Report: Less than 10 percent of free agents play out long-term contracts

Jay Busbee
March 13, 2014
Albert Haynesworth

Everybody loves big-number free-agent contracts with multiple years and multiple zeroes — players can put a price on their worth, agents can demonstrate their own value, teams can show how much they're willing to shell out to field a winner.

Of course, the truth is that in the NFL, few of those monster contracts ever pay out completely. Most players get cut long before they cash every allotted paycheck. The actual number, though, is pretty surprising.

The Big Lead has crunched the numbers, and found that over a period from 2005 to 2010, only eight percent of the top 50 free agents across that time who signed deals of five-plus years ended up playing out their contract. Those players: Drew Brees, Reggie Hayward, Derrick Mason, Charles Woodson, and Adam Vinatieri, with Justin Smith, presumably on San Francisco's roster at the start of next season, rounding out the list.

So how long did players usually last? Players with five-year deals lasted an average of 2.9 years, six-year deals lasted 3.1 years, and seven-year deals averaged 3.7 years. (Albert Haynesworth, pictured above, was released outright less than three years after the Redskins signed him to a seven-year deal, and by then three teams had given up on him.) The message, then, is clear: take your big contract and cut it roughly in half.

TBL breaks down the contract length by position, and this is one case where kickers and punters actually come out on top: they average more than 80 percent of their contract length. At the other end of the spectrum: wide receivers, safeties and offensive tackles, who each average less than half their signed contract length.

Check out the full statistical breakdown at The Big Lead.

Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.