The NFL is just like any other professional sports league in that you have to earn your keep as a player. At least most of the time. With the monetary value of rookie contracts being heavily decreased in recent years, players truly have to earn a big payday based off of their effort and production on the field. Sometimes, it pays off for a team to throw a ton of money on a multi-year deal, and other times, the player in question just doesn't live up to expectations.
Either one of these outcomes can come to fruition for a variety of reasons. Age is one of the deciding factors, as is scheme fit, and the relationship with the coaching staff. Sometimes players fall off the map for no reason at all, and sometimes they unexpectedly succeed. At the end of the day, it's really all a shot in the dark with NFL contracts. This is being exemplified right now, as there are many players who are underwhelming given the amount of money they're making, and others who are proving to be a steal. Let's take a look and see which players fall where.
Ranked below are 8 NFL players being paid WAY to0 much, and 7 who aren't paid enough.
15 Too Much: Joe Flacco
There's no doubt that Flacco is a solid NFL quarterback who is capable of winning big games, and coming up with good performances when needed most. That doesn't mean that he's an elite quarterback however, and he's definitely being paid like one, with an average salary north of $20 million.
Most of the Ravens' deep playoff runs since he's been the franchise quarterback have come on the back of an amazing defense, generally led by the likes of Ray Lewis. It may be a bit harsh to categorize Flacco as a game manager, but he's closer to that designation than he is to an all-time great at the position. The quarterback market right now demands that the Ravens pay him heavily, but in a vacuum it's still too much money.
14 Not Enough: Sean Lee
Lee is one of the best linebackers in the league, and his annual earnings come up short of what his play has dictated. He's a prolific tackler, is great in coverage, and the signal caller on the Cowboys defense. The issue is that he's often been injured in his career, but with the past two seasons being relatively healthy ones, he likely deserves a restructure.
Lee is only 30-years-old, and if he can shake the injury bug for good, is looking at five more years or so of very good productivity. The Cowboys owe it to him to up his pay over the next few years, as he's without question the best player on their defense as a whole. He should be making at least $10 million on an annual basis, no questions asked.
13 Too Much: Tavon Austin
In another peculiar decision from the Rams, they decided to extend Austin to a contract that is well-beyond what his value on the field is. Despite being a former 1st-round pick for Los Angeles, Austin hasn't developed into a go-to receiver, and has instead made his name as a gadget-type player that needs to be put into space to succeed.
Which makes this contract even more inexplicable than it already is. Austin is worth half of what he is making on an annual basis, and even that may be too much, all things considered. He isn't a game-breaker of a player, and he's being paid like one. The Rams really dropped the ball on this, as this money could be going to many other areas of the team.
12 Not Enough: T.J. Ward
Ward has been one of the absolute best safeties in all of football for years now, and the Broncos aren't paying him like one. He's excelled in every facet of the position, and given them a rock-solid presence in the defensive backfield. One would think that he's be making twice the amount that he is, to get him over the $10 million range.
Granted, while there are many pieces on the Broncos defense that warrant big-money contracts, that doesn't mean that Ward isn't underpaid for the market. He's set to be a free agent in 2018, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if Ward walked to a team willing to pay him the premium contract that his play has deserved. He likely won't be staying in Denver for the long-term.
11 Too Much: Marvin Jones
There was a lot of hype surrounding the Jones signing by the Lions in the 2016 offseason. He was seen to be hindered in Cincinnati, given that he had to play the opposite receiver role to the elite A.J. Green. It was assumed that Detroit had gotten a player who could potentially replace Calvin Johnson, and turn into an elite receiver at a lower cost.
Jones started off the season hot, but faltered into just a "decent" receiver very quickly. While his contract isn't monstrous right now, it could be argued that he isn't even playing up to it, considering the fact that he has a veteran quarterback in Matt Stafford throwing him the ball. Jones will have to perform much better this season to prove that he was worth the investment from Detroit.
10 Not Enough: Khalil Mack
While Mack is still on his minimized rookie deal, and it's well known that many talented players in that situation are going to be paid big bucks in a few years, there's no denying that the Raiders need to give him an extension right now. Over the past two seasons, he's been one of the most prolific pass rushers in the league, and is easily the cornerstone of the Oakland defense.
Mack is going to get a huge contract in the near future, and the Raiders really shouldn't wait on it. They need to lock up their best defensive player as soon as possible. He simply deserves the contract right now, as he's outperforming most pass rushers who with more experience, and making far more money. It's fine to let most young players finish out their rookie contract, but Mack is a clear exception.
9 Too Much: Andy Dalton
There's no bigger "fool's gold" quarterback in the league than Dalton, and even though he's making south of the $20 million mark, it's still a blatant overpay. Statistically, most people wouldn't consider Dalton a liability, but if you look at his track record in big games, and primetime situations, he almost always comes up short.
That just shouldn't fly for the kind of money that the Bengals are paying him. He's not the highest paid quarterback in the league, but he's making enough to warrant his play being much more consistent than it is. Cincinnati should definitely consider a restructure in the neat future, or move on from him all together.
