This Date In Transactions History

This Date In Transactions History: Vikings Extend Harrison Smith

In 2016, Vikings GM Rick Spielman praised Harrison Smith as “better safeties” in the NFL. Actually, Smith proved himself to be one of the best in the league at his position but, as Spielman joked, assigning him that label would have driven up the price. Four years ago today, the two sides met in the middle to tie Smith to Minnesota through the 2021 season. 

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All told, it was a five-year extension worth $51.25MM in new money with $15.278MM fully guaranteed and $28.58MM in total guarantees. At the time, the deal made Smith the highest-paid safety in the league. Smith fell short of Devin McCourty‘s $22MM watermark for full guarantees, but he was the kingpin in terms of average annual value and total value.

The metrics certainly indicated that Smith was one of the best in the league and this contract reflected it. Pro Football Focus positioned the then-27-year-old as the NFL’s No. 1 safety in 2015, despite the fact that he only played 13 games. He ranked in PFF’s top 10 for safeties in pass coverage, run defense, and pass rush grades. And, since 2012, he was the only player to post 300+ tackles (311), 5+ sacks (5.5), 10+ interceptions (12), and a 4+ interception/touchdown ratio.

Sometime after Smith’s big extension, the NFL’s safety market dipped dramatically. In 2018, teams weren’t willing to make major committments to mid-field veterans, leaving notables like Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, and Tre Boston in limbo throughout the offseason. Other ill-fated deals ruined the fun for safeties, but Smith’s deal was different.

Smith has been a Pro Bowler in each of the last five seasons and he’s missed only three regular season games in the last four, under the extension. This year, he’s slated to earn $10.75MM, which puts him eighth among all safeties in 2020 comp. The Smith extension was pricey, no doubt, but it’s now an undeniably team-friendly deal. And, if his performance slips for whatever reason this year, the Vikings have an easy escape hatch – his $9.85MM base salary for 2021 is non-guaranteed. However, history suggests that he’ll continue to deliver, and the Vikings will probably start chatting with him about his next contract soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: NFL Suspends Cowboys’ Rolando McClain

When linebacker Rolando McClain was handed a 10-game suspension on this date in 2016, it was assumed he’d be back for the Cowboys’ late-season run. However, four years later, it’s uncertain if the 30-year-old will ever play in the NFL again.

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The 2010 first-round pick had three productive, yet tumultuous, seasons with the Raiders. In 2012, he was booted from team practices after several incidents, and McClain took to Facebook to complain about the organization. One time, he wrote that he wanted “to be anywhere besides [Oakland].” He was released by the team the next offseason before briefly catching on with the Ravens. Less than a month after signing with Baltimore, McClain suddenly announced his retirement.

The Cowboys traded for McClain in 2014, even though the linebacker was one year removed from the field. It paid off for Dallas – McClain went on to appear in 13 games for his new team, registering 81 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. He earned his first suspension from the NFL the following offseason, limiting him to only eleven games in 2015, although he still collected 80 tackles and a pair of sacks.

After signing another one-year deal with the Cowboys during the 2016 offseason, McClain was handed the 10-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He then failed another drug test midway through the season, and the NFL slapped him with an indefinite suspension. Following his third ban in two years, McClain was arrested on firearm and drug charges.

McClain was conditionally reinstated in August of 2019, but the Cowboys cut him almost immediately. Then, in December, McClain was hit with yet another indefinite suspension from the league office. The league did not publicly disclose the reason for the ban, but it likely means that the once-promising linebacker will never play in the NFL again.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Colts’ Andrew Luck Becomes NFL’s Highest-Paid Player

Four years ago today, the Colts made Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in NFL history. The deal was supposed to tie Luck to Indy through the 2021 season, but it didn’t pan out that way.

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Luck agreed to a five-year extension worth $122MM, with $87MM in overall guarantees and $47MM fully guaranteed at signing. Without the deal, Luck would have been eligible for free agency following the ’16 season. From there, the Colts could have retained Luck for an additional two seasons via the franchise tag at estimated values of $25MM and $35MM, but it would have put them in a difficult position down the road. Instead, both sides used Luck’s expected franchise tags amounts as a framework for talks and hammered out a deal.

With the contract, Luck leapfrogged Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers in average annual value. The deal made sense, but it did not come without risk. Luck was coming off of an injury-riddled, seven-game season in which he completed just 55.3% of his passes and logged 15 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Luck’s shoulder was largely a non-issue in 2016 as he threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns with a career-high 63.5 completion percentage. After the season, he went under the knife to fix his shoulder, and that’s where things started to get messy. First, Luck was held out of training camp and 2017 preseason. Then, he was ruled out for week after week in the regular season. Finally, in November, the Colts were forced to place Luck on season-ending IR.

