Sammy Watkins caught just 55 percent of the passes thrown his way during the past two years, hasn’t played a full season since he was a rookie in 2014 and is coming off the least productive season of his career in terms of catches and yards per game. Yet he just signed a three-year deal worth $16 million per season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Watkins is now one of the five highest-paid receivers in football.
Paul Richardson has eight touchdowns in four years with the Seattle Seahawks, he’s never caught 50 passes in a season and he pulled in a career-low 55 percent of the passes thrown his way during his first full season as a starter in 2017. And yet Richardson landed a five-year, $40 million deal in free agency, thanks to the Washington Redskins.
Trey Burton has five career starts and six career touchdowns under his belt, and yet the Chicago Bears signed him to a four-year, $32 million pact this week.
The Miami Dolphins gave a three-year, $24 million deal to Albert Wilson, who failed to catch 50 passes or hit the 600-yard mark in four seasons as a peripheral option with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Four years, $29 million from the Baltimore Ravens for Ryan Grant, who has fewer than 1,000 receiving yards in his entire four-year career.
It doesn’t feel right, does it? What’s with all of these so-so players, these borderline starters getting so much cash? Why are replacement-level dudes now worth $8 million or more per season?
It’ll take some getting used to, but the reality is that this is the new normal. The bar has been raised as a result of rapid salary cap inflation and we’re all still adjusting.
It’s simple. In just five years, the NFL’s salary cap has increased from $123 million to $177 million. That’s a 44 percent rise in just half a decade, which explains why everybody is getting paid so handsomely these days.
When the cap was $123 million in 2013, Mike Wallace was the only player in the NFL to sign a free-agent deal worth more than $9 million per season. Over the next two years, eight players landed deals worth more than that total on average. There were 11 in 2016, 17 in 2017 and we’re already at 11 this year with full-fledged free agency still not underway.
You no longer have to be a big-time player to earn $6 million to $12 million a year. Get used to it.