The NFL is one of the most competitive leagues in all of professional sports. There is a constant need o get better among teams and one of the quickest ways to do so is through free agency and retaining talent you’ve acquired in the draft. While some deals are well deserved, others are based more on need and desperation rather than actual talent. Compensation in the NFL isn’t always judged properly, as a teams need or attitude towards retaining certain players can give them tunnel vision. This actually happen more often than you’d think and is a reason so many NFLers suddenly crash and burn after their rookie contracts.
There are three incredibly important positions in football as of current standards. The obvious choice is the quarterback, but there’s also the defensive end and the offensive tackle – particularly the blindside blocker – that are considered in high regard. Each is beneficial to either scoring or preventing points from going on the board. We see it every year; a player is overvalued in a weak market or is going off one good season. It’s great for them, but often bites the team that pulled the trigger. These deals can screw up a team’s salary cap for a few years and have directly caused coaches and GM’s to lose their jobs. Here is every NFL team’s most overpaid player for the 2017 NFL season.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer: $24,125,000
Palmer has been a decent quarterback throughout his career and at times has shown some brilliance. But health has been an issue for him and as he enters the twilight of his career that won’t change. Bruce Arians has recently acknowledged the Cardinals willingness to take Palmer’s successor by stating that the franchise didn’t want to be in the same position they were in when Kurt Warner retired. Though Palmer has had some success in Arizona, he’s no Kurt Warner. Paying over $24 million for an aging quarterback you have no guarantee will be able to physically stomach a full season of football is a huge risk that the Cardinals are stuck with for the next couple of years.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Adrian Clayborn: $5,406,250
Coming over from the division rival Bucs, Adrian Clayborn was brought in by the Falcons in the hopes that he’d add to their pass rush. In Tampa, Clayborn was brought in as a first round pick to do much of the same. But injuries greatly affected his role in the defense and left the team looking for help elsewhere. Health has also been an issue in Atlanta, but Clayborn takes more of a situational role with the Falcons. The Falcons however, are not as starved for pass rushers as they once were. Stomaching a $5 million price tag for a guy who might be a camp casualty is pretty harsh. Luckily for the Falcons their defense can do fine with or without Clayborn.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Mike Wallace: $8,000,000
Mile Wallace – with his third team in just as many years – hit the 1000 yard mark for the first time in five years in 2017. That might make his inclusion on this somewhat questionable, but look at what he’s done in the past. In Pittsburgh Wallace was one of the team’s greatest threats on offense. As he moved to Miami and subsequently to Minnesota – his one dimensional playing style became much more noticeable. Wallace was and will be a deep threat. That’s all there is to it. And yet he makes more than guys like Julian Edelman and Michael Crabtree. The Ravens need Wallace because they lack talent at the receiver position. But you could be sure that he wouldn’t make this kind of money on most teams.
29 Buffalo Bills: Charles Clay: $9,000,000
Fun fact for all of you; Charles Clay is actually one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL right now. It’s crazy, right? The former Miami Dolphin and current Bills plug-in is – at his best – and average starter that serves as a decent vertical threat down the middle. But while Clay has shown some flashes, it’d be absurd to consider him among the league’s best. He’s making more than Rob Gronkowski this year for crying out loud. This often happens when teams are in need of a position, or when a team gives out a bad contract. Regardless, Clay isn’t the kind of tight end that should be paid like a top five player. His stint in Buffalo might not be that successful, but he’ll probably make good money regardless.
28 Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart: $6,175,000
Jonathan Stewart has only once touched 1000 yards running in his entire career. That was his sophomore season in the league and he hasn’t done it in nearly ten years. The Panthers have recently addressed the running back position with the drafting of Christian McCaffrey in this year’s draft. McCaffrey is a do it all kind of player that can contribute as a runner, a receiver out in the slot and a returner on special teams. As Steward gets older, it seems as though the Panthers offense will be requiring him less, making his nearly $7 million price tag for this season a little excessive. But he can still contribute to an extent, which is always a good thing.