Luck had to claw his way back into things – when he was finally able to throw a regulation-sized football, it was a noteworthy event. In 2018, things seemed to be trending up. The former No. 1 overall pick led the Colts to a 9-1 record to close the season, allowing them to squeak into the playoffs. The Colts even downed the Texans in the first round, before falling to the Chiefs. With a seemingly healthy Luck and lots of young talent, the Colts were moving in the right direction.

Then, just before the start of the 2019 season, Luck shocked the world. At the age of 29, Luck retired from football, largely due to the mental grind of the sport. With that, Luck’s five-year extension turned into a two-year add-on. The Colts, meanwhile, turned to Jacoby Brissett as their new starter, with little time to get him comfortable in his new role.

The Colts did not seek repayment on the deal – they could have recovered $12.8MM of the $32MM signing bonus he was entitled to under his current contract, plus two $6MM roster bonuses, totaling ~$25MM.

Luck is done with football, but speculation about his potential return persists. Earlier this year, before the Colts landed Philip Rivers, GM Chris Ballard did his best to quell the talk:

Andrew’s retired,” Ballard said. “Do I talk to Andrew? Yes, I do. Haven’t talked to him in a few weeks, I’m sure he’s been busy being a father. But Andrew’s retired, and I think we all need to accept that. That’s where he’s at. He’s retired.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Ravens’ Ed Reed Signs Record Deal

In his prime, few players were more fearsome than safety Ed Reed. On this date in 2006, the Ravens rewarded Reed with a six-year, $40MM contract, making him the highest-paid player at his position in league history. 

The previous league-leading deal for safeties belonged to Adam Archuleta, who inked a six-year, $30MM deal with the Redskins in March of ’06. Reed blew past him on a rocket ship, and for good reason.

Reed became a starter as a rookie in 2002 and quickly cemented himself as a key cog in Baltimore’s defense. He notched 21 interceptions in his first three seasons and led the league with nine picks in 2004. Although he was held back by an ankle injury in 2005, the Ravens saw a Reed as a multiple-time Pro Bowler who was ready to get back to his old form.

It was his time,” GM Ozzie Newsome said. “He has earned the contract.

Indeed, the Ravens were right. Reed came back in a big way in ’06 as he started in every game and tallied five picks, plus two in the postseason. He earned Pro Bowl nods in every season from 2006 through 2012 and picked up four First-Team All-Pro nods in that span.

Reed earned his first ring in the Super Bowl following the 2012 season and notched his ninth career postseason interception in the big game. Although he was still productive, Reed and the Ravens went their separate ways in the offseason. Reed signed a three-year, $15MM deal with the Texans, but that deal was terminated midway through the ’13 campaign. He reunited with Rex Ryan by signing with the Jets, but he was unable to turn back the clock. After sitting out the 2014 season, Reed signed a one-day contract with Baltimore so that he could retire a Raven.

Reed’s final season on the field was forgettable, but the extension he signed with the Ravens in 2006 proved to be a win-win for both sides. Reed cashed in and gained financial security in a violent sport, and the Ravens got elite level production out of him for the majority of the deal.

This Date In Transactions History: Vikings Lock Up Danielle Hunter

Two years ago today, Danielle Hunter inked a five-year deal worth $72MM. It was a serious pay bump for the former third-round pick, who was still a few months away from his 24th birthday. The add-on gave him ample security – a $15MM signing bonus, $40MM in overall guarantees, and favorable cashflow with $48MM over the first three years. Still, the deal proved to be a win for the Vikings. 

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The Vikings didn’t want to let Hunter get anywhere near the open market. In his first three pro seasons, Hunter registered 25.5 sacks, more than any other player who entered the league in 2015. He waited a while to hear his name called on draft weekend, but he outperformed Vic BeasleyLeonard Williams, and other notable edge rushers in that class by a longshot. Also, Hunter and teammate Everson Griffen combined for 57 combined sacks from 2015-17, the second most of any duo in the NFL in that span.

In 2017, just prior to the extension, Hunter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 29 ranked edge defender in the NFL. Last year, Hunter finished seventh in the category, ahead of Cameron Jordan, Myles Garrett, Demarcus Lawrence, and a host of other big names. He’s notched 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, bringing his career tally to 54.5.

