The size of a regular roster in the National Football League is 53 players. This doesn’t include the players on injury reserve and the practice squad. But on any given Sunday, Monday and some Thursdays, there are 1,696 active players in the league through all 32 teams. That sounds like a lot of players, but it’s just a fraction compared to the 10,880 players in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
The NFL teams have tough decision every off-season with rookies available every NFL Draft between FBS and the lower-sized programs in the Football Championship Subdivision. There are also the players already in the league who feel they have established themselves a well-paying contract in the league with guaranteed money and roster bonuses.
It’s hard to find the right talent for the right team, especially when each team can only spend up to $155.27 million for the 2016 season. In an effort to make sure a team can get the best talent available, there’s always the risk of overpaying players who don’t end up meeting expectations. Every year, there are players who don’t perform for a variety of reasons.
There are young players who have imperfections that were masked in a previous team’s offensive or defensive system. There are veterans who got a big contract just near the downside of their potential. It’s an unavoidable hazard for every NFL team; even the top rated teams like Dallas, Seattle and New England. This list looks at the most overpaid and overrated players on all 32 NFL rosters as we get closer to closing out the NFL regular season.
32 32. Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer, QB
Going into the 2016 NFL season, fans of the Arizona Cardinals had high expectations that included an appearance in the Super Bowl. But the team has struggled a lot this year and are on the outside looking in. Carson Palmer deserved a good portion of the criticism. After some success in 2015 with 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns, he’s taken a step back with a dip in all of the major passing categories.
The frustrating thing is that Palmer has shown big numbers in terms of career yards and touchdowns. But he’s never been a dependable quarterback when it comes to the playoffs. Yet he is worth about $18 million this season and will be worth more than $24 million next season. At age 37, the Cardinals need to consider looking at a younger option at quarterback.
31 31. Atlanta Falcons – Mohamed Sanu, WR
Mohamed Sanu spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a good secondary option behind lead target A.J. Green for Andy Dalton. But Sanu never had a lot of targets in an offense that also included tight end Tyler Eifert. Still, the five-year contract worth $35 million to join Atlanta was deemed a bit high by many.
30 30. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco, QB
Joe Flacco had a great season coming out of nowhere in the 2012 season to lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers; he had a great season with 3,817 yards and 22 touchdowns. Overall, Flacco has had some success in the postseason, which is why the Ravens signed him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract after winning Super Bowl XLVII. However, his recent play has not lived up to those expectations.
29 29. Buffalo Bills – Tyrod Taylor, QB
During the last offseason, Tyrod Taylor was signed to a new contract where he was going to make $9.5 million in 2016. It came with an option that could make his overall deal about six years for $90 million. This was after showing some potential with more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in the 2015 season. But through this season, Taylor hasn’t shown the improvement the team expected.
28 28. Carolina Panthers – Shaq Thompson, LB
While playing college football at the University of Washington, Shaq Thompson proved himself to be worthy of a first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. In addition to having 80 tackles and an interception in 2014, he also rushed for more than 450 yards and two touchdowns for the Huskies. Thompson was kept on the defensive side of the ball when he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers.
27 27. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler, QB
Chicago Bears fans have grown more tired and frustrated with quarterback Jay Cutler over the years. Despite hosting the NFC Championship after a successful 2010 season, Cutler sat out with an injury that many fans felt was minor. When he returned Cutler continued to throw a lot of interceptions that left many fans scratching their heads.
26 26. Cincinnati Bengals – Vontaze Burfict, LB
There are a few players in the NFL who have developed a reputation for playing dirty. Vontaze Burfict is one of those names with big hits that have drawn flags and fines. The one thing that is true about Burfict is that he’s nearly perfect in defending the run. His big hit capabilities give the Bengals that strength, but with that blessing comes a curse. Burfict has missed plenty of games over the past two seasons due to suspensions related to what some would call “dirty” hits.
25 25. Cleveland Browns – Joe Haden, CB
In the first few seasons after being drafted seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, Joe Haden was showing signs of being one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His rookie season in 2010 saw six interceptions, followed by 19 pass deflections in 2011. The numbers were still impressive, which led to being signed to a five-year, $67.5 million contract starting in 2014. His numbers have fallen since then.
24 24. Dallas Cowboys – Brandon Carr, CB
There have not been a lot of blemishes on the 2016 Dallas Cowboys roster. In fact, there have been plenty of unexpected surprises with rookies stepping up. The one big concern with the Cowboys roster is that most of their money is going to players who are barely contributing. Brandon Carr is the third highest player for Dallas after signing a five-year, $50.1 million deal in 2012.
23 23. Denver Broncos – Russell Okung, OT
Russell Okung’s first six seasons in the NFL were with the Seattle Seahawks. With a supporting cast around him changing often the last few seasons, Okung wanted a maximum contract. He had to leave Seattle to get it. The Denver Broncos were the ones to bring him in with a five-year, $53 million deal. The final years will provide the biggest cap hits exceeding $12 million a season through 2020.
22 22. Detroit Lions – DeAndre Levy, LB
DeAndre Levy has been with the Detroit Lions since 2009 and was a dependable linebacker for the Lions’ defense. During the first six seasons of his career, his numbers were improving steadily in both tackles and sacks. The 2013 season saw a career-high mark of six interceptions. In 2014, Levy had 121 total tackles in a contract season. This led to him being signed to a four-year, $33.76 million deal in 2015.
21 21. Green Bay Packers – Randall Cobb, WR
The Green Bay Packers were expected to have a lot of firepower on their offense going into the 2016 season. With veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a number of wide receivers were expected to be top fantasy football targets. Randall Cobb is one of them with some good numbers in his previous seasons. Back in 2014, he had 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. But his numbers fell in 2015 to 829 yards and six touchdowns.