27 Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon: $14,000,000
Even before taking a snap for the Nears, Mike Glennon has become their most overpaid player for the 2017 season. It’s not Glennon’s fault though, it’s just a bad job of distributing money by management. Glennon is a back-up that could be a serviceable starter with some work. But you don’t simply hand a developmental player millions upon millions of dollars in the hope’s he works out in the end. That’s not good cap management. What’s worse is that the Berars traded up one spot – paying a considerable fare – to draft Mitch Trubisky second overall in this year’s draft. Now you have a qb of the future waiting to play while your overpaid back-up gets in some important training camp reps. Glennon can and probably will get benched for Trubisky in the future – making this signing even worse.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Adam Jones: $7,666,666
Throughout his entire NFL career, Adam Jones has had to deal with legal issues. He has no one but himself to blame of course, as his actions both on and off the field have led to some pretty harsh criticisms. Jones is a good corner when healthy and when he’s not screwing around. But he’s getting older and won’t be that poignant of a contributor for long. With him comes a history of off the field issues and problems with the NFL. Even a Richard Sherman level talent at the position would be hard to justify with all that baggage, so imagine Jones. While he’s mostly been clean throughout his Bengals career there have been disciplinary issues both on and off the field as per usual.
25 Cleveland Browns: Brock Osweiler: $16,000,000
After putting up some solid performances after taking over for Peyton manning a couple years ago, Brock Osweiler looked like the Broncos’ QB of the future. But then he defected to Houston and everything went to hell. Expected to be the Texans’ franchise passer, Osweiler looked abysmal in just about every game he started for the Texans. It got so bad that he was benched for Tom Savage. The Browns traded for him this offseason in what was essentially the Texans giving up a second round pick to get rid of his salary. He could be the starter going into 2017, but expect some of the young passer’s on the roster to supplant him.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Tyrone Crawford: $10,350,000
The Dallas pass rush was one of the worst in the NFL in 2016. Jerry Jones himself addressed the need to improve the defensive line this offseason, and while the Cowboys offense is gold – their defense could hold them back this year. As the league transitions to a largely passing one, pass rushers are at a premium. Just like the men they task themselves with taking down, defensive ends, tackles and outside linebackers will all be overpaid by needy teams. Tyrone Crawford isn’t the best at his position by a long shot, but a competent cog in Dallas’ defense, and thus is paid like a top tier talent. Hopefully, the Cowboys can alleviate some of the pressure they’re putting on him but they’ll have to pay him regardless.
23 Denver Broncos: Emmanuel Sanders: $9,537,500
Emmanuel Sanders is by no stretch of the imagination, a bad receiver in the NFL. But as we’ve seen with the departure of Peyton Manning, he’s not a top tier one either. Sanders lands somewhere in the upper middle crop of talent in the league. He’s a blazer who runs good routs but suffers from some frustrating drops from time to time. Along with Demaryius Thomas, Sanders forms one of the highest paid duos in the league. For a team that got so little consistency out of their pass catchers last season, dedicating so much money there seems like it’d be a big mistake. It’d be spent better on the offensive line, but let’s see where this goes.
22 Detroit Lions: Haloti Ngata: $ 7,703,125
If we’re talking about Baltimore Ravens Haloti Ngata then, yes he deserves this salary 100%. But we’re looking at an older Ngata, Detroit Lions model. And this version of Ngata shouldn’t be making nearly as much money. As he’s aged, Ngata has lost some of his edge. He no longer commands the defensive interior and moves and manipulates centers and guards like he used to. At this point, Ngata is just a big body in the middle without much poignancy. It isn’t hard to see that age has taken its toll on him as he moves closer to retirement. This kind of money should be spent on difference makers not competent talent. Guys like Ngata are important for making a defense tick, but at a reduced cost.
21 Green Bay Packers: Mike Daniels: $10,400,000
Here’s an interesting tidbit of information for you; Mike Daniels is going to be one of the highest paid players on the Green Bay Packers roster in 2017. Daniels isn’t exactly a household name in the NFL, certainly not when you have guys like Matthews, Rodgers and Cobb on the same roster. But he’s a key contributor to the team’s defense nonetheless. However, much like a lot of players on this list Daniels doesn’t really justify his price tag when looking at the numbers and the role he plays. $10 plus million is a lot of money for a guy who doesn’t even serve as the team’s primary pass rusher. Luckily for Daniels, pass rushers are in high demand in the NFL. Meaning he’ll be cashing in for a while.
