NFL News & Analysis

Best value free agent contract for every NFL team since 2013

Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) smiles against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve written this offseason about the best value contracts across the NFL, which players are currently on the most team-friendly deals in the AFC and NFC, and which teams have gotten the best value when acquiring free agent talent since 2013. 

We wanted to continue the series by examining the best value contract each team has signed since 2013, with quarterback Tom Brady’s move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking the top spot in a huge surprise. 

The below chart illustrates the total cash earnings from a specific contract on the x-axis, and the total dollar value placed on the player’s production during the span of that contract on the y-axis. We have the 150 best value signings below (hence why they’re all above the orange break-even line), with some notable deals including data labels. 

The calculation used here for the wins above replacement production value is unique for each season, as it is tied to the salary cap in the given year. To generate the individual values, we’re using a rudimentary formula from Timo Riske’s article introducing the PFF WAR draft value chart: “Since we’ve set replacement level at three wins per season, the average NFL team earns five wins above replacement in a given season and uses 100% of the salary cap to do so. Thus, 1 WAR is worth 20% of the cap.” With the NFL adding a 17th regular season game, the 2021 calculation uses 5.5 wins instead of 5. 

There are certainly arguments as to whether a “replacement-level” team should be viewed as a three-win team, but we won’t get into that here. 

For non-quarterbacks, we divided that year’s salary cap by five (5.5 for 2021) and then multiplied the player’s wins above replacement in that season by that amount. For example:

  • 2013 salary cap = $123 million
  • $123,000,000 / 5 = $24,600,000

Player X generates 0.5 wins above replacement in 2013:

  • $24,600,000 x 0.5 = $12,300,000

Player X’s production value in 2013 was $12,300,000. 

For quarterbacks, who generate significantly more WAR than any other position and still skew the analysis even though they also make far more money, we instead divided that year’s salary cap by the number of regular season games played (16 for 2013-20, 17 for 2021). The calculation is otherwise the same: WAR x (salary cap / number of games). 

Finally, we subtracted the total cash earnings over each contract from the cumulative WAR production value in dollars. For example, if Player X from our example above earned $10 million in 2013, we would subtract that from his $12,300,000 production value. Therefore, he outperformed his cash earnings by $2,300,000 given the quality of his play. 

As with any analysis involving contracts, there are always imperfections in using a single-year salary cap when player contracts span over multiple years and are paid out in different manners, but we did not adjust the cash earnings on a yearly basis. Each season’s WAR-based production value was adjusted, and then the total was used in the final calculation to determine the production value over the cash earned during the life span of the contract. 

Below are the best value deals for all 32 teams:


JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

ARIZONA CARDINALS

CB TRAMON WILLIAMS, 2017

Williams signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cardinals in 2017. He generated .394 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $12,235,276. That season, Williams earned the second-best PFF grade (81.5) of his eventual 14-year career.

ATLANTA FALCONS

C ALEX MACK, 2016

Mack signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Falcons in 2016. He generated 1.547 wins above replacement over five seasons, which carried a value of $52,539,058. Mack's best PFF grade during the stint was 91.5 in 2017.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

S ERIC WEDDLE, 2016

Weddle signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Ravens in 2016. He generated 1.227 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $40,002,396. Weddle's best PFF grade during the stint was 90.0 in 2016.

BUFFALO BILLS

S MICAH HYDE, 2017

Hyde signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract with the Bills in 2017. Hyde generated 1.326 wins above replacement over four seasons, which carried a value of $47,644,708. Hyde's best PFF grade during the stint is 87.7 in 2017.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

CB CAPTAIN MUNNERLYN, 2013

Munnerlyn signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Panthers in 2013.  He generated .488 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $12,004,800. That season, Munnerlyn earned the best PFF grade (79.5) of his eventual 10-year career.

CHICAGO BEARS

WR ALLEN ROBINSON II, 2018

Robinson signed a three-year, $42 million contract with the Bears in 2018. He generated 1.36 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $51,683,400. Robinson's best PFF grade during the stint was 88.3 in 2020.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

CB ADAM “PACMAN” JONES, 2013

Jones signed a three-year, $6.05 million contract with the Bengals in 2013. He generated 1.005 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $26,940,480. Jones' best PFF grade during the stint was 78.8 in 2013.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

CB TERRANCE MITCHELL, 2018

Mitchell signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Browns in 2018. He generated .571 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $22,251,640. Mitchell's best PFF grade during the stint was 68.2 in 2020.

DALLAS COWBOYS

S JAYRON KEARSE, 2021

Kearse signed a one-year, $1,127,500 contract with the Cowboys in 2021. He generated .443 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $16,169,500. That season, Kearse earned the second-best PFF grade (75.9) of his ongoing NFL career.

DENVER BRONCOS

WR EMMANUEL SANDERS, 2014

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Broncos in 2014. He generated 1.052 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of  $28,933,072. Sanders' best PFF grade during the stint was 86.4 in 2014.

