Advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus ranked the five worst safety contracts on Friday, which lists the five most overpaid players at that position. San Francisco 49ers safety Antoine Bethea came in as the third worst in the league.
One of the factors in Pro Football Focus' list was length of contract. Bethea only has two years remaining on his contract and averaged nearly $3.9 million during the first two years. Over the next two seasons, that number increased to over $6.5 million per year.
"Antoine Bethea has enjoyed a productive 10 seasons in the NFL, but he might be on the downside of his career," said John Breitenbach of Pro Football Focus. "He managed to play only seven games in 2015 before going down with injury. Prior to injury, Bethea was just the 72nd-highest-graded safety, primarily due to a season coverage grade of 46.1. The former Colt can still hold his own in the box, but lacks the movement skills to track receivers in space. He gave up three touchdowns on just 12 receptions, ultimately allowing a league-worst 152.6 QB rating."
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While he did have a 46.1 coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus, he also had a higher 82.5 run-defense grade and an 82.4 run-defense grade. An overall 60.2 grade left Bethea tied with the New York Giants' Brandon Meriweather as the 72nd overall safety according to the site. By comparison, teammate Eric Reid ranked 36th while Jaquiski Tartt ranked 80th.
We reached out via Twitter to Pro Football Focus analyst and 49ers media correspondent Jeff Deeney to get his thoughts on the ranking. He had the following to say:
@49erswebzone Bethea had a great 2014. $6M is a lot for a guy who's 32 and coming off major injury. End of backloaded deal so high $ figure.— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) July 8, 2016
Lastly, the site factored in the season in which the team can cut the player and have more cap savings than dead money. For Bethea, that technically would have been this year. However, Pro Football Focus lists it as next year since deadlines have passed and his dead money would drop from a $2.5 million hit in 2016 to a $1.25 million hit in 2017. Much of this is irrelevant for the 49ers who, as Deeney explained, have over $49 million in cap room. The team can comfortably absorb these back-loaded contracts, but that doesn't make the contracts themselves have any more value when compared across the league.
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"Beathea's back-loaded contract was reasonable at the time, but looks generous at this point," explained Breitenbach. Bethea's contract ranks as the sixth highest among the team in both cap hit and base salary. His cap hit is fifth among all strong safeties in the NFL and 12th among all safeties.
In 2015, Bethea was in on 274 pass snaps and 174 run snaps. He compiled 32 tackles, a sack, and two passes defended over the seven games he was healthy last season.
Antoine Bethea's contract at a glance
Signed through: 2017
Average remaining base salary per year: $4.88 million
Average remaining cap hit per year: $6.51 million
2016 base salary: $4.5 million
2017 base salary: $5.25 million
2016 cap hit: $6.03 million
2017 cap hit: $7 million
* Cap numbers from Spotrac.com