Every season, we see players ball out in contract years.
It makes sense, as you’re nearing free agency players seem to elevate their play to astronomical levels in hopes of maximizing their next potential contract.
The sad reality of things is that for every player who elevates his play in a contract year, there is a player who regresses in a contract year.
It’s never ideal to see, but it’s the fact of the matter.
In this article, we discuss seven players who have cost themselves money in a contract year, with reasons ranging from injuries and suspensions to off-field issues.
Let’s get started.
Michael Floyd, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals/New England Patriots
Michael Floyd was seen as an athletic marvel coming out of Notre Dame whose upside was only rivaled by A.J. Green, drafted the year before.
While he posted some of his best numbers since 2013 last season, Floyd entered a contract season looking to take his game to the next level.
As we hit Week 15 Floyd isn’t even on the Arizona Cardinals roster anymore, having been claimed by the New England Patriots following his release due to a DUI arrest.
Beforehand, he had been a secondary target in a passing attack that saw him relegated to the No. 3 role, having been passed up by a multitude of players.
Alcohol-related issues have plagued Floyd his entire career, stretching back to his days in South Bend where had three alcohol-related incidents, including a DUI in his senior season.
What Floyd needs more than anything at this point is help. Help to save him from the demons that could potentially lead to heartbreak off the field.
A team would be wise to sign Floyd to a veteran minimum deal, or at least one that is heavily incentive-laden, and put in qualifiers regarding his alcohol abuse to insulate themselves. Floyd has potential, but he is definitely his own worst enemy.
Jabaal Sheard, defensive end/outside linebacker, New England Patriots
Sheard was once seen as a potential breakout star as a pass rusher, having started out his career strong in Cleveland and following that up with an eight-sack season in his first year with New England.
As of week 15 this season, an obvious contract year, Sheard has racked up a paltry 3.5 sacks while having lost his starting job to second-year man Trey Flowers.
Sheard has disappointed to the extent that he has even been a healthy scratch multiple times this season, a death-knell for his time in New England essentially.
While Sheard once possessed high-end pass-rush ability, having notched over seven sacks in three out of his five seasons prior to this year, he seems to have dialed it in on the remaining time he has in New England.
Where he had a chance to cash in big time, as the league has become pass happy and good pass rushers have become a commodity, Sheard’s level of play has fallen off and he has hit Belichick’s dog house.
While a team may sign Sheard in hopes of him bringing third-down pass rush help, expect it to be on an incentive-laden deal, and one no longer than two seasons with a team option for the third.
Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver, Chicago Bears
Jeffery was seen as an elite receiver by some coming into this season, even if that sentiment wasn’t one held by the Bears’ organization, and it was expected that Jeffery would continue to play at an elite level this year.
Fast forward to this point in the season and Jeffery is currently suspended by the league for four games due to a violation of the substance abuse policy. Before that, he barely on track to break 1,000 yards receiving on the year as it was.
While some of that can be attributed to an extremely subpar season from quarterback Jay Cutler, Jeffery hasn’t dominated as expected, and the suspension hurts him in the context of contract negotiations following the season.
While Jeffery is currently playing under the franchise tag this year, the Bears have a limited amount of time to extend him and if they chose to use the franchise tag a second time, his pay would rise 30 percent to an astronomical $18 million for the 2017 season.
With the quarterback situation a mess in Chicago, combined with his suspension as well as the prevailing thought that he would be willing to play elsewhere for a more stable franchise, it is almost a formality that Jeffery will hit free agency this upcoming offseason.
It comes at the worst possible time for him, considering his status with the league along with his subpar performance on the year.
While Jeffery has three games to get back into the groove of things and hopefully raise his profile for free agency, with Matt Barkley starting at quarterback that doesn’t seem likely.
Alshon had the potential to cash in big time last offseason. And while leaving the Bears may be a better move in the long run, he hasn’t helped his cause from a monetary standpoint in the slightest this season.
