This season's NFL free agency set records for spending and a new standard in the league when it comes to guaranteed money in player contracts. Kirk Cousins was a prime example of a team spending big with his huge contract this offseason when he signed a deal that broke the bank for three years and $84 million and all of that money is guaranteed. Some might say that was a good move for the Vikings to lock up a franchise quarterback for stability moving forward. However, that is a lot of money to spend on a quarterback that has never won a playoff game and is just one example of a free agent that got paid way too much money this off-season.
There are many reasons why a player can be considered overpaid, especially with all the spending that teams did already in 2018. Players make this list because they were paid dramatically more than what their production was worth in 2017. Or they had a great break out season and parlayed that into a huge contract, but they will probably end up being a one hit wonder. Teams that invest big money in players that appear on this list are taking big risks that could come back to bite them. The main factor that places each player here is because they signed a massive contract that makes them one of the highest paid players at their position this free agency period.
15 Case Keenum
Last off-season when Case Keenum signed with the Minnesota Vikings, no one made that big a deal of it. Maybe because he was signed on to become the backup, but he eventually took command of the starting job and took the Vikings all the way to NFC championship game. Even though he enjoyed so much success with them, they still decided not to bring him back. However he did well enough that the Denver Broncos, with all their own quarterback issues decided to sign him to a two year $36 million dollar contract.
A full $25 million of the contract will be guaranteed, which is a lot to invest in a quarterback that has been a journeyman his entire career.
The Broncos and John Elway are betting that Keenum can come in and replicate what he did for the Vikings last season. With a solid defense in Denver he has a chance to do just that, and he could bring stability at a position that has been in disarray since Peyton Manning left after their win in Super Bowl 50. But that is a lot to expect from an undrafted player who has already played for four teams in his career.
14 Nate Solder
Nate Solder has been a vital member of the modern version of the Patriots dynasty, protecting Tom Brady’s pocket since he was drafted in 2011. The two time Super Bowl champion cashed in this offseason because the Giants were so desperate to improve their offensive line that was one of the worst in the league last season. They wanted to make a splash so badly that they threw a ton of money Solder’s way, $62 million to be exact. Solder can make a positive impact on the Giants’ offensive line no doubt about that, but that contract makes him the highest paid tackle in the league.
However at age 30 he is probably going to start to decline fairly soon so that investment is very risky. Bill Belichick always seems to get rid of players a year before they start to deteriorate in front of the rest of the league. The Giants also had virtuallly no other options because their number one target signed with another team. Now they have to hope that move does not come back to haunt them 4 years from now when Solder will be in his 11th season in the trenches. That amount of constant beating takes a toll, so it smart for him to cash in on the largest contract of his career now.
13 Sammy Watkins
Watkins came into the NFL expecting to light the league on fire with his athletic ability and explosiveness with the ball in hands. However his career has not gone exactly as planned, mainly due to his inability to stay healthy. When he has been on the field he has not been the same type of playmaker that he was in college. Yet that has not stopped him from being one of the highest paid receivers while he has been in the league. The Chiefs have been looking for a big time outside receiver to legitimize their receiving core for quite sometime, and in their haste they overpaid for Watkins when he became available this offseason.
They ended up paying him $48 million for 3 years, with $30 million of that money being guaranteed.
Giving that much money to any player is risky and it is an even bigger one if that player has had injury issues in the past like Watkins has. Another one of the issues that he has had throughout his career is with his hands; he barely has over a 50 percent catch rate in his 4-year career. With all the weapons in Kansas City he could also get overshadowed by other pieces like Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt.
12 Marqise Lee
Coming out of USC, Marqise Lee was considered one of the big time playmakers in his draft class because he had such stellar numbers in college and dominated defenders. However he has not had the same success in the NFL even with some bright spots here and there. That is why it was surprising when the Jaguars decided to sign him to a long-term deal rather than locking up their other young receiver Allen Robinson who signed with the Bears instead. Robinson has proven more in his NFL career, but the Jags decided to bet on Lee who was a much cheaper option at 4 years $34 million.
A full $16 million of the contract is guaranteed and that is a ton of money to be giving to a player who has been both inconsistent and injury prone throughout his career. Now Lee will be looked to step up into a bigger role with a thin receiving core in Jacksonville. That could be a problem for the Jags to deal with and their offense could struggle due to the lack of weapons around him. Lee also has not has not been a number one option since college and only has 8 career touchdowns.
11 Jerick McKinnon
Jerick McKinnon has been a back up his entire career, but after this offseason he will be one of the highest paid players in the league at the running back position. The 49ers saw a lot of potential in McKinnon to be a versatile weapon for them in the passing game, but that does not warrant the four year contract worth $30 million. At 26, McKinnon is in the prime of his football career, but the contract that he signed is more reserved for work horse backs that will be on the field almost every down for their team.