20 Houston Texans: Johnathan Joseph: $6,906,250
Houston recently lost corner AJ Bouye to the always aggressive Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. That means that going into 2017, Johnathan Joseph is going to be the one of the Texans starting corners. That’s a considerable downgrade for the Texans, seeing as Joseph is and has been a mid tier corner in the last few years. The Houston defense is no doubt an elite one, but goes into the new season with a huge question mark in the defensive backfield. Joseph might be making starting corner money, but he isn’t much of a starter. In an ideal world for the Texans, Joseph would be the team’s nickel. Alas, he’ll be forced into the starting rotation leaving a nagging question mark on an otherwise talented defensive unit.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Hankins: $10,000,000
One of the Colts’ newest additions also happens to be the team’s most over paid player. Who knew? Hankins came over from the Giants after a longstanding stare down with all 32 teams in the league. While on the market, Hankins expected to be paid like one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league. However, the depth at DT in the draft, coupled with the small market and some concerns over his performance led to a month long free agent stint. Lucky for Hankins, the Colts swooped in and offered him a couple more million annually than what the Giants were offering him. Thoiugh he’s getting paid as one of the league’s best, Hankins will need to prove his worth – this time without one of the best defensive lines in the league around him.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Malik Jackson: $15,500,000
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a ton of capital to burn through these last couple offseason’s. Unsurprisingly, they’ve used it to build up their team and have invested a ton of money in big name free agents – mostly on the defensive side of the ball. One of their big hauls from last offseason was Malik Jackson. Jackson just so happens to be both the Jags’ highest paid player in 2017 as well as their most overpaid. He didn’t quite make the jump from good to great in 2016, and as it stands will be making more money than JJ Watt – a better and more efficient player playing the same position. Kackson could make the jump in 2017 but don’t count on anything special. He’s solid, but shouldn’t be making more than a hall of famer caliber star.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Fisher: $9,457,977
Being the number 1 overall pick comes with its share of perks, but also comes with a heavy amount of scrutiny and pressure some can never hope to accustom themselves to. The most common candidates for the first selection are usually quarterbacks, followed by defensive and offensive linemen. Eric Fisher was given the honor by the Kansas City Chiefs and while he has greatly improved since coming into the league, remains a bit of a project going into 2017. Fisher greatly improved between his second and third years in the NFL. But even at his best, Fisher was average. According to PFF, he finished the year as the 34th ranked OT in the NFL. While most teams would find that serviceable, he’s making way too much money to be outplayed by so many others.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Russell Okung: $6,000,000
One of the most important positions in today’s NFL is the offensive tackle. OT’s are tasked with keeping quarterbacks upright and staving off the monstrous defensive linemen that play after play, try and disrupt the passer. A veteran pass blocker, Russell Okung is the latest name the Chargers have brought in in hopes of keeping Philip Rivers safe this season. But to many the deal is slated to be a dud. Okung is making good money but is a better run blocker than he is anything else. With a quarterback close to retirement behind center, Okung will need to sharpen his pass blocking skills. Something that hasn’t been a strength for him since 2012.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Tavon Austin: $14,977,116
It seems insane, but Tavon Austin is really one of the Rams’ highest paid players this year. Austin is definitely a versatile athlete, and can be a weapon if used effectively. But he’s more of a gadget player than a true wide receiver. Yet he’s making top five receiver money which is absolutely insane. Austin has been a disappointment for the Rams, who thought they were getting a versatile playmaker when they drafted him. Instead he’s been more of an occasional contributor and though he’s seen his fair share of big plays, there are plenty of cheaper options out there. Not to say that Austin isn’t worth a solid contract, but his skill set and consistency don’t merit this kind of contract.
14 Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill: $20,300,000
Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, especially in today’s pass heavy offenses. Every team needs a good starting quarterback to make a championship run, and they go to great lengths to get a solid passer. What this often leads to is a team overpaying for a player. It happens more often than not, and has been the downfall of many GM’s and head coaches. Miami is no different, as they’re paying Ryan Tannehill as one of the league’s best. Tannehill – a former first round selection – isn’t a bad player, but isn’t a great one either. He’s a mid tier passer who – because of the investment that was drafting and developing him all these years – is being valued like a franchise qb.
