to produce. He's yet to log an interception, and he broke up his first pass of the season in Week 9. 

    Considering that minimal impact, Joyner hasn't been worth his price tag. His three interceptions and nine pass breakups in 2017 showed potential, but the fifth-year pro hasn't built upon that strong campaign.

Miami Dolphins: DE Robert Quinn

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $57 million through 2019

    In 2013, defensive end Robert Quinn logged a career-high 19 sacks. That came amidst three consecutive years in which he had double-digit sacks.

    Five years later, he's a shell of his former self.

    The Dolphins defensive line desperately needs a premier pass-rusher, but Quinn hasn't filled that void since he came over from the Rams in an offseason trade. He's recorded just one sack in nine starts, yet he has a cap hit of $11.4 million this year and $12.9 million next year. 

    The Dolphins can release Quinn without owing any dead money in the offseason. That may wind up being a no-brainer, as he's playing at a level that in no way measures up to his contract. 

Minnesota Vikings: OL Mike Remmers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Contract: 5 years, $30 million through 2021

    The Vikings may have sabotaged the price-versus-production balance with offensive lineman Mike Remmers.

    Remmers put together a solid campaign primarily at right tackle in 2017. This year, the coaching staff moved him inside to right guard, where he's struggled significantly.

    "Mike Remmers was getting beat early and often yesterday in pass protection," Ted Glover of the Daily Norseman wrote in mid-October. "Still not sure why the Vikings took their best tackle from 2017 and moved him to guard, where his performance has dropped noticeably. And it was mostly poor again yesterday." 

    The investment in Remmers initially looked like money well-spent. Now, the Vikings have Riley Reiff at left tackle and rookie second-rounder Brian O'Neill on the perimeter to the right, leaving Remmers at a position that isn't his best spot. 

    Remmers' cap hit escalates to $6.4 million in 2019 and $6.7 million in 2020. Even if he slips into a backup swing tackle role, those cap hits aren't attractive.

New England Patriots: TE Dwayne Allen

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    Contract: 4 years, $29.4 million through 2019

    It's practical to keep a quality backup tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, who's battled myriad injuries over the last few seasons. However, Dwayne Allen hasn't been able to replicate the four-time All-Pro's contributions on a smaller scale in the passing game. 

    Since joining the New England Patriots in 2017, Allen has caught only 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He has two catches for 17 yards this season.

    His blocking gives him some value, but the Patriots are paying him more than $7 million on average. He needs to be more than a one-dimensional asset.

    Allen has a $7.4 million cap hit for the 2019 season, although they'd owe zero dead money if they cut him. The Patriots may look to Jacob Hollister or Ryan Izzo as cheaper options in a backup role next season.

New Orleans Saints: WR Cameron Meredith

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Contract: 2 years, $9.5 million through 2019

    Cameron Meredith hasn't been the same player since he tore his ACL in 2016 with the Bears, which should come as no surprise. However, he's due $6.8 million next season on his current deal—the most expensive cap hit among the wideouts on the Saints roster.

    Meredith played fewer snaps than rookie third-rounder Tre'Quan Smith and Austin Carr before he landed on injured reserve with a knee injury Thursday.

    Meredith hadn't recorded a catch since Week 5, when he had a season-high five receptions for 71 yards. Smith had 16 targets in the last four games, and the Saints signed Dez Bryant on Thursday.

    New Orleans is pivoting from the 26-year-old this season because of his recurring knee issues. Expect the front office to shred his contract in the offseason.  

New York Giants: OT Nate Solder

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    Contract: 4 years, $62 million through 2021

    When discussing the New York Giants' offensive ineptitude, most critics point the finger directly at quarterback Eli Manning. Many overlook the fact he's taken a league-high 31 sacks through eight games, which matches his total from 2017. 

    Left tackle Nate Solder doesn't deserve all of the blame for the pass-protection breakdowns, but he also isn't inculpable.

    Solder acknowledged his subpar play following a 23-20 loss to the Falcons in Week 7, per NJ.com's Ryan Dunleavy: "I wouldn't blame it on anybody else. I would blame it on myself." 

    That isn't what the Giants expected when they made Solder the NFL's highest-paid offensive tackle in March.