With the Vikings, he was primarily used as a third down back behind Adrian Peterson for the beginning of his career and sat behind rookie sensation Dalvin Cook last year.
He did most of his damage when he was filling in for them while they were injured and he made enough of a name for himself during that time to get massively overpaid by one of the up and coming teams in football. The 49ers are now going to have to rely on McKinnon to be their go to guy in the backfield and that could come back to haunt them giving an inexperienced starter all that dough.
10 Paul Richardson
It has not been long that Paul Richardson has been an impact receiver in the NFL, but somehow he was paid like he has been a great receiver his entire career this offseason. In his four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks he has only caught 95 passes for 1,302 yards and 8 touchdowns. All but two of his touchdown catches came last season and that could mean that he was a one hit wonder in his 2017 campaign. That means it was a major risk when the Redskins decided to sign him for 5 years and $40 million.
They made him the third highest paid receiver in this year’s free agent class just behind guys like Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson. Even though he has produced some highlight one handed catches in his career, Richardson is simply not the same playmaker that those other two players are. After catching passes from Russell Wilson one of the best improvisers in the entire league he will now go to a new offense with a more conservative quarterback in Alex Smith. Playing in a short passing offense could end up hurting Richardson’s big play ability in the long run which is his best attribute.
9 Josh McCown
Josh McCown has never lead his team to the playoffs in all his chances at being a starter in the NFL, but that has not stopped him from earning tons of money throughout his 16 year NFL career. Multiple teams have given him handsome amounts of money throughout his career but it never paid off for any of them. This off-season McCown cashed in once again even though it is very apparent that he is at the very end of his career playing wise. For one season to be their bridge starter and mentor Sam Darnold, the Jets will be paying McCown $10 million.
Darnold could end up beating out McCown for the starting position in week one, so paying that much money to a back up is a huge waste for them. Last season proved that McCown will not be able to carry the Jets to the playoffs and it is still hard for him to stay on the field. That is why he was massively overpaid when they guaranteed him all $10 million of his contract for next season. Most backups take two or three years to make that much money, but the Jets decided to let McCown take a nice check with him before he likely decides to retire next offseason.
8 Malcolm Butler
The NFL world went into frenzy with questions when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick held out Malcolm Butler for the entire Super Bowl for undisclosed reasons. Butler was one of the Patriots best defenders and he must of done something to warrant a benching because Nick Foles shredded the Patriots secondary all game long and he probably could have prevented some of that. That benching made it certain that Butler was going to a new team this offseason, but no one expected his new team to break the bank for him. Butler has a reputation for being one of the best cover corners in the league based on his stellar performance in years prior, but last season was one of his worst seasons as a professional.
That is why it was a surprise when the Tennessee Titans decided to shell out a little bit more than $61 million to have Butler play corner for them for the next five seasons.
The move to sign him will look even worse if Butler has issues off of the field next season that causes him to miss games. Maybe the Patriots know something that the rest of the world does not and that is why they let Butler walk. Or they did not want to pay that much money to a corner that was once not even taken in the 2014 draft.
7 Trey Burton
When players come up big in the Super Bowl they almost always get overpaid the next time they hit free agency, just ask the last player on our list Malcolm Butler. Last season’s Super Bowl hero Trey Burton who threw a crucial touchdown pass to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles parlayed that performance on a big stage into a huge contract. He ended up signing a deal for four years that was worth $32 million, which is big for any tight end let alone an inexperienced one. Burton has been in the league four seasons already, but he has only started five games in that span.
He has also only caught 63 passes for 629 yards and 6 touchdowns. He caught 5 of those touchdowns last season, so the Bears are definitely betting he can keep that production up next season. His contract was probably more based on potential moving forward rather than his past production and that could be a huge risk for Chicago. It is crazy to think that Burton signed a deal that had double the guaranteed money than Jimmy Graham signed. Graham is proven all-pro that has been a big time player in the league for quite sometime, but Burton somehow was able to cash in on the Eagles miraculous postseason run.
6 Anthony Hitchens
Many people were surprised when the Chiefs made so many changes to their roster this offseason and one of their more shocking moves was signing former Cowboy linebacker Anthony Hitchens to a massive contract. His deal was reportedly worth $45 million for 5 seasons and that was the largest contract any free agent linebacker signed this offseason. $25 million of that contract is also guaranteed, and at 25 Hitchens still has not done anything in the league to solidify himself as a top tier linebacker. He is solid in run support that is important for any linebacker, but big money linebackers are usually guys that are elite pass rushers or are captains of the entire team.