13 Minnesotta Vikings: Sam Bradford: $18,000,000
Sam Bradford’s career has been a strange and wild ride. Kicking his NFL career off as the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Bradford seemed like the saviour for a desperate Rams franchise. Though he was successful in navigating the pressures of a full NFL season during his rookie year, Bradford quickly digressed as injuries took their toll on his playing. His time in St. Louis came to a disappointing end as he moved on to the Eagles. It was much of the same in Philly, but when Teddy Bridgewater went down, Minnesota went all in and gave up a first round pick for Bradford. As nice a guy as he seems to be, Bradford isn’t worth his $18 million price tag, let alone a first round selection. As things go forward, we’ll all see what the Vikings decide to do with him.
12 New England Patriots: Dwayne Allen: $4,937,500
It was hard to fill in this entry for the Pats. New England doesn’t typically overpay for talent and, boasts some of the best depth in the NFL. In fact, rather than overpaid players you can find a good deal of players on the roster that would make a solid case as being underpaid. But when looking at their 2017 cap numbers, Dwayne Allen is a name that stands out. Making close to $5 million in 2017, Allen will team up with Rob Gronkowski in two tight end sets. Allen is coming in as a replacement to Martellus Bennett. He was a decent starter in Indy, but will need to step his game up if he wants to be a difference maker in New England.
11 New Orleans Saints: Coby Fleener: $7,500,000
Moving on from Allen, let’s look at his former Colts teammate Coby Fleener. Last offseason, Fleener signed a huge deal with the New Orleans Saints in hopes of offering an aging Drew Brees another weapon in the passing game. Fleener only found the end zone three times and only managed to start half the games. Fleener’s problem has always been consistency. He has the talent to be one of the better tight ends in the league, but can’t sustain any success – even with a hall of fame quarterback like Brees it seems. He’s yet another mid tier tight end making more than some of the league’s best, and while we all know that teams will overpay for guys they like, Fleener’s contract might come back to haunt New Orleans.
10 New York Giants: JT Thomas: $4,000,000
The Giants defense was one of the best in the league last season. It was thanks, in large part to the massive defensive haul that brought in the like of Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. The Giants tried a similar defensive haul a couple years back that saw them bring in some other free agent defenders that are still with the team. Among them JT Thomas is the one that really stands out. Not because he’s done anything to help the team, no, Thomas stands out due to his utter transparency on the Giants roster. Many thought he’d be a cap casualty early in the offseason, but it seems as though the Giants would rather suck it up, pay the man and keep some depth at the position. Though, you have to imagine that there are others out there who might be able to contribute far more substantially than Thomas has been able to in his short Giants career.
9 New York Jets: Buster Skrine: $8,500,000
Going over to the Giants’ neighbours, the Jets have their own problems going on right now. The quarterback situation is a mess, the offense as a whole is pretty lethargic and the defense will be without star Darrelle Revis for the first time in a while. One man looking to fill that void is Buster Skrine. The former Brown will be tackling the responsibility of keeping the defensive backfield together in 2017, but might not be up to task. Skrine is better suited as a slot corner, though he has been able to go on the outside paying him nearly $10 million is a bit much for someone of his calibre. Whether or not the Jets’ secondary can contribute on defense in 2017 will rely heavily on how Skrine handles his role.
