Each year a handful of NFL teams shell out big contracts to players in the offseason. Despite all the uncertainty heading into the 2020 season, this year was no different.
Let’s take a look back at a few of these deals for offensive players and evaluate whether or not they panned out the way football executives had planned.
There were a handful of talented running backs that received major extensions this offseason. Even with the current landscape of the NFL as a pass-first league, “elite” rushers are still finding teams to pay top-dollar for their services.
Alvin Kamara, Saints
Kamara signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the Saints right before the 2020 season got underway. This contract makes him the second-highest-paid running back in the league. Kamara worked out a $15 million dollar signing bonus with just about $34 million of his contract guaranteed money. The Saints will experience a heavy dead cap hit each year up until 2023 for Kamara’s new contract (87.5M in dead money combined the first three years of his new deal).
So far, signing Kamara has proven to have been a smart move by New Orleans. With Drew Brees nearing the end of his career, he has had to rely heavily on Kamara out of the backfield. The offense runs through Kamara, both in the run and pass game.
Kamara’s 2020 stat line:
● Most TDs by any player in the NFL – 21 (16 rushing, 5 receiving)
● Most YAC by any player in the NFL – 735
● Ninth most rushing yards in the NFL – 932
● Ranks second in Saints career TDs with 59, trailing Marques Colston
● Just last week on Christmas Day, Kamara scored 6 times, tying a record that was set back in 1929 by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Bears.
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Back in April, the Panthers signed McCaffrey to a four-year contract extension worth $16 million a year, making him the highest-paid running back in the league. McCaffrey was awarded a $21.5 million signing bonus, with just over $38 million of his contract guaranteed.
McCaffrey has appeared in only three games this season and it seems every other week he is dealing with a new injury. This is one of the major problems that teams run into when paying a back big money, due to the nature of the position these players are injury prone.
McCaffrey’s 2020 stat line:
Another problem with paying a running back top-dollar is oftentimes you can get serviceable production from another back at a much cheaper price. Fourth-round pick Mike Davis has stepped in and done just fine for the Panthers. Carolina has become another recent example of why you shouldn’t build your team around a running back.
Davis’ 2020 stat line:
Dalvin Cook, Vikings, and Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Two more backs that got paid before the start of the 2020 season. Cook agreed to a five-year, $63 million contract with the Vikings, with about $28 million guaranteed. Gordon and Denver agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract, $13.5 million guaranteed.
Cook has been an integral part of the Vikings offense, but couldn’t elevate Minnesota enough to make a playoff push. After battling some off-the-field issues, Gordon has put together a solid year. His performance, however, doesn’t justify the amount of guaranteed money the Broncos are paying him. If it weren’t for a series of injuries throughout the season, undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay would likely have similar production.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Mahomes signed a record-breaking 10-year contract back in July. The Chiefs locked up the Super Bowl champion quarterback for an average salary of $45 million a year. Mahomes has been playing at an MVP caliber level all year, and there is no reason to suspect anything will change for years to come.
Mahomes’ 2020 Stat line:
Kirk Cousins (Vikings)
Cousins and the Vikings agreed to a two-year, $66 million contract extension before the start of the 2020 season. The cap hit for both years is substantial: $62 million of dead money in 2020 and $41 million of dead money in 2021. Cousins has struggled this season, but no matter how bad it gets, the Vikings are going to have to stick it out due to the structure of the contract.
Cousins’ 2020 Stat line:
Amari Cooper, Cowboys
Signing Cooper to a five-year, $100 million contract to remain a Dallas Cowboy has paid dividends early on for Dallas. Even with the inconsistency at the QB position this season, Cooper has yet to miss a beat. He has been the Cowboys’ most consistent player on the offensive side of the ball, keeping them alive in the NFC East.
Cooper’s 2020 stat line:
Cooper’s 2020 stat line:
● 13th most receiving yards in the league – 1,073
● 13th most receiving yards/game – 71.5
● 20th most YAC – 393
● 5th season of at least 1,000 yards since being drafted in 2015
One Year Prove-It Deal
QB, Cam Newton, Patriots
The Cam Newton experiment in Foxboro can largely be classified as a failure. While there certainly weren’t enough pieces in place around Newton, the consensus is he has failed to prove to anyone that he is worth another shot. Luckily for New England, Newton only cost just over $1 million and they can move on from him in the offseason with no strings attached if that is the road they wish to take.