We recently covered the most underpaid player on each NFL team. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the men who are being overpaid the most.
Bad contracts are handed out every year around the NFL, as teams dole out crazy amounts of money in free agency hoping to buy their way to a title. In this day and age, with the salary cap being so high and continually on the rise, it’s happening more and more.
Though, in some cases, players earned their contracts initially, only to fall victim to injuries, subsequent poor play or Father Time.
These are the most overpaid player for every NFL team ahead of the 2018 season, many of whom just so happen to be among the most overrated in the league as well.
Note: Average salaries were utilized for this list. All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.
Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford, quarterback, $20 million per year
At his best, Bradford is a statue in the pocket who can deliver strikes on short passes and is adequate at running an NFL offense. But this dude cannot stay on the field. He’s dealing with chronic knee problems that are so significant the Cardinals have a plan in place to keep him from practicing too much. Which, interestingly enough, could just be the way rookie Josh Rosen lands the starting gig this year. Yet Bradford somehow continues to rake in the cash, despite being among the most unreliable players in the league.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Schaub, quarterback, $4.5 million per year
Schaub is known by most casual fans as the pick-six master. At one point in 2015, he had thrown six pick-sixes in nine starts, and he holds the NFL record having thrown pick-sixes in four straight games back in 2013. If, God forbid, Matt Ryan ends up getting injured, the Falcons are going nowhere, and fast, with Schaub under center. Yet somehow he is collecting some fat paychecks, in spite of overwhelming evidence that he has no business on an NFL playing field at this point and time.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, quarterback, $22.13 million per year
It seems like eons have passed since Flacco’s magical postseason run propelled the Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers. That magical run led to the Ravens dishing out a then-record contract to Flacco, who has since looked anything like a top NFL quarterback. Since 2013, Flacco has averaged under 20 touchdowns and has thrown nearly 15 interceptions per year. Not coincidentally, the Ravens have made the playoffs just once, following the 2014 season. Flacco could be out of a job, sooner, rather than later.
Buffalo Bills: Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, $10 million per year
It was pretty astonishing to see the Bills lay out the red carpet en route to opening up the vault for Lotulelei during free agency. The former first-round pick out of Utah has been a strong NFL player, but he’s not an elite playmaker inside. Lotulelei is stout against the run, but he doesn’t get to opposing quarterbacks very often. It’s just very strange to see a run-stuffing defensive tackle landing $10 million per year. That’s the kind of cash you normally see being doled out to big men who penetrate and disrupt the passing game, which does not describe his game.
Carolina Panthers: Matt Kalil, left tackle, $11.1 million per year
When the Panthers signed Kalil to a free-agency deal two summers ago, we thought it was a huge mistake. And we weren’t alone. Kalil had been awful for most of his tenure with Minnesota, and he hasn’t been all that great during his first two years in Carolina. Just ask Cam Jordan, who came up with a rather disrespectful nickname for the left tackle. Making matters worse, the Panthers will have a tough time getting rid of Kalil until after the 2020 season. They’re stuck with him, and that’s not a good thing.
Chicago Bears: Kevin White, wide receiver, $4.14 million per year
The Bears can’t have much more patience as they continue to hold out hope that White will be the player they thought he’d be when they selected him No. 7 overall in 2015. The former West Virginia star receiver has been out of commission far more than he’s been available to the club. Injuries have derailed his early career in a huge way. As such, he’s managed to appear in just five total games through his first three seasons, catching just 21 passes for 193 yards and no touchdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict, linebacker, $10.84 million per year
We were pretty stunned when Burfict landed a monster contract extension from the Bengals last year. This is a player who is solid when his head is in the game, and he’s clearly the leader of Cincinnati’s defense. But this is a guy who hasn’t been able to put in a full season since 2013 due to injuries, and he’s had far too many instances of dirty play. Those have cost Burfict dearly, too, as he’s lost an obscene amount of money due to fines and suspensions (he’s out the first four games in 2018, too).
Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Landry, wide receiver, $15.1 million per year
We get it. The Browns had money to burn this offseason. So they burned some. One of the primary beneficiaries of the team’s massive amount of cap space was this former Miami receiver, who inked a five-year deal worth up to $75.5 million. Landry is one of the league’s best possession receivers. He’s racked up 400 catches in his first four years. But he’s only averaged 10.1 yards per catch and has caught 22 touchdowns. Needless to say, the money he’s making right now is over the top compared to what he brings to the table.
Dallas Cowboys: Tavon Austin, wide receiver, $7 million per year
Austin has been obscenely overpaid since the Los Angeles Rams made the unconscionable decision to ink him to a $42 million extension in 2016. Since then, he’s restructured his deal and was traded to the Cowboys, but $7 million is still far too much money to pay this player. The Cowboys have talked up how much they’re going to use him this year, but we’ve heard this song and dance before. Let’s just say, we’ll believe it when we see it. To this point in his career, Austin has just 2,927 total yards from scrimmage in five seasons of work.
Denver Broncos: Derek Wolfe, defensive end, $9.18 million per year
Wolfe is a good player and does an outstanding job for the Broncos when he’s healthy. He’s a run-stuffing defensive end and anchors extremely well in this role. Unfortunately, Wolfe hasn’t been able to stay healthy, missing games in each of the past three seasons, including five games last year with a neck issue that’s now become a chronic problem. Additionally, as strong as Wolfe is in the run game, he’s limited as a pass rusher inside.
Detroit Lions: Nevin Lawson, cornerback, $4.6 million per year
Lawson had a very poor year as a cover corner in 2017. The Lions sure hope that it was the exception to the rule, as the cornerback had a very strong year in coverage the season before. But to this point Lawson, even at his best, is not the kind of defensive back who strikes fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. In four seasons, the former fourth-round pick out of Utah State hasn’t managed a single interception and has just 20 pass defenses to his credit. He’s a scrappy player who tackles well. But that’s about it.
Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, outside linebacker, $13.2 million per year
Let’s not get it twisted: Matthews is still a darn good football player. He’s just not an elite linebacker any more, but he’s getting paid like he is. Injuries have somewhat derailed Matthews’ career the past couple of seasons. He’s also had to deal with being moved around, going from outside to inside as Green Bay’s defense has had major issues at inside linebacker in recent years. The bottom line is that Matthews’ numbers are down in a big way, and it’s fair to wonder if he’s broken down a bit at the age of 32.
Houston Texans: Lamar Miller, running back, $6.5 million per year
Especially these days, when so many running backs are being found on the cheap, Miller’s contract doesn’t add up to his real value for the Texans. Since joining Houston as a free agent out of Miami in 2016, Miller has proven to be nothing more than a below-average running back, averaging 3.9 yards per carry while scoring 12 times. We would be surprised if rookie D’Onta Foreman didn’t push Miller’s usage way down in his second season as a pro.
Indianapolis Colts: Eric Ebron, tight end, $6.5 million per year
Maybe we’ll look back in a year and re-evaluate Ebron’s value. After all, it’s possible Andrew Luck returns fully healthy and turns this former first-rounder into a star. That said, Matthew Stafford couldn’t do it, and we’ll be shocked if it happens in Indy. Over the course of his four-year career with the Lions, Ebron averaged 47 catches for 518 yards and under three touchdowns per season. Needless to say, it was pretty shocking when the Colts signed him to a deal that’s worth up to $15 million over two years.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, $16.1 million per year
Subjectively, as a cog within Jacksonville’s defensive machine, Dareus is great. But not at this price. When he signed his current deal as a member of the Buffalo Bills in 2015, he was coming off a 2014 campaign in which he racked up 49 tackles, 10 sacks and a forced fumble. Since that point in time, however, Dareus has managed a combined 7.5 sacks in three seasons. He’s on the decline and is much more of a run-stuffing defensive tackle these days. Thankfully the Jaguars can get out of this deal after the 2018 season without much of a cap penalty.