Meanwhile, his $14.4MM average annual value ranks 18th among edge rushers, according to Over The Cap. The Vikings have four more years of control over Hunter and, at this time, he stands as one of the league’s best veteran values.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Panthers Extend Michael Oher

On this date in 2016, the Panthers agreed to a brand new three-year, $21.6MM deal with Michael Oher. Unfortunately, Oher never played a down under the new contract. 

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Oher, of “Blindside” fame, found his way to the Panthers after an up-and-down career with the Ravens and Titans. His first deal was a modest one – two years, $7MM – and he quickly proved to be a bargain. Oher played in 98.4% of the team’s snaps in 2015 as the starting left tackle. With Oher as Cam Newton‘s protector, the Panthers went all the way to Super Bowl 50 before losing to the Broncos.

With one year remaining on his contract, the Panthers wanted to lock Oher up long before he could reach the open market. Thanks to Oher’s personal progression and the progression of the tackle market, he netted more than $7MM per annum on his new deal from Dave Gettleman & Co.

The new deal was set to start in 2017, but things did not go according to plan. After just three games in the 2016 season, a concussion shut Oher down for the season. Then, in the offseason, things took a strange turn. Oher was alleged to have fought an Uber driver in the spring and later posted a picture to Instagram with what appeared to be bottles of prescription medication to deal with brain injuries. The now deleted photo was captioned, “All for the brain, [shaking my head].”

In July of that year, the Panthers released Oher with a failed physical designation. The move saved them just $1.69MM against the cap but allowed Oher to collect injury compensation. With that, Oher’s contract was over before it even began.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Giants Release Phil Simms

The Giants saw Eli Manning retire this past winter, ending a 16-year run. The other Giants passer to be named Super Bowl MVP did not receive the same sendoff. Phil Simms‘ 15-season stay in New York ended 26 years ago today when the Giants released him.

Although Simms had reclaimed his starting job and led the Giants to the 1993 playoffs — en route to his second Pro Bowl — the team released him due to salary cap concerns on June 16, 1994. The ’94 offseason marked the first time NFL teams had to navigate a salary cap, which debuted at $34.6MM. Simms was set to earn $2.32MM in ’94, which would have been his 16th NFL season. The then-38-year-old quarterback was also coming off offseason shoulder surgery.

Simms and Jeff Hostetler had split time in 1991 and ’92, with the latter winning New York’s QB1 job in 1991 after replacing an injured Simms late in the Giants’ 1990 Super Bowl-winning season. Simms started four games in ’92 but suffered a season-ending injury. However, the Giants let Hostetler sign with the Raiders in 1993 and reinstalled Simms as their starter. He started all 16 games, and the Giants came within an iconic Week 18 Emmitt Smith performance of earning home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The Giants ended up beating the Vikings in the wild-card round before losing to the 49ers — in what would turn out to be the final NFL game for Simms and Lawrence Taylor — a week later.

When the decision was made I said, ‘Oh my God.’ Afterward when I was driving home I was still kind of shocked and it was like I didn’t know what had happened,” Simms said of the release at the time. “I can honestly say I was not prepared for it.”

Current Giants co-owner John Mara said his father, Hall of Famer Wellington Mara, was against Hall of Fame GM George Young‘s decision to cut Simms. But the team made the move and handed the reins to 1992 first-round supplemental draft pick Dave Brown. He started the next three seasons for the Giants — who missed the playoffs in each of those slates — with Kent Graham and Danny Kanell then bridging the gap to 1999 free agency addition Kerry Collins.

Simms later said three teams submitted offers for him to continue his career. While he ultimately retired, Simms visited the Browns — then coached by former Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick — in 1995. The eventual 20-plus-year TV analyst stayed retired. The Super Bowl XXI MVP, Simms ranks behind only Manning in passing yards (33,462) and touchdown passes (199) in Giants history.

This Date In Transactions History: Texans Sign Benardrick McKinney To Extension

Today marks the two-year anniversary of Benardrick McKinney‘s five-year, $50MM extension with the Texans. If you forgot to get the inside linebacker a gift, that’s alright. He probably doesn’t need much in the way of gadgets and home furnishings.

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McKinney, a 2015 second-round pick out of Mississippi State, emerged as one of the Texans’ top defenders in his sophomore NFL season. He was solid as a rookie, but as a second-team All-Pro nod in 2016, he finished out with 129 tackles, five sacks, and a forced fumble, ensuring that he would see a sizable pay bump in the offseason. His 2017 stat sheet wasn’t quite as gaudy – 95 tackles and three sacks – but he was still impressive and placed as Pro Football Focus’ No. 24 ranked linebacker in the NFL.

