Matt York/Associated Press

For whatever reason, the NFL is experiencing an epidemic of dead money contracts. When I counted down the 20 worst cap hits from a year ago, it only took $4.5 million to make the top 20. In 2015, that threshold is up to $5 million. And while DeMarcus Ware came in third place last season with a hit of $8.5 million on Dallas’ cap, he’d rank seventh in 2015.

Some of it has to do with the league’s recent rash of off-the-field incidents. When players exhibit abhorrent behavior (and the media suddenly starts allotting more headlines to such matters), general managers have no choice but to prematurely end contracts earlier than they expected due to reasons beyond their control.

Let’s not let front offices entirely off the hook, though. The vast majority of deals populating the NFL’s 20 worst dead-money hits in 2015 were handed out to players whose performances simply haven’t lived up to the paychecks promised to them.

Using PointAfter visualizations and financial statistics from Spotrac, here are the 25 worst dead-money deals in the NFL this season, including two holdovers from last year’s rundown. Sometimes, one season just isn’t enough time to erase bad decisions.

Note: A modified version of this article was originally published on as a part of PointAfter’s partnership with Sports Illustrated.

#25. Tim Jennings

Former team: Chicago Bears
2015 Cap Hit: $4.4 million

Chicago’s decision to release Jennings during the preseason was surprising, since it didn’t grant them any immediate payroll flexibility. Jennings’ $4.4 million base salary for 2015 was guaranteed after inking a four-year, $22.4 million extension prior to last season. The Bears were apparently eager to rid themselves of a player signed by former GM Phil Emery and give their younger cornerbacks a chance to play.

Their decision was validated. Jennings quickly latched on with former coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay after being cut by Chicago, but he couldn’t last the entire season. The 32-year-old was released by the Bucs on Nov. 9.

#24. Vernon Davis

Former team: San Francisco 49ers
2015 Cap Hit: $4.5 million

Davis was a beloved 49er for nearly a decade. He finished his tenure in San Francisco with the most receiving yards (5,640) for a tight end in team history and 55 touchdowns, including 13 in each of his two Pro Bowl seasons in 2009 and 2013.

But after Davis’ role in the offense was reduced over the past couple seasons, his relationship with quarterback Colin Kaepernick reportedly took a turn for the worse and came to a head in a heated locker room argument before Halloween. Within a week, he had been shipped to Denver in a trade also involving several late-round picks and San Francisco swallowing nearly $5 million worth of cap room.

#23. Troy Polamalu

Former team: Pittsburgh Steelers
2015 Cap Hit: $4.5 million

Polamalu was an integral piece in two Super Bowl teams for the Steelers, but it became readily apparent his best days were behind him in 2014. He played 12 games, but didn’t intercept a pass or record a sack for just the second time in his 12-year NFL career.

Pittsburgh was saved the task of releasing the Pittsburgh legend when Polamalu elected to retire in April. That decision left $4.5 million of dead money on the club’s salary cap, but that’s a more palatable option than paying Polamalu the $6 million base salary he would have been due if he kept playing.

#22. Ray McDonald

Former team: San Francisco 49ers
2015 Cap Hit: $4.6 million

McDonald is one of the numerous NFL players who has had his reputation scarred due to domestic violence allegations over the past couple years. McDonald was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in August 2014, but the Santa Clara County District Attorney ultimately decided not to press charges. That turned out to be just the beginning of his legal troubles, however.

McDonald was named as a suspect in a separate sexual assault investigation that December. The 49ers released him the same day, swallowing $4.6 million of dead money on their 2015 payroll. He was nevertheless signed by Chicago in March 2015, with the Bears citing a “thorough” background check into McDonald’s past.

Within two months, McDonald was arrested once again on suspicion of domestic violence and possible child endangerment. The Bears released him immediately, and McDonald went on to be arrested two more times in addition to being indicted for his previous sexual assault charge in the span of three months.

It’s fair to assume no NFL team will be giving McDonald another chance at redemption in the foreseeable future.

#21. Carl Nicks

Former team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Cap Hit: $4.7 million

Nicks made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2011 with New Orleans after helping the franchise win its first Super Bowl in 2009. He cashed in with a five-year, $47.5 million contract from Tampa Bay before the 2012 season. It turned out to be a disastrous partnership for both sides.

