Under the Cap: Top Ten Defensive Tackles
by J.I. Halsell
Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest (in a lot of different respects) signing of the 2009 offseason was the Redskins' signing of unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth's final two seasons in Tennessee saw him become one of the most disruptive and impactful defensive players in the game. Accordingly, the Redskins made Haynesworth the highest paid defensive tackle in the game by a margin of nearly $6 million on average per year; at the time, the Chargers' Luis Castillo at $8.5 million per year was the closest to Haynesworth. Chiefs first round pick and number three overall pick in the draft, Tyson Jackson, is now second to Haynesworth at $9.8 million per year.
Prior to joining Football Outsiders, I wrote a column that broke down the Haynesworth deal in detail. In short, the column said that one should not get caught up in the enormity of the $100 million contract value. The $100 million figure is symptomatic of an agent who is looking to sell a contract to a potential new client, and that's not a knock against an agent (in this case, Haynesworth's agent Chad Speck) because the reality is that, like anything else in business, an agent's positive branding and P.R. are important to business development (ie, recruiting). The reality of the Haynesworth deal is that it's a two-in-one contract, meaning the "first contract" is four years for $48.2 million ($12.1 million per year) with $41 million of that guaranteed. The “second contract” is three years for $51.8 million with $20 million guaranteed, if the club chooses to pay a discretionary signing bonus in 2013. Therefore, the Redskins will have to determine if they want to pay a 32 year old Haynesworth $20 million guaranteed, at an average of $17.3 million per year for three years.
To be clear, if the Redskins choose to not pay the $20 million "second signing bonus," Haynesworth remains under contract to the club for the remaining three years (2013-2015) of the contract at $31.8 million for an average of $10.6 million per year; however, the club runs the risk of Haynesworth earning an incentive that would pay an additional $35 million. Under this scenario, Haynesworth could instead earn $66.8 million over the final three years instead of $51.8 million ($51.8 million is inclusive of "second signing bonus") if the Redskins pay the $20 million "second signing bonus." In all likelihood, the Redskins will choose to either pay the "second signing bonus" or terminate Haynesworth if a renegotiated agreement cannot be reached; it all depends on what level Haynesworth will be performing at age 32 and the for the foreseeable future thereafter.
All of the above said, instead of valuing this contract as $100 million for seven years, I place more weight in the $48.2 million over four years. Even with that perspective, the $48.2 million Haynesworth contract is still very impressive and stands out for a defensive tackle. However, this contract is a good example of why the 3-Year Total metric is a good barometer of contract value. When one compares Haynesworth's 3-Year Total of $41 million to the contracts of DeMarcus Ware ($45 million), Terrell Suggs ($43.4 million), Jason Peters ($41.7 million), Phillip Rivers ($50.3 million), and Eli Manning ($50.9 million), it is clear in comparison that Haynesworth's contract is the least of these lucrative 2009 contracts. For a defensive tackle to garner quarterback and pass rusher-type money, however, speaks volumes to the market that Haynesworth's play created for him. It should also be noted that in conversations with cap guys around the league, the Redskins weren't bidding against themselves for Haynesworth; there were definitely other teams willing to pay Haynesworth in the neighborhood of what he ended up getting, so kudos to Haynesworth.
As we look at the 2010 offseason, there are clearly no Albert Haynesworths on the market. New England's Vince Wilfork, who will be 28 years old in 2010, will probably be the most coveted defensive tackle in free agency if New England elects not to extend or franchise him. On the open market, Wilfork could easily command $8 million per year; it will be interesting to see if New England franchises him and then seeks a trade partner (a la Matt Cassel) or works out a long-term extension.
Here are the top ten starting defensive tackle contracts in the league:
|Top Ten Starting Defensive Tackle Contracts (in millions of dollars)|
Next week, we'll analyze the top ten starting outside linebacker contracts in the league.
Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101