D.J. Hayden, cornerback, Oakland Raiders
While Hayden has never been a high-level player in the NFL, he has progressed enough that the corner had lined himself up to potentially capitalize on a possible healthy season in which he produced at an above-average level.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened. Hayden had been constantly flagged for a multitude of reasons before recently being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
Hayden was once considered a top-tier draft prospect at the cornerback position by respected draft analysts, with his only major drawback being health concerns.
After being drafted 12th overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2012, Hayden had a rough transition his rookie year and hasn’t progressed as well as the Raiders’ staff had hoped.
Despite this, Hayden had shown the potential to be a decent nickel corner and was lined up to make a solid chunk of change this offseason as a free agent.
With his penalty issues, followed by him constantly being hurt, things definitely aren’t looking up for Hayden.
Instead, Hayden is most likely going to be an afterthought for most teams, one who can hope for an incentive-laden contract from a team starving for help in the secondary, a contract he most likely won’t ever see the full potential of.
Hayden is just another in a long line of draft busts in recent history and has only cost himself more money with his play.
Matt Kalil, left tackle, Minnesota Vikings
At one point, Kalil was considered the next great left tackle in the NFL. Following a fantastic rookie season that saw him named to the Pro Bowl, Kalil was primed to be a star. Three short years later, and Kalil is now seen as a major liability for the Vikings.
While injuries have sapped the potential of a once bright career, Kalil entered the 2016 season with high hopes.
In a contract year, Kalil seemed ready to stage a return to upper-tier play.
Instead, his body betrayed him again, as Kalil was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury — ending his season and possibly his tenure with the Vikings.
When healthy, Kalil is an above-average left tackle with the ability to be put on an island against all but the elite pass rushers in the league.
Problem is, Kalil hasn’t been healthy since his rookie season.
Hip issues, knee issues, a multitude of things have contributed to Kalil’s regression in technique, strength, and pure overall ability.
This is disappointing considering Kalil is a 6-foot-7, 305-pound technician with good strength and athleticism when at his finest.
With fantastic bloodlines as well as a history of success when healthy, some team will sign him to a team-friendly deal in hopes of getting him back to his former glory.
One can only hope he achieves success one more time.
Manti Te’o, inside linebacker, San Diego Chargers
At times, Manti Te’o proves to be a very solid starter, one of those ideal inside linebackers who can fill well enough against the run but is far from a liability in coverage as well.
The issue that has plagued Te’o is much the same as Kalil — he can’t seem to stay healthy.
Manti has shown the ability to play in space in the Chargers 3-4 scheme, as well as the ability to be a solid tackler in the run game.
While he has never been a game-changer at the linebacker position, Te’o has been a steady presence in the middle of that defense — When he has been on the field that is.
Having only played in three games this season due to a torn Achilles tendon, the fear here is that Te’o may never be the same athlete. That’s already an issue as Te’o was just average from an athletic standpoint.
While injuries are out of a player’s control to an extent, Te’o needed a big year to ease concerns that he was little more than a future depth player, especially with San Diego having drafted inside linebackers Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman.
Sadly, Te’o seems to be destined for a career backup role, signing veteran minimum deals and always in fear of being replaced.
Tough story for a player who was once the darling of college football.
Chance Warmack, guard, Tennessee Titans
Coming out of Alabama in 2013, Warmack was seen as the most dominant guard to enter the NFL draft since Steve Hutchinson in 2001.
That college dominance has never fully transferred to the NFL.
While he has been a starter the entire time he has been healthy in the NFL, Warmack has never been seen as anything more than average as a player
Enter 2016, and Warmack is now on injured reserve with a hand injury. To add insult to injury, after experiencing some growing pains in his absence the Titans offense has begun to flourish.
The guard combination of Josh Kline and Quinton Spain has helped pave the way for the number three rushing attack in the league, leaving Warmack’s status as a Titan in doubt.
While Warmack still has some upside, he did himself no favors with his injury as well as the fact that Tennessee has flourished without him.
While a top offensive line coach such as Mike Tice would love to take a shot at molding someone with his talent, most teams will look to sign him to a smaller contract than he would have wanted, and that’s just the nature of the beast.