Nicks’ first season with the Buccaneers was cut short due to toe surgery. Then, in training camp before the 2013 season, Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes were diagnosed with MRSA, a contagious staph infection. Neither has played in the NFL since, but Nicks’ contract is one of several dead money deals clogging up Tampa Bay’s payroll.

#20. Darrelle Revis

Former team: New England Patriots
2015 Cap Hit: $5.0 million

The Patriots had a monumental decision to make this offseason regarding Revis — extend his $25 million option for 2016, or cut him loose and eat $5 million of dead money this year. They chose the latter, using some of the money they saved to extend Devin McCourty before he hit the open market and steal Jabaal Sheard from Cleveland on a two-year, $11 million contract that appears to be an absolute bargain.

Sometimes having a little dead money isn’t so bad — especially if it helps you avoid paying a cornerback $25 million.

#19. Curtis Lofton

Former team: New Orleans Saints
2015 Cap Hit: $5.0 million

The Saints made a flurry of offseason moves to rid themselves of a bunch of expensive veterans. Though it probably helped their salary outlook for the long term, they’re being weighed down by the most dead money (approximately $32.6 million) on any NFL payroll in 2015.

New Orleans reportedly saved $4.2 million against the cap by releasing Lofton with two years and $8.3 million left on his previous contract. Lofton quickly signed a three-year, $18 million deal with Oakland, where he’s been a glaring weakness in a generally strong front seven. Pro Football Focus (link requires PFF subscription) ranks the 29-year-old as the 44th-best inside linebacker out of 56 qualified players this season.

#18. Miles Austin

Former team: Dallas Cowboys
2015 Cap Hit: $5.1 million

Wide receiver is far and away the position featured most in this piece. Seven of the 20 worst dead money hits this season are caused by hefty contracts handed to wideouts.

The seven-year, $54.1 million deal signed by Austin in 2010 after just one 1,000-yard season shows how desperate Jerry Jones was to find a top-flight flanker before the Dez Bryant days. After several underwhelming campaigns, the Cowboys released Austin in 2014 and are still footing the bill for a guy who’s now playing for the rival Eagles.

#17. Junior Galette

Former team: New Orleans Saints
2015 Cap Hit: $5.5 million

Galette is the odds-on favorite to be at the top of this list next season. The 27-year-old agreed to a four-year, $41.5 extension with New Orleans in 2014 after emerging as an elite best pass-rusher on a team in dire need of defensive game-breakers. Less than a year later, however, the Saints decided to release him after Galette was involved in two violent incidents.

The first was a battery case against a woman in Galette’s home. Then, over the summer, video surfaced of a full-out beach brawl (warning: video contains disturbing content) in which Galette appeared to repeatedly strike oncomers with a belt.

Weeks later, Galette was gone, and the Saints were saddled with a total of $17.6 million in dead money to be spread out over the next two seasons. The $12.1 million cap hit for 2016 is larger than any entry on this list.

As for Galette? He signed with Washington for the veterans minimum salary just one week after being released — then tore his Achilles during practice in August, causing him to miss the entire season.

#16. Brandon Marshall

Former team: Chicago Bears
2015 Cap Hit: $5.6 million

Marshall’s remarkable seven-year streak of 1,000-yard seasons ended last year in Chicago, when he was placed on injured reserve with three games left due to fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

For a team like Chicago that was stuck in cap purgatory, largely due to contracts afforded to Jay Cutler and the No. 1 entry in this article, it was a defensible decision to trade Marshall to the Jets for a fifth-round pick in March. The Bears saved $7.7 million in cash and created nearly $4 million in cap space with the move.

The 31-year-old Marshall has proven he’s far from finished in the NFL, however. He’s already topped his receiving yards total from last season by nine yards in New York, emerging as the long-needed No. 1 WR in the Meadowlands with 730 yards and five touchdowns halfway through the 2015 campaign.

#15. Greg Jennings

Former team: Minnesota Vikings
2015 Cap Hit: $6.0 million

Once Minnesota traded a fifth-round pick to Miami for Mike Wallace and a seventh-rounder in March, it was clear that Jennings’ days in purple and gold were numbered. Once Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target in Green Bay, Jennings no longer possessed the athleticism needed to elevate the Vikings passing game by the time he made it to Minnesota.

Jennings latched on with Miami in April, but the 32-year-old is buried on the depth chart and has just 10 receptions through eight games.