    Solder has the highest cap hit among all offensive tackles next year at $17 million. If he continues to falter, the Giants won't be able to move him until 2020, when there's $8 million in dead money left to pay out. In 2019, Big Blue would still have a dead-cap hit of $24.9 million for Solder.

New York Jets: CB Trumaine Johnson

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $72.5 million through 2022

    The New York Jets had to overspend to bolster their secondary. They did so by handing cornerback Trumaine Johnson a five-year, $72.5 million deal to join Morris Claiborne, who's improved since signing with Gang Green in March, and a pair of young safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.

    In a vacuum, that's a massive payout for a cornerback who put together a pair of average campaigns on the franchise tag before signing a huge deal.

    Johnson is owed $45 million in guarantees, which is the third-most at his position behind Josh Norman and Patrick Peterson—two All-Pro cornerbacks with a reputation for shutting down wide receivers or half the field.

    At this point, Johnson's name doesn't come up when discussing the top five cornerbacks in the game, yet his contract suggests he's one of the best. Regardless of his trajectory, the Jets would owe eight figures in dead money for him through the 2020 season, which means he's likely to stay put until then.

Oakland Raiders: OT Donald Penn

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Contract: 2 years, $18.7 million through 2019

    The Raiders gave offensive tackle Donald Penn a two-year extension last September, and he rewarded them with his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.

    Once head coach Jon Gruden came to town this offseason, he decided to move Penn from the left to the right side of the line. That hasn't gone well thus far, especially with the 35-year-old coming off Lisfranc surgery.

    Oakland selected Kolton Miller in the first round of April's draft and pegged him as the future blindside tackle. At this point, Penn may not even start next season, as rookie third-rounder Brandon Parker is taking significant snaps at right tackle while the three-time Pro Bowler nurses a groin ailment on injured reserve.

    Penn took a pay cut in the offseason but still carries an $8.4 million cap hit and $2.8 million in dead money next season. Barring a move back to left tackle, the Raiders won't see the best of Penn going into his age-36 season, which makes his contract money flushed down the toilet.

Philadelphia Eagles: DT Tim Jernigan

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $48 million through 2021

    The Philadelphia Eagles will have two defensive tackles who rank among the top 10 at the position in total salary in 2019: Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan.

    Cox has proved worthy of a top salary, as he leads the Eagles in sacks (25.5) since 2015. Meanwhile, Tim Jernigan has been sidelined while recovering from surgery on a herniated disk in his back. 

    In Jernigan's first year with the team, he notched 2.5 sacks and 16 solo tackles. That caused the Eagles to hand him a huge extension last November. 

    The Eagles have yet to see the return on their investment in Jernigan because of his back injury. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 26-year-old was just cleared to practice as of Monday. 

    Jernigan is owed an average of $12 million annually after a decent-but-not-great first season in Philadelphia. If the Eagles don't cut him, they'll be on the hook for $13 million in 2019 and $14 million for each of the final two years of the contract.

Pittsburgh Steelers: S Morgan Burnett

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Contract: 3 years, $14.4 million through 2020

    The Pittsburgh Steelers overhauled their safety depth chart this offseason, releasing Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden and then signing Morgan Burnett. 

    Burnett signed the second-biggest deal among free-agent safeties this year. He has a modest $2.4 million cap hit this season, but the figure rises to $6.5 million in 2019.

    If Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds continue to start, the Steelers may want to reassess Burnett's contract.

    Defensive coordinator Keith Butler may go with a three-safety look in nickel formation, but in that scenario, Burnett's cap number would be a bit high for his rotational role. He also has only nine interceptions throughout his nine-year NFL career.

    If tackling is Burnett's best attribute, the Steelers could easily replace him with a cheaper veteran option.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Malcolm Smith

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    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    Contract: 5 years, $26.5 million through 2021

    Linebacker Malcolm Smith signed a five-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2017, but he missed the entire 2017 season because of a torn pectoral. Upon his return, he fell behind on the depth chart and currently serves in a reserve role while Reuben Foster and Fred Warner dominate the snaps at the position.

    Smith has been on the field for 30.82 percent of the Niners' defensive snaps, which is a significant step backward after he started 30 games for the Raiders in 2015 and 2016. He's made two spot starts this year, one of which came last Thursday against the Raiders because Foster sat out with a hamstring issue. 

