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5 most underpaid stars in the NFL today

Jesse Reed
Lamar Jackson NFL Playoffs
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the big-money world of the NFL, some players are severely underpaid. Young players, still playing on their rookie contracts, who have become stars in this league.

They won’t stay underpaid forever. Eventually, the players we’re highlighting will ink massive, potentially record-breaking contracts. But until that happens, they are the biggest bargains in the NFL today.

Note: NFL salary figures courtesy of Spotrac.com

George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers

  • 2020 salary: $2.13 million

Kittle is one of the most complete offensive weapons in the NFL today. He’s a monster in the run game for the 49ers, and his abilities after the catch are already legendary. The past two seasons, Kittle has caught 173 passes for 2,430 yards — setting an NFL record in the process — and 10 touchdowns.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he’s set to play out the final year of his rookie contract. The 49ers are working like crazy to sign Kittle to a long-term contract. However, negotiations are tricky because Kittle isn’t “just” a tight end. And his agent is pressing that point home with ruthless efficiency these days.

T.J. Watt, outside linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

  • 2020 salary: $1.73 million

Selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Watt was seen as a player with potential. He’s since shown the ability to turn raw abilities into a well-honed tactical attack and is now one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL.

This dude has been a full-time starter since his rookie campaign. The past two seasons, Watt has piled up 27.5 sacks, 57 quarterback hits, 14 forced fumbles, and two interceptions. He’s a big-play machine and the engine that drives Pittsburgh’s defense.

Michael Gallup, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys

  • 2020 salary: $750,000

Talk about value. Paying him less than a million bucks in 2020, the Cowboys have to be giddy about how things turned out. Gallup was a third-round pick out of Colorado State in 2018, which is why his salary is so low.

Last season, his second in the NFL, Gallup hauled in 66 passes for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns in just 14 games. He displayed outstanding chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott and became one of the league’s best deep threats, averaging 16.8 yards per catch.

Darius Leonard, linebacker, Indianapolis Colts

  • 2020 salary: $1.14 million

It’s not hyperbole to say Leonard may be the best overall inside linebacker in the NFL today. This dude literally does it all, and he can cover — a quality that defines elite linebackers in this age.

The Colts landed Leonard in the second round in 2018. Since then, all he’s done is rack up 182 solo tackles, break up 15 passes, intercepting seven, while adding 12 sacks with six forced fumbles. That kind of production is worth Bobby Wagner/C.J. Mosley-type cash.

Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Baltimore Ravens

  • 2020 salary: $1.34 million

The reigning MVP is the biggest value in the NFL today. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t watch football at all, you already know what kind of electric playmaker Lamar Jackson is. Whether he’s shredding NFL defenses with jaw-dropping runs (like this) or torching opposing secondaries with dagger touchdown passes, Jackson is elite.

One day, the Ravens will have to back up the armored truck to Jackson’s bank. Until then, he’ll remain the most underpaid superstar in the NFL. Without a doubt.