#14. Ben Grubbs

Former team: New Orleans Saints
2015 Cap Hit: $6.0 million

Grubbs is the third of four Saints on this list, more representatives than any other NFL team has. It’s pretty remarkable New Orleans has managed to stay afloat this season despite the fact that four of the club’s eight most expensive players are suiting up for other teams this year.

#13. Dannell Ellerbe

Former team: Miami Dolphins
2015 Cap Hit: $6.4 million

Ellerbe came to Miami as a lauded defensive signing from Baltimore on a five-year, $35 million contract. But as the Ravens have shown time and time again, they know when to cut bait with a standout performer who’s about to become overvalued.

Ellerbe didn’t live up to expectations in Miami and was shipped out as part of the Kenny Stills trade. Ellerbe has only played 169 snaps in New Orleans this season, and is graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the year’s 10 worst 4-3 linebackers of 34 qualified players.

#12. Mike Wallace

Former team: Miami Dolphins
2015 Cap Hit: $6.6 million

The man who replaced Greg Jennings in Minnesota left some dead money behind at his former haunt, too. Once seen as a bona fide No. 1 wideout, it became clear over Wallace’s time in Miami that he’s better classified as a complementary deep threat, as he was in Pittsburgh. Wallace definitely has his worth, but the Dolphins were a bit overeager in handing him a five-year, $60 million contract.

The club realized its mistake after Wallace failed to reach 1,000 yards in the first two years of the deal, posting his career-worst averages in yards per reception never establishing great chemistry with Ryan Tannehill. The ugly marriage was effectively ended during the Dolphins’ final 2014 game, when Wallace elected to sit out the second half rather than play out the final minutes of another lame-duck season in Miami.

#11. Tyvon Branch

Former team: Oakland Raiders
2015 Cap Hit: $6.7 million

For years, Oakland struggled to hold onto its homegrown defensive stalwarts. During his first year at the helm, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie made it a priority to lock down Branch, a fourth-round pick who blossomed into a key contributor during his first three seasons in the Bay Area. McKenzie endeared himself to Raiders fans by giving Branch a four-year, $26.6 million in the summer before Branch’s contract year.

The returns on the deal initially seemed good, but Branch simply couldn’t stay healthy. He played just 19 games during his final three season in Oakland, who had no choice but to cut him loose with a potential $9.7 million base salary for 2016 staring McKenzie in the face. McKenzie has been criticized by many for his free agent failings, but the Raiders currently have $15.3 million in cap space, the fifth-most in the NFL.

With Branch being Oakland’s only egregious instance of dead money at the moment, and Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack combining to form a young, exciting on-field product, the outlook in the Black Hole is finally looking bright.

#10. Michael Johnson

Former team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Cap Hit: $7.0 million

Tampa Bay’s decision to sign Johnson for five years and $43.8 million in 2014 was a curious one from the start. He was fresh off a season when he totaled 3.5 sacks with Cincinnati, and although that followed an 11.5-sack output from 2012, it seemed unlikely there were other teams preparing to match Tampa Bay’s generous offer.

Johnson recorded just four sacks in 2014 while battling numerous injuries, and the Bucs cut their losses one year to the day after signing Johnson to save $2 million in cap space this season. The 28-year-old is back with the Bengals now, and has posted two sacks in eight games.

#9. Percy Harvin

Former team: Seattle Seahawks
2015 Cap Hit: $7.2 million

Following Seattle’s stunning decision to trade Harvin to the Jets in the middle of last season, the Seahawks had to swallow $6.9 million of dead money on their cap last year. That figure bumped up a bit in 2015, but it’s doubtful the Seahawks are missing Harvin’s grumpy antics or poor injury luck.

Harvin was placed on injured reserve five games into his stint in Buffalo, and his future in the league is very much in doubt. Buffalo can void the final two years of his contract this offseason, which seems extremely likely given the $9 million base salary he’d be due otherwise in 2016.

#8. Andre Johnson

Former team: Houston Texans
2015 Cap Hit: $7.3 million

Once the face of the Texans franchise, Johnson requested a departure from Houston after he was told during the offseason his role would be reduced. GM Rick Smith elected to release him, presumably because he couldn’t find a trade to his liking.

That’s not particularly surprising, since Johnson had a salary cap number of $16.1 million and is clearly on the decline — now more than ever.

