While Training Camp is underway, and we will get you a round up of today’s action this evening, it is also a time to look at rosters. Grantland published their yearly NFL Bad Contract list and two Cleveland Browns found their way onto the list. Like almost every list it is subjective and one of the Browns on the list will surprise you, the first will be less surprising.
Linebacker: Paul Kruger, Browns
Contract Flaw: Paying for the Outlier; System Guy Out of System
After struggling to carve out consistent playing time during Kruger’s first three and a half seasons in Baltimore, injuries and subpar play led a desperate Ravens team to turn to him, their second-round pick from the 2009 draft. He responded with 12 sacks in his final 12 games as a Baltimore player, culminating with two sacks in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers. Cleveland saw the possibility to steal a young pass-rusher away from its rivals and gave Kruger a mammoth five-year, $40.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed. He mustered up a mere 4.5 sacks in his first year with the team, often looking like their third-best pass-rusher behind rookie Barkevious Mingo and supplanted incumbent Jabaal Sheard.
The contract that shouldn’t surprise you on the list is Kruger. Grantland puts each contract into 5 different categories with Kruger falling into 2 of them. Kruger’s performance in the playoffs, playing on the amazing Baltimore Ravens defense and the Browns desire to make a big splash last year all led to this contract. A similar player, who has played much better, is Cliff Avril. He signed a small contract with the Seattle Seahawks long after this contract was signed. Most believe Kruger will be cut after this year but could a year with Mike Pettine make a huge impact? Expect Kruger to be lined up inside sometimes to take advantage of the presence of Mingo and Sheard.
Center: Alex Mack, Browns
Contract Flaw: Ever Fallen in Love With a Player You Shouldn’t Have?
The most surprising bidding war of the offseason came between two of the league’s doormats, Cleveland and Jacksonville. The duo fought over Mack, an above-average center who suddenly became the highest-paid center in the league. Mack’s five-year, $42 million contract guarantees him a staggering $26 million, $7 million more than any other center in football. He’ll have a 2014 cap hit of $10 million; no other centers cost more than $7.3 million. Because the Jaguars structured the deal to discourage Cleveland from matching, they also left Mack with a player option in 2016, which he can use to hit free agency again. No center is worth this sort of deal, even a good one.
The more surprising contract on this list is Mack. The center that the Browns Transitioned Tagged, got a huge deal from the Jaguars that the Browns matched. While, as Grantland pointed out, Mack is overpaid compared to other centers the leagues push towards inside pressure means centers are likely to get paid highly over the next few years. Much the way free safeties have become more important, centers value will increase in the ever rapid paced offenses, with line calls and the ability to anchor the middle of the line against the run and pass. Next year Mack’s contract could look like a steal.
Do you agree or disagree with both of these contracts on this list? Are there other contracts from the Browns that you would place here?