Pro Football Focus, the football nerd’s stats paradise, is passing the dog days of summer with a series of countdowns of the best – and worst - contracts in football. So far, they’ve covered interior defensive linemen, linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and quarterbacks, and picked the 5 best contracts in the NFL at each position.
What qualifies as a great contract? Basically, PFF is comparing a player’s grades on their metrics and grades to a player’s cap hit, and also looking at contract length to figure out how lucky a team is to have a BAMF player locked in at a team-friendly rate, or, in the "worst" cases, how much longer a team is stuck with a massive mess of a contract.
(Sup, Joe Flacco?)
One more important thing – players on rookie deals don’t count, since they’re all more or less locked in at fixed amounts that are based on their draft position. Teams don’t get credit for just showing up to the draft, handing a kid a standard deal, and crossing the T’s and dotting the lowercase j’s.
Trader Bill and the Krafts have built the Patriots into one of the league’s deepest and most consistent teams just as much with slick work in free agency as any other way, and it shows up in spades here. Out of those eight position groups, the Patriots have a player in a whopping five of them. Offensive line hasn’t made an appearance yet, but given the way the Patriots line played in 2015, it’s a safe bet they’re not showing up on a top-5 list anytime soon.
On to the players, already!
Safety: Patrick Chung
PFF’s Key Quote: "Reuniting with Bill Belichick was likely the wisest move of Patrick Chung’s career. He finished 2015 with an 88.4 overall grade, ranking sixth among his NFL positional peers. Including the postseason, Chung allowed a QB rating of only 78.3 when targeted. Opposing signal-callers completed just 55.8 percent of passes for an average of just 9.0 yards per catch (13th-best) into his coverage. He also performed well against the run, finishing among the top-10 in both total stops (34) and tackling efficiency (two misses from 41 attempts)."
Interior D-line: Terrance Knighton
PFF’s Key Quote: "Bill Belichick and the Patriots have a knack of finding productive players at the right price, and they’ve certainly acquired Knighton on the cheap. He figures to play predominantly on first and second downs in New England, where if he can return to the form that saw him finish 20th and 11th in 2013 and 2014, respectively, in run-stop percentage among qualifying defensive linemen, they will be getting substantial value on the interior of their defense."
Moving on to the offensive side of the ball…
Wide receiver: Julian Edelman
PFF Key Quote: "Before sustaining a foot injury in Week 10 of the 2015 season, Edelman’s 2.02 yards per route run were higher than the likes of the more highly-paid wideouts such as Calvin Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, and Dez Bryant, while his 2.07 yards per route run from the slot was 11th-best in the league."
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski
PFF Key Quote: "Since Gronkowski is the top tight end by a wide margin, he should be making more money than any other at the position by a decent amount, but that isn’t the case. Six different tight ends have a higher cap hit in 2016, and seven do in 2017."
Running back: LeGarrette Blount
PFF Key Quote: "Blount is among the league’s most bruising backs when he is on form; last year, he broke 34 tackles on just 165 carries, ending the season with a 77.1 rushing grade. If they can all remain healthy in 2016, New England will have an outstanding stable of running backs."
Good show, gents, good show. Now, let’s move on to all the Patriots players in Pro Football Focus’s "Top 5 Worst Contracts" series.
Just kidding, there weren’t any.