The last two weeks have seen a lot of big money handed out to Patrick Mahomes, Myles Garrett, or Chris Jones. Whenever one of these huge deals is announced there is nitpicking from all over about whether someone is worth that much a year or $5 million more or less. No one really knows until the deal ends, one way or another, be it the player actually lives out the life of the deal or extends/restructures it or the team moves on.
In the case of the Rams, the dust settled rather quickly on their five worst deals ever. Now in order to evaluate what constitutes it being one of the five worst deals it needs to be determined whether or not the Rams ever got anything out of the player before things went south. In the case of the five on this list, things went south QUICKLY.
5. Todd Gurley – Four Years, $60 million/$45million Guaranteed
A quick note – the players themselves do not deserve the blame when these deals are signed as no sane person turns down this type of money. So, no one here is being criticized for taking the money but underperforming once that money came through, and by and large it’s not their fault as injuries are the main reason why these deals are terrible.
In the case of Gurley, his production prior to this deal was incredible and he deserved big money. However, the timing was bad as Les Snead and the rest of the front office gave him that big money WAY before they had to. Given his issues with knee injuries prior to being drafted, it would’ve been smart to at least let him get to his 5th-year option before handing him a record-breaking deal.
Everyone knows the story of how his knees broke down during the Super Bowl run and he became a non-factor and the next year had spurts where it looked okay, but he became damaged goods. The Rams ate $20 million in dead money and maybe he can turn it around in Atlanta but for LA, this deal will serve as a cautionary tale for all-time. It’s one of the five worst but at least he gave the Rams the best of himself before things went sour.
4. Drew Bennett – Five Years $30 million/$10 million Guaranteed
The UCLA alum was a classic case of a player that put up a career season in a contract year. In his peak year in Tennessee, he hauled in 80 catches, for 1,247 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Naturally, the Rams saw him as a way to keep “The Greatest Show” going as Isaac Bruce was aging out. Unfortunately, by 2007, when the Rams signed him, 2004 would prove to be his best year. He essentially played only one season for the Rams and in that one year, he had 43 receptions, 375 yards, and three touchdowns. The good is that his deal was only guaranteed for two years. Bennett would break his leg in ’08 and then get hurt again in ’09 before retiring.
3. Jared Cook – Five Years $35 million/$16 million Guaranteed
If you ask most fans who the most disliked Rams player is, Cook is most likely to come up a lot. He was supposed to be the game-breaking tight end that they always wanted and he took a contract that even today is extraordinary for a tight end and adjusted for inflation is bigger than some of the deals that have been signed, i.e. Tyler Higbee.
Cook’s production did not come close to matching the deal and it had little to do with injury. Sure his 2013-2016 tenure featured some bad quarterbacks but he never really made any of them better. In three years, he only tallied 142 catches, 1,786 yards, and eight touchdowns. What’s even more frustrating is that after he was cut in 2016 he ended up having big moments for Oakland and now New Orleans. The size and skillset have always been there, so it’s perplexing and has kept him an object of ire amongst fans.
2. Jason Brown – Five Years $37.5 million/$20 million Guaranteed
The Rams had been searching for a franchise center and someone to give their line some stability (sound familiar?) and turned to Brown who by all accounts was the perfect player to fill that role. In Baltimore, he was all of that and more so it made sense at the time for the Rams to devote those resources to him. Unfortunately, for no reason related to injury, his play cratered. He did have a solid 2009 season but after that, it was just over and there was no clear reason why. What makes this one of the five worst deals ever was that a center making that kind of money is still pretty much unheard of. He was out of the league two years later and the Rams once again returned to wandering the desert in search of a quality line.
1. Cortland Finnegan – Five Years $50 million/$24 million Guaranteed
All of the aforementioned deals were brutal in hindsight but with the possible exception of Gurley, no one could really see these bad deals coming. Finnegan’s deal was bad at the moment and even worse today.
He essentially got paid Darius Slay money at the age of 28 and it was pretty clear that he was past his prime. Sure enough, he was. It made sense that Jeff Fisher would want him on his defense given their time together in Tennessee but at that price? If Brown’s play cratered, Finnegan’s got hit with red matter and sucked into a black hole.
Statistically, he actually had the best year of his career in the first year of his contract with 101 tackles, a forced fumble, and three interceptions. But this was a five-year deal, not one-year.
Not only did his play drastically fall off, but it felt like he’d get flagged at the worst possible time. He ended up getting cut and was soon out of the league.
It’s always great when a player gets big money and while it’s not the players’ fault when they’re offered it, when the deal goes wrong it can stick with them the rest of their careers.
Here’s to hoping the next batch of contracts for the Rams are all Home Runs!