Hitchens is not either one of those things, which is why it is peculiar that they inked him to such a large contract. The most solo tackles he has ever recorded in a single season was during his rookie year when he got 59 and got worse every season until last year when he got back to 55. He also only has 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and one interception in his career and that proves that he is not much of a play maker or turnover creator.
5 Sam Bradford
When are teams going to learn from the rest of the league’s mistakes and stop paying Sam Bradford so much money to end up being a bust for them. For someone who is injured almost every season, Bradford has been paid a tremendous amount of money throughout his NFL career. That trend continued this offseason when the Cardinals decided to pay him $20 million to play for them for just one season. Since being the number one pick in 2010 his career has been somewhat of a disappointment because he has never really been able to stay on the field for any of the teams that he has played for.
It is pretty crazy to give someone $20 million to do anything for one year, so it is asinine to think that the Cardinals thought Bradford would be worth that amount of money next season considering his injury history. Now after they also drafted Josh Rosen with the tenth pick in the draft, Bradford might not even step on the field for them. If he does end up on the bench in week one then that hefty sum of $20 million will be the easiest money that Bradford has made in his entire career, which is saying a ton.
4 Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins was the quarterback everyone was trying to sign this offseason and as a result that drove the price for him through the roof. All the quarterback needy teams went on an all out bidding war for a player that has arguably been average throughout his career. The Vikings ended up winning the Cousins sweepstakes, but it is still a major question mark if he is worth the big money that they gave him. They ended up locking him up for 3 years for a deal worth $84 million dollars. The crazy part about the contract is that he not only got a no trade clause, but he also got his entire contract guaranteed which was previously unprecedented in the NFL before he signed this deal.
Since he inked this deal Matt Ryan has already renegotiated his contract to get more guaranteed money as well.
However Cousins probably is not worth all the money they threw at him and could end up falling off in a new system. There will be a ton of pressure put on him from the start to recreate the magic that the Vikings had last season. If they do not go on a deep playoff run in his first season at the helm they the Vikings might already regret putting all their chips in on Cousins.
3 Ryan Grant
It is no surprise that the Baltimore Ravens made another questionable decision in regards to their receiving core. They have had some of the worst receivers in the league the past few seasons because of poor personnel decisions and they made another one by signing Ryan Grant. Grant has never been considered a number one, two, or even a third receiver during his time with the Redskins. That is why it was baffling when the Ravens decided to give him starting receiver money to play for them next season. This off-season they decided to give him the best contract of his career with a four-year deal worth up to $29 million.
He also got half of that money guaranteed, which is a huge risk to take on a player that still has a ton to prove. So far in his career, Grant has only caught 84 passes for 985 yards and six touchdowns in four years as a Redskin. Washington was in desperate need for receivers while Grant was on the roster, so if he was good enough to start he would have because there was plenty of opportunity. Now in Baltimore is going to rely heavily on his play making ability and they could be in big trouble because of it. Now the Ravens passing attack could struggle for yet another season because of this over payment.
2 Star Lotulelei
Star Lotulelei has been a solid player when he has been healthy so far in his career. But he has never had more than four sacks in a season and he has not had 30 tackles in a season since his rookie year. That is why the Bills massively overpaid when they signed him to a deal for five years worth total $50 million. He only got $18 million of that contract guaranteed, but that is still a ton of money for a defensive tackle that hardly makes much of an impact on the game overall.
They have a potential out in year three and they will probably end up using it because Lotulelei is a descending player. When he entered the league he was considered one of the best prospects in his entire draft class and was even considered for the top pick at one point in the process. He was eventually drafted 14th overall, but he was still a first round draft pick. That reputation is probably why he is still landing contracts that earn him an average of $10 million a year. Lotuleilei could revive his career in Buffalo and replace the whole Marcel Dareus left in the middle, but it is more likely that he cashes in and goes downhill.
1 Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson has been a solid corner during his time with the Rams playing with them since he was drafted in 2012. He played well enough for them that they decided he was valuable enough to place the franchise tag to keep him two seasons in a row. This offseason they decided to go another direction and the Jets were the ones that were able to ink Johnson to a long term deal. However they massively overpaid when they gave him a five-year $72.5 million contract with $34 million of that money guaranteed. This deal makes Johnson the highest paid corner in the league and he is definitely not the best corner on the field.
The Jets need help in any and every position, so it could be a poor decision to use that much of their cap space on a cornerback that is not an elite player. If they are hoping that Johnson will be the second coming of Darrelle Revis for them then they will be gravely disappointed. Johnson does have incredible interception numbers for only being in the league a brief amount of time with 18 in six seasons. But 7 of those picks came in 2015 and since then he has only 3 to his name.