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5 worst NFL safety contracts

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 01: Jairus Byrd #31 of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a play against the New York Giants during their game at theMercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

We continue our series on the best and worst contracts at each position, this time with the most overpaid veteran safeties. For each player named, we give the years remaining on his contract, the average cap hit he has against the team for the remaining years of his deal, and the season in which the team can cut him and have more cap savings than dead money.

[Editor’s note: All cap numbers are from Over the Cap.]

1. Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints

Years remaining: Four

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $11.25 million

Years he can realistically be cut: 2018

Byrd is a great example of the pitfalls of free agency. While he appeared to be the best available player on the 2014 free-agent market, he’s struggle mightily with the Saints. His contract shattered the market for the position; New Orleans paid him $54 million over six years, with $26.3 million guaranteed. The bad news is that the Saints cannot realistically cut Byrd until at least 2018, and even then they’ll be on the hook for $4.6 million in dead money.

Injuries have played a major part in Byrd’s disappointing stint in New Orleans—he has managed to appear in only 17 of 32 games. Even when he has been on the field, he has not performed well; Byrd ranked 42nd overall last year amongst safeties with a 74.0 grade. While he made a handful of plays in the passing game, tackling remained an issue. In fact, the former Bills safety missed one in every seven attempted tackles in 2015. Simply put, Byrd faces an uphill battle to resurrect his career in New Orleans.

2. Glover Quin, Detroit Lions

Years remaining: Two

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $7.7 million

Years he can realistically be cut: 2017

Quin did not have a terrible season by any stretch in 2015, but with a cap number spiking from $3.5 to $7.5 million, he’ll be expected to take a dramatic step forward next season. Quin regressed slightly from previous years, finishing right around the middle of the pack in terms of overall grade for safeties. As the sixth-highest-paid safety, Quin was expected to maintain the high standards he set in previous seasons. Ultimately, he graded negatively against both the run and pass, finishing with a measly three stops, while allowing an NFL passer rating of 118.3. Assuming he fails to reproduce his form of previous seasons, the Lions will be forced to send $2.8 million down the drain along with his release.

3. Antoine Bethea, San Francisco 49ers

Years remaining: Two

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $6.5 million

Years he can realistically be cut: 2017

Antoine Bethea has enjoyed a productive 10 seasons in the NFL, but he might be on the downside of his career. He managed to play only seven games in 2015 before going down with injury. Prior to injury, Bethea was just the 72nd-highest-graded safety, primarily due to a season coverage grade of 46.1. The former Colt can still hold his own in the box, but lacks the movement skills to track receivers in space. He gave up three touchdowns on just 12 receptions, ultimately allowing a league-worst 152.6 QB rating.

Beathea’s back-loaded contract was reasonable at the time, but looks generous at this point. His contract has risen from $3 million against the cap in 2014 to $6 million this season. That cap figure is the 12th-highest in the league. The 49ers must also pay $1.25 million in dead money for the right to release him next season. San Francisco’s roster is so depleted that he might see out the entirety of his contract, but Bethea is not the player he once was.

4. Andrew Sendejo, Minnesota Vikings

Years remaining: Four

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $4 million

Years he can realistically be cut: 2017

Sendejo’s contract is incredibly unorthodox. The entirety of his $4.95 million in guarantees are paid out in the first year, meaning the Vikings can cut him for nothing from 2017 onwards. That said, $4 million for one season is a lot for a backup and special-teamer, at best. Sendejo’s deficiencies were exposed in the 844 defensive snaps he took in 2015. He allowed 62 percent of targets to be completed, along with an NFL passer rating of 85.4. As a run defender, Sendejo missed 12 of 78 attempted tackles. The value of special teams should not be understated, but $4 million seems excessive for a player who who earned just the 85th-best grade at the position last year.

5. Tashaun Gipson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Years remaining: Five

Average remaining cap hit (per year): $7.2 million

Years he can realistically be cut: 2018

Gipson certainly has talent, but his new deal with Jacksonville is an incredible risk indicative of a regime under pressure to win now. The former Brown graded near Sendejo last season, and had one of the worst statistical seasons of any safety in the league. He missed 11 of 67 attempted tackles and surrendered a QB rating of 105.2 into his coverage, including four touchdowns. Quite what the Jaguars saw in his performances to hand him a five-year, $36 million deal is unclear, unless the organization is banking on a return to his 2014 form—where he graded 15th amongst safeties—but that is far from a certainty. Jacksonville also handed Gipson $12 million in guarantees. It highlights the importance of the safety position in Gus Bradley’s scheme, but also how desperate the franchise is to contend in 2016.

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