July 22, 2024

Let freedom ring: Contracts AFC teams would love to jettison

On July 4, Americans celebrate their many freedoms.

NFL teams, meanwhile, would like to celebrate their freedom from onerous contracts that appeared to be money well spent at the time but are now anything but.

In the spirit of the holiday, Yardbarker NFL writers identify a contract each AFC team would like to jettison.

AFC East

BUFFALO BILLS | OLB Von Miller | Buffalo signed Miller to a six-year, $120M deal in 2022, hoping he’d be the final piece to propel the team to the Super Bowl, but the results since he suffered a torn ACL are disastrous. Despite having eight sacks in his first 11 games with the Bills, Miller only made three tackles in 12 games after returning from the injury he suffered Thanksgiving Day 2022.

MIAMI DOLPHINS | QB Mike White | The former Jet was signed as an insurance policy for Tua Tagovailoa, who was plagued by injuries to begin his career. However, with Tagovailoa proving to be more durable last season, it’s hard to justify keeping a backup QB with the ninth-highest cap hit on the team ($5.2M).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS | WR JuJu Smith-Schuster | New England wishes it had the remaining two seasons of Smith-Schuster’s three-year, $25.5M contract off the books, especially considering that it came up short in its pursuit of WR Calvin Ridley this offseason. Brought in to be the team’s No. 1 receiver, Smith-Schuster has quickly established himself as one of the worst signings in franchise history (29 catches for 260 yards, one TD catch in 2023).

NEW YORK JETS | WR Allen Lazard | Lazard, who has the 19th-highest cap hit among wide receivers, is lucky he was a top target for QB Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay; otherwise, he might have already been cut. During the first season of his four-year, $44M deal with the Jets, Lazard caught 23 passes for 311 yards and one TD and was a healthy scratch on two occasions. — Colum Dell

AFC West

DENVER BRONCOS | QB Russell Wilson | In March, the Broncos released Wilson, who subsequently signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they’re still on the hook for $53M in dead-cap money in 2024 and $32M in 2025. This stings for Denver, which posted an 11-19 record with Wilson as starting QB over two seasons.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS | Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor | The Chiefs clearly didn’t get their money’s worth after signing Taylor to a four-year, $80M deal in 2023. In 17 games last season, he led the league in penalties (20) and allowed 47 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. If Kansas City cut Taylor this offseason, it would result in a $20M cap hit.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS | Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins | Wilkins should give star defensive end Maxx Crosby more help, but signing the 28-year-old DT to a four-year, $110M deal in free agency seemed like an overpay. In five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Wilkins, a former first-round pick, only finished with five or more sacks once.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS | OLB Joey Bosa | Though Bosa agreed to a contract restructure in March, he still has the Chargers’ highest cap hit ($26.1M) in 2024. Over the past two seasons, four-time Pro Bowler Bosa has battled injuries, missing 20 games with toe, foot and hamstring issues. — Clark Dalton

AFC North

BALTIMORE RAVENS | Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley | The Ravens made Stanley the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league in 2020 with a five-year contract extension for $112.8M in maximum value, but he has battled injuries ever since. The 30-year-old didn’t play to his contract’s worth in 2023, either, drawing the eighth-most penalties (10) at his position and allowing four sacks.

CINCINNATI BENGALS | Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. | After helping the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LVII, Brown Jr. received a well-deserved payday (four-year, $64M contract) from the Bengals. However, he did not live up to expectations in his first year with Cincinnati, allowing the 13th-most sacks (seven) in the league. If his play doesn’t improve, the team could look to replace him with veteran Trent Brown or first-round rookie Amarius Mims.

CLEVELAND BROWNS | QB Deshaun Watson | The Browns must be starting to have buyer’s remorse with Watson after trading a king’s ransom for him, including three first-round picks, and then handing him a five-year, $230M fully guaranteed deal. Cleveland seems to be stuck with the 28-year-old, who has played in just 12 games the past two years and thrown only 14 TD passes.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS | Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi | Ogunjobi joined the Steelers on a cheap one-year deal in 2022, but then they made the head-scratching decision to sign him to a three-year, $28.75M contract extension following a 1.5-sack campaign. The 30-year-old wasn’t much better last season, registering three sacks and leaving Pittsburgh with regrets. — Aaron Becker

AFC South 

HOUSTON TEXANS | WR Robert Woods | The Texans have a crowded wide receiver room, and the team could make better use of the $9.7M Woods is due in 2024. The 32-year-old wideout had just 40 receptions for 426 yards and one TD catch last season, and with a stable of talented youngsters, plus veteran Stefon Diggs, Houston has little use for Woods.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS | Offensive tackle Braden Smith | Smith surrendered seven sacks in two of his six seasons, and he consistently allows pressures. That’s an awful lot of instability to be paying $16.683M for in 2024.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS | Offensive tackle Cam Robinson | With Walker Little on the left side and Anton Harrison manning the right, the Jaguars have little need for a high-priced backup such as Robinson. He has a $21.9M cap hit in 2024, and if the Jags were to cut him with a post-June 1 designation, they’d save $17.2M in cap space.

TENNESSEE TITANS | Safety Amani Hooker | Hooker is a solid player, but the Titans could make do without him. Paying $9.3M for a safety is a lot, and for that kind of money, the Titans should expect more than just three interceptions and 14 passes defensed in the past three seasons. — Michael Gallagher