    Foster is the No. 31 overall pick from the 2017 draft, while Warner leads the team in solo tackles (56). Although releasing Smith would cost the Niners $4.2 million in dead cap, they don't have much room for him so long as Foster and Warner are healthy.

Seattle Seahawks: WR Doug Baldwin

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    Dan Istitene/Getty Images

    Contract: 4 years, $46 million through 2020

    When wide receiver Doug Baldwin signed his four-year extension during the 2016 offseason, the Seahawks relied heavily on quarterback Russell Wilson's arm to move the ball downfield. In the following year, he led the league in touchdown passes with 34.

    This year, there's a different offensive approach in Seattle. It's geared toward a more physical brand of football with a high volume of rush attempts. The Seahawks lead the league in total carries per game and rank third in yards on the ground per game, making it less necessary to have a high-paid wideout whose production likely peaked in 2016. 

    Additionally, as Baldwin deals with knee and groin injuries, Tyler Lockett has produced on a slightly lower pay scale (three years, $30.8 million). He leads the wide receiver corps with 28 catches, 416 yards and six touchdowns. On a rookie deal, David Moore is emerging as a red-zone threat with four touchdowns in the last four games. 

    With a run-dominant offense and younger wide receivers emerging in the aerial attack, the Seahawks may want to reconsider taking on Baldwin's $13.1 million and $13.4 million cap hits in 2019 and 2020, respectively. He's going to turn 31 years old next season and is no longer an offensive focal point. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE William Gholston

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Contract: 5 years, $27.5 million through 2021

    Defensive end William Gholston started his career as a backup, worked his way into a starting role and reverted to a reserve once the Buccaneers acquired Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry. 

    Gholston hasn't notched more than three sacks in a season, but the Buccaneers signed him to a five-year extension during the 2017 offseason. He promptly went sackless last year and has only one this season.

    Through eight games, the 27-year-old has lined up for only 45.40 percent of Tampa Bay's defensive snaps.

    Tampa Bay can release Gholston in the upcoming offseason without owing any dead money. That convenient out won't prevent the Bucs from having paid him $13.5 million for minimal production, though.

Tennessee Titans: CB Malcolm Butler

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $61.3 million through 2022

    The Tennessee Titans paid Malcolm Butler like a No. 1 cornerback this offseason, but he's been a major liability in pass coverage.

    Butler has 34 solo tackles, five pass breakups and a sack in eight games, but he's been beaten multiple times in coverage. On Monday, he bit hard on Allen Hurns' double move and gave up an easy touchdown reception against the Cowboys.

    During the Monday Night Football broadcast, Jason Witten noted the 28-year-old's aggressive style of play leaves him susceptible to losing track of receivers with solid footwork on their routes. 

    According to ESPN Stats & Info, Butler has been the nearest defender on five passing scores this season, tied for the second-highest mark in the league. His cap hit will rise to $13.1 million next year, and the team would still owe $18.5 million in dead money if it releases him. 

    The Titans will have to stick with Butler and hope he improves, but he's currently a disappointment for an otherwise strong defensive unit.

Washington Redskins: WR Paul Richardson

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    Contract: 5 years, $40 million through 2022

    Paul Richardson will have a tough time living up to his five-year, $40 million deal.

    The wide receiver market rewarded average pass-catchers with lucrative contracts this offseason. Before he signed with the Washington Redskins, Richardson didn't have a 1,000-yard season under his belt, and he finished with no more than one touchdown in three of his four seasons with the Seahawks. 

    Quarterback Alex Smith also tends to heavily target tight ends and running backs, which has held true in Washington. Jordan Reed leads the team in targets with 53. Chris Thompson has already missed three games, but he's averaging nearly seven targets per contest.

    At best, Richardson slots in as a high-end third option. With the third-richest deal among this year's free-agent wide receivers and $16.5 million in guarantees, Washington likely expected more from him. 

    The Redskins placed Richardson on injured reserve Monday because of an injured AC joint. Even when he returns in 2019, it'll be tough for him to put up gaudy numbers unless the team has multiple injuries at tight end and running back.

    The guaranteed cash is spread through the entire length of Richardson's contract. His cap hit will rise to $10 million for each of the last two years, which is costly for a modest receiving threat in a conservative offense.

              

    Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.