Kansas City Chiefs: Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, $16 million per year
We’ve been harping on the free-agency deal Watkins landed with Kansas City since the day it happened. On one hand, it’s kind of understandable that the Chiefs gave Watkins so much guaranteed cash — they’re trying to maximize the arm talent of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But on the other hand, Watkins has just one 1,000-yard season under his belt, and he’s never caught more than nine touchdowns in his career. He has his work cut out to prove he’s worth the money the Chiefs paid him, that’s for sure.
Los Angeles Chargers: Russell Okung, left tackle, $13.25 million per year
Okung is currently the third-highest-paid offensive tackle in the NFL. Kudos to him for landing this deal. But let’s be honest. In no way is Okung a top-three offensive tackle in the league. In fact, it’s fair to say he’s just average. Period. Ever since being selected sixth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, this former Oklahoma State star has struggled to stay healthy and has been far from an elite player at his position when he’s on the field. If it weren’t for Philip Rivers’ penchant for getting rid of the ball so quickly, he’d be in deep trouble with Okung protecting his blind side.
Los Angeles Rams: Mark Barron, linebacker, $9 million per year
The Rams signed Barron to a five-year, $45 million extension before the 2016 season, and to this point it’s hard to argue he’s lived up to it. Barron does cover well, being a former safety. But last year, aside from some splash plays, he was not one of the stronger players on Los Angeles’ defense. His lack of size is somewhat minimized by the incredible front line the Rams feature. It’s worth wondering how long it will take for Micah Kiser to emerge as competition for Barron at inside linebacker.
Miami Dolphins: Robert Quinn, defensive end, $14.25 million per year
Quinn might very well have a resurgent season in Miami, now that he’s back to his comfort zone as a 4-3 defensive end. He was one of the league’s most dangerous players at this position between 2012-14, racking up 40 sacks. But his production took a nose dive after the 2014 season, and then he was thrust into an unfamiliar role as an outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ system last year. Hopefully he can get back to dominating off the edge, for his sake. If not, then his next contract won’t be nearly as sweet.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, quarterback, $28 million per year
I don’t really blame the Vikings for doling out $84 million guaranteed on a three-year deal for Cousins. He was the top quarterback available in free agency this year, and they needed to make a big splash. But Cousins isn’t exactly as accurate as his numbers suggest — he threw 25 interceptable passes last year, only 13 of which actually were picked off. His flaws aren’t insignificant, and it’s going to be fascinating to see what the Vikings get out of him now that quarterback whisperer Pat Shurmur is in New York.
New England Patriots: Dwayne Allen, tight end, $7.35 million per year
Since inking his four-year deal with the Colts ahead of the 2016 season, Allen has pretty much been on a downhill course toward irrelevancy. He caught just 35 passes for 406 yards in 2016 before being traded to the Patriots ahead of the 2017 season. Then last year he was practically invisible, catching 10 passes for 86 yards. The Patriots could end up moving on from Allen before the season begins without any cap penalty, and we wouldn’t be shocked in the least if that happens.
New Orleans Saints: Terron Armstead, left tackle, $13 million per year
When the Saints inked Armstead to his current contract, it seemed like the right move. He’d proven himself to be a very strong left tackle, earning 27 starts from 2014-15. Then, a knee injury forced him to miss 11 games in 2016, and a torn labrum derailed his 2017 season. When he did play last year, Armstead was serviceable but in no way played at the elite level the Saints expected from him when they did the deal in the first place. Hopefully he can rebound in 2018, because Drew Brees is invaluable to that franchise.
New York Giants: Alec Ogletree, linebacker, $10.69 million per year
It was pretty mind blowing when the Rams signed Ogletree to a lucrative four-year extension last year during the season. Since making a big splash as a rookie in 2013, this former Georgia Bulldog has been a liability, with missed tackles being a huge problem. He ended up having a horrible 2017 campaign, and so it was even more surprising when the Giants ponied up two draft picks to trade for him and absorb his contract this offseason.