8 Oakland Raiders: Sean Smith: $9,500,000
Let’s take a look at another team overpaying one of their corners shall we? The Raiders have one of the better defensive units in the NFL. That’s very much due to how everyone on that defense fits into a role and executes it well. While that’s pretty much an ideal situation, it doesn’t prevent teams from occasionally overpaying for talent. Sean Smith is a hulking corner that does well defending both the run and pass, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to call him a premier defensive back in the NFL. The $9 ½ million price tag he sports would suggest he is one of the best at his position, but we all know that doesn’t quite check out.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Vinny Curry: $9,000,000
There’s a lot of pressure and expectations put on early round draft picks in the NFL. Second rounders, while not as much as those chosen in the first round, receive a fair amount of pressure to perform early on in their careers. Some can handle it while others can’t. Philadelphia’s Vinny Curry – while a solid player against the run – has to be one of the most erroneously overpaid players in the entire NFL. To start with, Curry isn’t really a starter for the Eagles – he’s more of a rotational player. He’s never started a game in his NFL career and has totaled a meager 19 sacks in his five years with the team. Yet they still pay him like one of the top talents in the league. And fans wonder why they’ve never won a Super Bowl.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Cameron Heyward: $10,400,000
The Steelers have been on the brink in recent years. They’re a good football team that’s just inches away from being great. They’re pretty much loaded on both sides of the ball and boast one of the most versatile offenses in the league. On the defense, they’re a solid unit that can intimidate foes with their intense, physical style of play. Among the more notable on the roster is defensive end Cameron Heyward. Heyward isn’t exactly the flashiest player at his position but still manages to get the job done. The one problem is that he’s making top ten money though he himself is an average talent. While veteran leadership is appreciated and highly valued around the league, paying too much for it could be detrimental to your team.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Pierre Garcon: $6,452,000
Pierre Garcon has been around the league in his time. The former Purple Raider has spent time with both the Colts and the Redskins. While he was an exciting talent early on in his career, Garcon has been unable to avoid the effects of father time. His explosiveness has dropped off a bit and as a result, and he’s become less effective as a weapon in the passing game. But he’s still a good contributor and a decent possession receiver. The 49ers are one of the few teams on this list who don’t really overpay their talent, so Garcon’s being here isn’t necessarily a knock on his playing ability – it’s just the contract that stands out the most.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Michael Bennett: $11,268,750
Much like his brother, Michael Bennett has a bit of a loud mouth. He’s one of the most entertaining players to watch off the field, and a solid member of Seattle’s defense on it. You wouldn’t necessarily call Bennett a top five defensive end. He fits much better in the top fifteen, but because he plays a premium position on one of the best defensive units in the league, he’s making a lot of good money. As it stands, he’s being paid like one of the league’s best and though he does manage to play at a high level at times, it doesn’t constitute such a considerable contract. Lucky for the Hawks, Bennett has a high motor and contributes most of the game, so you can’t say he doesn’t work for it.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeSean Jackson: $12,500,000
Oh c’mon. How does this make any sort of sense? The Buccaneers have been working on improving their offense for a while now. With the drafting of OJ Howard and the recent signing of DeSean Jackson, it looks as though they’ve finally managed to do so. But the price they’re paying for him is utterly ridiculous and should serve as an example of bad cap management for years to come. Jackson is a weapon on offense, but is getting there in years. He’s a solid slot guy who can do some damage as a deep threat, but then why is he making top five receiver money? It seems like a desperate play the Buccs are going to regret down the line.
2 Tennessee Titans: Rishard Matthews: $6,333,333
The Titans are one of the up and coming franchises in the NFL. They’re led by a young passer and a solid defensive unit, capable of picking up after their offense should they need to. One of the most crowded position groups on the team has to be the receiver group. With the addition of 2017 first round pick Corey Davis, the Titans have a strong group heading into 2017. But that makes guys like Rishard Matthews expendable. Once the team’s number one receiver, Matthew is presumable the team’s number two option going into camp. That makes his nearly $7 million dollar price tag a little on the expensive side for the team. Still a contributor, Matthews should have no problems helping out his offense.
1 Washington Redskins: Josh Norman: $20,000,000
The Redskins went all out in their acquisition of Josh Norman last year. Norman’s free agency journey was actually something of an unexpected occurrence. Playing with the Panthers under the franchise tag at the time, Norman was requesting one of the largest contracts for a defensive back in league history. Panthers management decided he wasn’t worth the resources and rescinded the tag effectively making him fair game. He came to Washington on a monster deal, but Norman hasn’t done much to warrant the money he’s earning. He’s had a couple solid years as a defensive back but was best when he had an elite pass rush backing him up. His first year in Washington was solid but had flaws at time which were consequential. That’s not what you’re paying that kind of money for.