#7. Haloti Ngata

Former team: Baltimore Ravens
2015 Cap Hit: $7.5 million

The Ravens were stuck between a rock and a hard place with Ngata during the offseason, similar to the Patriots and Darrelle Revis. Unless they rid themselves of Ngata through a trade or release, the 31-year-old’s $16 million cap hit in 2015 would hamstring the team in free agency.

Luckily, Baltimore was able to trade Ngata to Detroit along with a seventh-round pick, and actually acquired fourth- and fifth-rounders as well as the $8.5 million in saved cap space. Baltimore still managed to sell relatively high on a player who had experienced down years in 2012 and 2013, and who was suspended four games in 2014 for performance-enhancing drugs.

Meanwhile, Ngata’s downfall has continued in Detroit. After Pro Football Focus ranked as the ninth-best 3-4 defensive end with Baltimore last season, Ngata has largely failed to adjust to his new surroundings, ranking 43rd among 70 qualified nose tackles.

#6. LaMarr Woodley

Former team: Pittsburgh Steelers
2015 Cap Hit: $8.6 million

Woodley, once a core component of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XLIII championship team, represented the 15th-largest amount of dead money ($5.6 million) in the NFL when I did this exercise last year. The burden from Woodley’s old six-year, $61.5 million deal has only worsened in 2015.

Woodley tried to catch on with Oakland last year, but that resulted in an abysmal six-game stint with just five tackles from Woodley. Unlike the Steelers, however, the Raiders were smart enough not to guarantee Woodley any money for 2015.

#5. Dwayne Bowe

Former team: Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Cap Hit: $8.9 million

Kansas City’s highest-paid receiver this year isn’t Jeremy Maclin, who represents $3.4 million on the Chiefs payroll. It’s Dwayne Bowe, who inked a five-year, $56 million deal in 2013 with $26 million guaranteed, which made him the league’s third highest-paid receiver in terms of total compensation.

Of course, Bowe didn’t end up collecting all that cash. He only saw out two years of the contract before being released in favor of Alex Smith’s new No. 1 wideout. Chiefs fans have to hope Maclin, whose contract could run for five years and $55 million, doesn’t meet a similar fate as Bowe.

#4. Jimmy Graham

Former team: New Orleans Saints
2015 Cap Hit: $9.0 million

Graham represents the most burdensome of the many dead money hits currently sitting on New Orleans’ payroll. Even though the Saints shockingly dealt him to Seattle, who were on the hook for Graham’s $3 million base salary and $5 million roster bonus this season, New Orleans still had to deal with the fallout of making Graham the highest-paid tight end in football with a four-year, $40 million deal last summer.

#3. Ray Rice

Former team: Baltimore Ravens
2015 Cap Hit: $9.5 million

Ozzie Newsome is one of the most respected general managers in the game, and he did what he had to do in releasing Rice last year following the ugly chain of events that unfolded after Rice knocked Janay Palmer unconscious in a casino elevator.

The Ravens have vastly underperformed expectations this year, but you can’t say their running game has struggled since Rice’s dismissal. Baltimore has received far better production from Justin Forsett since he took over as the lead back in 2014.

#2. Ndamukong Suh

Former team: Detroit Lions
2015 Cap Hit: $9.7 million

Even though Suh spurned the Lions for South Beach this spring, Detroit has still had to endure a $9.7 million cap hit that would have been on the books regardless of where Suh played in 2015.

Suh’s cap hit is higher than any of the defensive players currently on Detroit’s roster. And Haloti Ngata has been a 330 lbs. of disappointment. Perhaps that’s why the Lions rank in the bottom three in rushing defense.

#1. Jared Allen

Former team: Chicago Bears
2015 Cap Hit: $11.7 million

Oftentimes, when teams make wide-ranging organizational and scheme changes, players who were previously deemed invaluable become expendable. When the Bears switched to Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defensive scheme during the offseason, Allen was no longer a great fit in Chicago.

The sack artist was dealt to Carolina in late September once it became clear the Bears weren’t going to contend this year. Even if they were in the playoff race, they’d have enough reason to deal Allen, who was due $16.5 million in base salary through 2017 but had just four tackles and no sacks through Chicago’s first three games this year.

As is so often the case with dead money, the Bears traded present cap space for future flexibility. It’s up to the general manager to make sure that flexibility is utilized to the fullest.