Because he was a second-round pick, the Texans didn’t have the fifth-year option as a safety net. McKinney was now set to enter his walk year and potentially send his sticker price through the roof. It was the right time for both parties to come to the table. McKinney was 25 and wanted the security of a multi-year deal. The Texans were happy to oblige. The deal also gave them a clearer picture of their budget as they considered an extension for Jadeveon Clowney (though they ultimately couldn’t make it work).

McKinney didn’t disappoint on his new deal, racking up 100+ tackles in each of the next two seasons. He also continued his strong work against the run. Along with partner Zach Cunningham, the Texans ILB duo was among the league’s best at stuffing RBs last year. On the flipside, they offered Swiss cheese defense in coverage. McKinney has vowed to do better, however, while delivering more of the same solid ground work.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Chargers’ Keenan Allen Signs $45MM Extension

Four years ago today, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen scored a seismic pay bump. After months of negotiations, the former third-round pick agreed to a four-year add-on worth $45MM with nearly $21MM fully guaranteed at signing. Before that, Allen was playing on his rookie deal – a four-year pact worth just $2.8MM in total. 

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Few could dispute Allen’s value to the Bolts. As a rookie in 2013, Allen eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving and scored eight touchdowns. He back down to earth in 2014, but he was on pace for the best season of his career – 67 receptions and 725 yards through only eight games, before a lacerated kidney forced him off the field. With a clean bill of health for 2016, and his 25th birthday still on the horizon, the Chargers were happy to lock Allen down for several years.

Allen’s $11MM+ average annual salary put him in the top ten at his position at the time, appropriately slotting him ahead of Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns, who had just inked a four-year, $40MM deal. From the Chargers perspective, it was a short-term cap saver – it would have cost the team $15MM to keep him for an extra year via the franchise tag.

Unfortunately, Allen’s 2016 did not go according to plan as he suffered an ACL tear in the first half of the team’s very first game. But, after that, it was mostly smooth sailing – Allen went off for nearly 1,400 yards in 2017, giving him his first of three consecutive Pro Bowl nods.

Allen is once again set to enter his walk year as his four-year extension wraps up. And, once again, he’s in position for a pay raise.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

This Date In Transactions History: Dolphins Sign Chad Johnson

In the summer of 2012, the Dolphins were less-than-enamored with their options at wide receiver. The Dolphins had just traded Brandon Marshall – fresh off of his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season – to the Bears for a pair of third-round picks. Then, in the draft, they did not select a wide receiver until the sixth round.

‘‘You would like to have some players make it easy and distinguish themselves, maybe make the picture a little bit clearer,’’ head coach Joe Philbin said (via The Boston Globe). ‘‘We have to catch the ball more consistently at every position on offense, because it is not quite where it needs to be.’’

After missing out on the first and second wave of free agent wide receivers, the Dolphins placed a call to Drew Rosenhaus to inquire on Chad Ochocinco (née Chad Johnson). On June 11, 2012, the Dolphins inked the eccentric veteran to a one-year deal.

Ochocinco’s career credentials were as impressive as his touchdown celebrations were inventive. To that point, he had 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns, six Pro Bowl nods, and two First-Team All-Pro selections.

However, the receiver’s best days were spent with the Bengals and he looked like a shell of his former self with the Patriots in the 2011 season. In his lone campaign with New England, Johnson had just 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown and was targeted just 32 times in total. Johnson clearly didn’t mesh with the Patriots’ offense and he didn’t impress in his two intra-divisional games against the Dolphins either. Against Miami, he had just one catch in each of those two games.

Ochocinco – who changed his name back to Johnson shortly after signing with Miami – didn’t mesh with Philbin and the rest of the staff. The melding of personalities turned out to be the least of his issues. In August, Johnson was arrested on domestic battery charges. Johnson proclaimed his innocence, but the Dolphins released him the very next day. Thanks to “Hard Knocks,” we have video of Philbin’s final conversation with Johnson.

Johnson’s deal with the Dolphins up being his final NFL contract. Johnson went on to play for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes in 2014 and was suspended for the 2015 season when he skipped mandatory practices. He re-emerged in 2017 to play in a single game for the Monterrey Fundidores of the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional de México, where he scored on a 41-yard touchdown reception in the Fundidores’ winning effort.