8 Not Enough: Greg Olsen
Olsen is making surprisingly little for a player that's been the Panthers' top target over the last four or five seasons, and the favorite receiver of franchise quarterback Cam Newton. He's been a top receiving tight end league-wide, and should undoubtedly be making more than he is on his present contract.
In recent years, now that tight end has become a position that can contribute heavily to the receiving game on just about any team, it's not uncommon for the position to garner more money being thrown its way. Olsen may be too old for a total restructure, but he definitely deserved a higher annual pay per year. He's probably the best receiver on Carolina's offense right now, and should be paid as such.
7 Too Much: Coby Fleener
The Saints inexplicably threw a ton of money at Fleener during the 2016 offseason, expecting him to be an elite receiver tight end that could be a go-t0 target for Drew Brees. Fleener's first season in New Orleans was underwhelming to say the least, and he didn't live up to the hype whatsoever.
While it wasn't an absolutely awful campaign for him, he also didn't establish himself the way the Saints would have liked him to, and that was reflected in his production over the 2016 season. Now, he's just an overpaid tight end that they only hope can live up to his billing. For right now though, Fleener's contract with the Saints is highway robbery from his perspective. He lucked out on this one.
6 Not Enough: Kam Chancellor
Maybe no other player was as much an integral part of the "Legion Of Boom" Seahawks defense than Chancellor was. The strange part is that he really hasn't been paid like it, and his contract has been the subject of gripes and holdouts from him over the years. Without a doubt, he's one of the best safeties in the league, and should be making more than $10 million.
He's set to be a free agent after this season concludes, and that leaves many questions as to what his next move may be. It's not a stretch to say that he may be soured on the Seahawks, given his well-documented contract disputes. Only time will tell, but for now, Chancellor remains underpaid.
5 Too Much: Ndamukong Suh
In a vacuum, Suh is a very good player, and one of the best defensive tackles in the league. Further examination into his game however, shows him to be a player who takes plays off, and isn't the most reliable in important situations. The issues with Suh have been well-documented, and there's a reason why the Lions let him walk in free agency to begin with.
One of the highest paid players in the league shouldn't have such issues, and now that he's past the age of 30, Suh seems to be swirling the drain as an elite NFL player. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Dolphins move on from him before his contract is up. He just isn't worth $20 million per year.
4 Not Enough: LeSean McCoy
Most people thought that McCoy had a decent chance of falling off as an elite player when he went to the Bills. That didn't end up happening, and much to the Eagles' dismay, he's still one of the top running backs in the league. While his age would suggest that a drop off isn't too far away, until it happens, he has to be considered an elite player.
But his contract doesn't really reflect that. The running back market has changed over the years, but "Shady" is Buffalo's best offensive player, and a dynamic threat that cannot be easily replicated out of the backfield. His contract should be slightly higher, but given his age, he's unlikely to receive that. Instead, he'll likely play out his deal, and just retire in a few seasons while his health is intact.
3 Too Much: Jason Pierre-Paul
There was once a time when Pierre-Paul was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and a cornerstone of a Super Bowl-winning defense. That is not the case anymore, and he's really only had 2 seasons in his entire career where he truly proved himself to be an elite player.
That isn't to say he hasn't contributed to the Giants' defense sufficiently, but he isn't the kind of player who deserves to be paid like a top-tier defensive end, at this point in his career. He's shown great resolve coming back from his serious hand injury, but that doesn't mean that he's worth a premium contract. However, with little recourse to switch him out with a better player, the Giants have their hands tied on this one, and Pierre-Paul will be the starter for the foreseeable future.
2 Not Enough: Whitney Mercilus
There have been few pass rushers to have emerged over the last couple of seasons the way Mercilus has, and he provides the Texans with a force on the edge of the defensive line. He's still on his rookie deal, but he's due for a contract extension right now, and deserves every penny of it.
In combination with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, there may not be a more fearsome defensive line in the entire league. Mercilus could end up having his best season yet this year, and will be one of the highest-paid defensive ends in the league after it's over. There aren't many pass rushers better than he is, and soon he will be paid like it, giving the Texans a long-term anchor opposite to Clowney at the position. Most players on a rookie deal should be waited on to prove their worth, but Mercilus is a notable exception to the rule.
1 Too Much: Brock Osweiler
In what was perhaps the worst contract of the decade in the NFL, the Texans paid the relatively unproven Osweiler to the tune of nearly $20 million per year. This was based on a mere handful of games he played in Denver as a backup to Peyton Manning, showing definitively that the quarterback market is one that is upside down right now. Thankfully for Houston, they were able to move Osweiler this offseason to the Browns, concluding the botched quarterback situation, but he came at a price.
Now, Cleveland is stuck with Osweiler, and his role is still unclear. He proved last season that he's a shaky starter at best, and he's not even guaranteed that position, even on a bad, rebuilding team. Truly, no player has swindled a front office better than Osweiler has, in a long time. He's a below-average quarterback being paid like an elite one. If that isn't highway robbery, I don't know what is.