DETROIT LIONS

WR GOLDEN TATE, 2014

Tate signed a five-year, $31 million contract with the Lions in 2014. He generated 1.405 wins above replacement over four-and-a-half seasons, which carried a value of $41,360,492. Tate's best PFF grade during the stint was 82.9 in 2017.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

LB DE’VONDRE CAMPBELL, 2021

Campbell signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Packers in 2021. He generated .358 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $13,067,000. That season, Campbell earned the best PFF grade (85.0) of his ongoing NFL career.

HOUSTON TEXANS

QB RYAN FITZPATRICK, 2014

Fitzpatrick signed a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Texans in 2014.  He generated 1.776 wins above replacement over one season, which carried a value of  $14,763,000. That season, Fitzpatrick earned the fourth-best PFF grade (74.5) of his eventual 17-year NFL career.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

CB XAVIER RHODES, 2020

Rhodes signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Colts in 2020. He generated .498 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $19,740,720. That season, Rhodes earned the best PFF grade (77.3) of his ongoing NFL career.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

DI CALAIS CAMPBELL, 2017

Campbell signed a  four-year, $60  million contract with the Jaguars in 2017. He generated 1.692 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $59,085,006. Campbell's best PFF grade during the stint was 91.0 in 2017.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

CB SEAN SMITH, 2013

Smith signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Chiefs in 2013. He generated 1.311 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $35,169,168. Smith's best PFF grade during the stint was 87.1 in 2014.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

CB CASEY HAYWARD JR., 2021

Hayward signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Raiders in 2021. He generated .578 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $21,097,000. That season, Hayward earned the sixth-best PFF grade (76.6) of his ongoing NFL career.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

CB CASEY HAYWARD JR., 2016

Hayward signed a three-year, $15.3 million contract with the Chargers in 2016.  He generated 1.372 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of $42,606,088. Hayward's best PFF grade during the stint was 91.1 in 2017.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

WR ROBERT WOODS, 2017

Woods signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Rams in 2017. He generated 1.29 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $45,356,586. Woods' best PFF grade during the stint was 86.4 in 2018.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

QB RYAN FITZPATRICK, 2019

Fitzpatrick signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Dolphins in 2019. He generated 3.93 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of $40,545,788. Fitzpatrick's best PFF grade during the stint was 76.5 in 2019.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

QB CASE KEENUM, 2017

Keenum signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Vikings in 2017. He generated 2.55 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $26,615,625. That season, Keenum earned the best PFF grade (81.4) of his ongoing NFL career.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

WR JULIAN EDELMAN, 2014

Edelman signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Patriots in 2014.  He generated 1.017 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $29,337,536. Edelman's best PFF grade during the stint was 83.7 in 2015.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

LB DEMARIO DAVIS, 2018

Davis signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Saints in 2018. He generated .886 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of $32,497,640. Davis' best PFF grade during the stint was 90.3 in 2019.

NEW YORK GIANTS

CB DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE, 2014

Rodgers-Cromartie signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the Giants in 2014. He generated 1.44 wins above replacement over four seasons, which carried a value of $42,253,780. Rodgers-Cromartie's best PFF grade during the stint was 90.2 in 2016.

NEW YORK JETS

CB BRIAN POOLE, 2019

Poole signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Jets in 2019. He generated .413 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $15,545,320. That season, Poole earned the best PFF grade (79.0) of his NFL career.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

EDGE BRANDON GRAHAM, 2015

Graham signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Eagles in 2015. He generated 1.579 wins above replacement over four seasons, which carried a value of $50,972,622. Graham's best PFF grade during the stint was 91.4 in 2016.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

CB WILLIAM GAY, 2013

Gay signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the Steelers in 2013. He generated .997 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $26,302,664. Gay's best PFF grade during the stint was 80.3 in 2013.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

CB JASON VERRETT, 2020

Verrett signed a one-year, $1,047,500 contract with the 49ers in 2020. He generated .398 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $15,776,720. That season, Verrett earned the third-best PFF grade (77.6) of his ongoing NFL career.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

EDGE MICHAEL BENNETT, 2014

Bennett signed a four-year, $28.5 million contract with the Seahawks in 2014. He generated .859 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of $23,764,320. Bennett's best PFF grade during the stint was 81.8 in 2016.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

QB TOM BRADY, 2020

We are cheating a bit here, since Brady signed a one-year extension in 2021 for the 2022 season but with an influx of cash paid out in 2021. We had to include the greatest free agent signing in NFL history, and we’re using $54.75 million in earnings over 2020-21 (his full base value plus incentives he earned for passing yards, touchdowns and playoff success). 

Brady signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Buccaneers in 2020. He generated 10.077 wins above replacement over two seasons, which carried a value of $116,372,848. Brady's best PFF grade during the stint is 93.3 in 2020.

TENNESSEE TITANS

TE DELANIE WALKER, 2013

Walker signed a four-year, $17.5 million contract with the Titans in 2013. He generated .941 wins above replacement over three seasons, which carried a value of $25,424,008. Walker's best PFF grade during the stint was 88.0 in 2015.

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

CB RONALD DARBY, 2020

Darby signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Washington in 2020. He generated .477 wins above replacement, which carried a value of $18,908,280. That season, Darby earned a 69.7 PFF grade.

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