New York Jets: Trumaine Johnson, cornerback, $14.5 million per year
There is one thing Johnson does extremely well. He’s one of the league’s best press-cover corners. If he can get his mitts on his receiver early, said receiver tends to struggle getting open. If that’s all he does for the Jets, then perhaps he’ll end up being a strong player for them in 2018. However, last year with the Rams, he gave up 759 yards in coverage, which was fifth-most in the league, per Pro Football Focus. The Rams weren’t going to pay him to stay after franchising him two years in a row, and we wonder if the Jets will end up having buyer’s remorse in due course.
Oakland Raiders: Gabe Jackson, guard, $11 million per year
After a very strong 2016 campaign, the Raiders signed Jackson to a huge contract extension. Then he promptly went out and had the worst season of his young career in 2017, allowing 22 pressures and incurring more penalties than any other Raider lineman. Now Jackson and the rest of Oakland’s offensive line is going to be coached by Tom Cable, who is honestly one of the worst coaches in the NFL today. We would love to see Jackson rebound in 2018, but it’s hard to imagine it’s going to happen.
Philadelphia Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver, $13 million per year
After playing in Philly on a one-year prove-it deal last season, Jeffery landed a massive contract that keeps him signed through the 2021 season. But this contract is a head-scratcher. Over the course of his six-year career, Jeffery has hauled in 1,000-plus yards just twice, the last time being in 2014, and has only one double-digit touchdown campaign. Last year, he caught less than half the passes thrown his way, finishing with 57 catches for 789 yards and nine touchdowns.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Joe Haden, cornerback, $9 million per year
Speaking of head-scratching contracts, Haden’s three-year deal with Pittsburgh — after he was cut by Cleveland, no less — is wild. We’re talking about a former first-round pick who’s one year removed from 30 and has struggled mightily since the 2014 season. During his tenure with Pittsburgh last year, Haden wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t great, either. He’s lost a step since his younger days and isn’t nearly as dangerous in coverage, either.
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, $27.5 million per year
Like the Vikings and Kirk Cousins, the 49ers had to pay Garoppolo this offseason. There was no way around it, other than using the franchise tag. In order to maintain a positive vibe, they locked him up on a long-term deal that pays him an astonishing $37 million in 2018. All this for a guy who’s started all of seven games in his pro career thus far, and who came into the league as a little-known quarterback out of Eastern Illinois. Could Garoppolo be worth it in the long run? Sure. But at this point he’s being paid like a tenured superstar, rather than a guy who still has so much to prove.
Seattle Seahawks: Justin Britt, center, $9 million per year
The Seahawks have offensive line problems. This is known. Britt, a former offensive tackle, is now the team’s best option at center, and that’s not saying a whole heck of a lot. Seattle signed Britt to an extension after he had the best year of his career in 2016. Unfortunately, he took a step back last year as Seattle’s entire offensive line struggled to do anything positive. Hopefully for Russell Wilson’s sake, Britt and the rest of his teammates up front figure out a way to stop the bleeding.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, $15.5 million per year
It’s pretty remarkable that Pierre-Paul has been able to come back from the accident that cost him half a hand. He’s still a freak athlete and has found a way to stay productive. At the same time, his production doesn’t match his contract. Pierre-Paul was better in 2016 than he was last year, and since inking his new deal he’s logged 15.5 sacks — good but not great. JPP will have a chance to re-write that script with a new start in Tampa Bay, where they desperately need help on the edge.
Tennessee Titans: Malcolm Butler, cornerback, $12.5 million per year
It wasn’t surprising that the Titans signed Butler to join his former Patriots teammate, Logan Ryan, in their defensive backfield. What was surprising was just how much the Titans paid him to join them. Butler is a very scrappy player who utilizes his skill set well, but he’s not a shut-down corner. Yet he landed $30 million guaranteed on this new deal, and the Titans are pretty much stuck with him barring a restructure at least through the 2020 season.
Washington Redskins: Josh Norman, cornerback, $15 million per year
It’s been a couple years since Norman was truly an elite cornerback. He was pretty strong in 2016 but took a significant step backward last season, coming up empty in the interception column for the first time in his career as a starter. We’ll be watching him closely in the coming season, because, given his interest in media, one wonders just how long this NFL thing is going to be at the forefront of Norman’s mind.