NFL player salaries vary vastly from hundreds of thousands to multi-million-dollar deals per year, and some of the rich contracts end up biting teams in the behind.
Many lucky players sign lucrative extensions with their existing team or with new ones during free agency after having a standout season. There are also rookies who receive big chunks of money without having earned them. While the common goal when handing out a large contract is for the player to meet or exceed expectations, that is not always the case.
With this in mind, here is a list of eight NFL players who will be overpaid in 2016 (contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com).
Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas Cowboys, $6.239 million
The Cowboys signed Elliott to a mind-blowing, fully-guaranteed $24.7 million contract, which means there is immediately a ton of pressure to not let his team down this season.
This won’t likely be the case considering Elliott’s collegiate grooming. But should he be the eighth-highest paid running back in the NFL this season without yet one game under his belt? Coincidentally, Elliott is ranked just one slot below former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray in average salary for running backs.
Meanwhile, because he was a second-round pick from 2013, Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell will earn just slightly over $1 million this year.
Elliott should have an instant impact in the Cowboys run game. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the rookie toting the ball an average of 15-18 times per game. That said, he’s well overpaid at this point in his career.
Josh Norman, cornerback, Washington Redskins, $15 million
Accomplishing career-highs in interceptions (four), interception return yards (110) and touchdowns (two), Norman wound up a free agent after playing four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. This came about after he and his former team failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension and the Panthers rescinded their franchise tender in 2016.
Not surprisingly, Norman didn’t last long on the free market. Washington offered him a five-year deal worth $75 million, which was too sweet to turn down. Clearly, Washington is banking on Norman to pick up where he left off last year, and then some.
Speaking of last season, Norman’s production was impressive, but it was just one season. Also, he tied with several other NFL players when he ranked 13th overall in passes intercepted. Now Norman is the highest-paid corner in the NFL in terms of guaranteed cash, with $50 of his $75 million deal guaranteed.
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers, $19 million
For a player who could be serving as a glorified backup to Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick will earn a hefty paycheck whether he steps foot on the field or not this fall.
After a tumultuous and horribly unproductive first half of 2015, Kaepernick got the ax and Gabbert took over as the 49ers’ starter. This summer, a quarterback competition between the two will take place with the hope that the team can scour up more than the five wins accomplished last year.
At this time, it would appear that Gabbert has a leg up in the competition, considering he finished out the year and impressed this offseason while Kap recovered from multiple minor injuries.
“For now, Kaepernick has a long road ahead before taking the starting gig from Gabbert, who has been operating like it’s his job since taking over midway through last season,” wrote Chris Biderman of Niners Wire.
If Kaepernick gets the nod to start, some might still agree that his paycheck is a bit lofty compared to the product. Meanwhile, Gabbert will earn a salary-cap friendly $2.3 million for whatever role he plays this season.
LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills, $8 million
After being traded to the Bills and signing quite the hefty five-year. $40 million contract in 2015, McCoy hasn’t exactly dazzled with his new team.
The injury bug nipped at McCoy last year, and his overall production has been on the decline over the past two seasons. As a result, McCoy has scored a total of only 10 touchdowns during this stretch.
All the while, McCoy remains the second-highest paid running back in the NFL. Not as much of a factor in the passing game as he was with the Eagles, McCoy tallied only just 292 receiving yards last year.
With the emergence of Karlos Williams, who scored nine touchdowns in his rookie debut in 2015, it would appear that McCoy could be used sparingly once again in 2016. Furthermore, McCoy tops a suspiciously crowded Bills’ running back roster.
Bills now have 6 RBs on roster: LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee, Karlos Williams, Jonathan Williams, James Wilder Jr, Boom Herron. Also 2 FBs
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) June 9, 2016
Olivier Vernon, defensive end, New York Giants, $17 million
In a desperate attempt to enrich a defense that ranked 32nd-worst in the NFL last year, the Giants added multiple players during the offseason, including Vernon during free agency.
After agreeing to an extremely generous five-year, $85 million contract with New York, Vernon will earn a cool $17 million as the second-highest paid pass rusher in the NFL. This is an incredibly huge increase from the $1.7 million salary Vernon made during his last year in Miami.
In 2015, Vernon registered 7.5 sacks and 61 combined tackles. For this, he will earn slightly more this season than last year’s league leader, J.J. Watt, who recorded 17.5 sacks.
We shall see soon enough if Vernon proves worthy of his lofty salary or if the Giants need to rethink their spending habits next March.
Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Houston Texans, $18 million
Osweiler is not getting paid for anything other than looking average for less than half a season with the Denver Broncos. Whether he lights it up in Houston or fizzles out like a sparkler, Osweiler will cash in as much as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and just slightly more than Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford.
Osweiler’s four-year $72 million contract has stirred up some commotion within the league as well. His annual average $18 million salary pales in comparison to what the New York Jets offered Ryan Fitzpatrick to remain with the team.
Osweiler has started in only seven NFL regular season games, but that was apparently enough for the Texans to waive some huge dollar signs his way. It will certainly be interesting to watch the young quarterback in action to see if he proves to be the promising face of Houston’s franchise for the years to come.
Malik Jackson, defensive end, Jacksonville Jaguars, $14.25 million
Jackson finished out his career as a Denver Bronco after finally starting in all 16 games for the first time in four years. Over the course of the regular season, he registered 5.5 sacks, along with 46 combined tackles and one safety.
Jackson’s 5.5 sacks tied him for 67th in this stat among all the NFL’s defensive linemen last season. And, after a reputable postseason that saw his Broncos claim the Lombardi, Jackson was free to test the free agent market.
The Jaguars soon swooped in and offered him a massive six-year, $85.5 million deal. This equates to Jackson earning the sixth-highest salary of all of the defensive linemen this year. Admittedly, Jackson said money was the reason he chose to sign with the Jags. No kidding.
While Jackson cashes in on what is nearly a $13 million raise over his 2015 salary, the Jaguars will have their fingers crossed that their investment pays off this fall.
Jimmy Graham, tight end, Seattle Seahawks, $10 million
Prior to his trade to the Seattle Seahawks last year, Graham signed a lucrative $40 million contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2014. After a lackluster, injury-filled season with the Seahawks, Graham will be the highest paid tight end in 2016.
Currently, Graham in recovering from knee surgery after sustaining a season-ending injury late last year. He is reportedly expected to be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.
A big head-scratcher last year was the Seahawks’ limited usage of Graham when it came to the passing game. After tallying 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns with the Saints over five seasons, Graham recorded only 605 yards and two scores in his 11 game starts with Seattle. Needless to say, Graham was a major letdown in fantasy football leagues.
We are not sure what Seattle’s plans are for Graham this fall. But nonetheless, he will be paid quite handsomely no matter what role he plays on offense.