20 20. Houston Texans – Brian Cushing, LB
In 2013, the Houston Texans decided to sign linebacker Brian Cushing to a six-year contract extension worth more than $55 million. His first three seasons showed how important he was to the defense with 220 tackles, nine-and-a-half sacks and six interceptions. But Houston struggled after Cushing was lost five weeks into the 2012 season with an ACL tear. The team felt they needed to keep him long-term.
19 19. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castonzo, OT
When an NFL team signs their quarterback like Andrew Luck to a large contract, that team would likely want to surround him with a good offensive line. The Indianapolis Colts did not seem to do that before the 2016 season. The Colts have been neck and neck with the Cleveland Browns for allowing the most quarterback sacks. While the offensive line does not feature a lot of big names, Anthony Castonzo has not lived up to his contract.
18 18. Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Thomas, TE
Julius Thomas earned quite a big payday when he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars just before the 2015 season. Thomas became the highest paid tight end in the NFL with a five-year, $46 million contract. This was due to a couple of good seasons with the Denver Broncos with 24 touchdown receptions between 2013 and 2014. But he left Denver for the money that called from Jacksonville.
17 17. Kansas City Chiefs – Jeremy Maclin, WR
There are a number of wide receivers who are able to make an immediate impact during their initial contract with a NFL team. Jeremy Maclin certainly had some big numbers during the first six season with the Philadelphia Eagles. His biggest season was in 2014 with 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in 85 receptions. Those numbers earned him a five-year, $55 million contract as a free agent signing for Kansas City.
16 16. Los Angeles Rams – Greg Robinson, OT
There’s a certain amount of expectations when a player comes from a high-profile college football program like Auburn University. Greg Robinson was the second overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Rams before moving out of St. Louis. However, the Rams have not been able to do well as an offense. Their Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley has seen his numbers drop to about three yards per carry.
15 15. Miami Dolphins – Byron Maxwell, CB
Cornerback Byron Maxwell didn’t get a lot of high praise going into the 2011 NFL Draft, but he was eventually selected in the sixth round by Seattle. After a few seasons, Maxwell would become a part of a dominant secondary that would go to consecutive Super Bowl games in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. During that time, Maxwell had six interceptions.
14 14. Minnesota Vikings – Sam Bradford, QB
Sam Bradford is not really a "Plan A" quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. But their original starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating knee injury during training camp. They needed someone to step in, which is why they made a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to bring Bradford to Minnesota. No one expects Bradford to be with the Vikings long, but he still hasn’t played at the level expected of his salary.
13 13. New England Patriots – Chris Hogan, WR
Not all of the overrated players on NFL rosters are the type of players who make more than $10 million a season. In the case of Chris Hogan, he’s made the list because he is the highest paid wide receiver on the Patriots roster. Before this season, Hogan was signed to a three-year, $12 million contract. His base salary for this season is $1 million with a $4.5 million roster bonus.
12 12. New Orleans Saints – Jarius Byrd, S
There are two players on the New Orleans Saints roster who are making more than $10 million a season. Quarterback Drew Brees is a big part of the team’s salary cap, but it’s Jarius Byrd who might be the most overpaid player on the roster. Byrd is in the third year of a six-year contract worth a total of $54 million. With bonuses, Byrd will make more in 2017 and 2018. But the rookie season in 2009 where he had nine interceptions with the Buffalo Bills are well behind him.
11 11. New York Giants – Janoris Jenkins, CB
Janoris Jenkins certainly earned himself a big contract after four successful seasons with the St. Louis Rams. After coming into the league as a second round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins was an all-around quality player in the secondary. Before this season, he had 229 tackles and 10 interceptions. Add to the fact that he actually scored a total of six defensive return touchdowns for the Rams.
10 10. New York Jets – Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
There are a number of players who are able to capitalize on one very good season, but doesn’t have the career numbers to support a huge payday. In his 11th season in the NFL, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a very good season leading the New York Jets to a 10-6 record; 3,905 yards, 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. It was a big breakout bouncing between starter and backup for his career with six different teams.
9 9. Oakland Raiders – Bruce Irvin, LB
There are a few players who were able to succeed in the Seattle Seahawks defensive system and then struggle with other teams (refer back to Byron Maxwell with the Miami Dolphins). Bruce Irvin was essentially drafted 15th overall in 2012 by Seattle for his blitzing abilities. He had eight sacks in his rookie season, but those numbers dropped a little for a total of 22 in four seasons with the Seahawks.
8 8. Philadelphia Eagles – Vinny Curry, DE
While Vinny Curry is only making about $3 million for the 2016 season, the rest of his five-year, $47.25 million contract he signed is still going to pay him an average salary just under $9.5 million a season. It wasn’t long ago when Curry had a nine-sack season during the 2014 season. However, his numbers dropped sharply in 2015 with only three-and-a-half sacks. And with the say 2016 is going so far, he’s not likely to reach the nine-sack mark this year.
7 7. Pittsburgh Steelers – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR
There was once a time when Darrius Heyward-Bey was viewed as one of the best wide receiver prospects entering the NFL. He was the seventh overall selection by the Oakland Raiders in the 2009 NFL Draft. His best season came in 2011 with 975 yard and four touchdowns. But his numbers would continue to fall as he would bounce from Oakland to Indianapolis and now in Pittsburgh.
6 6. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget, DT
Just before the 2015 NFL season, the San Diego Chargers offered defensive tackle Corey Liuget a five-year contract worth more than $51 million. This came after having his best season in 2014 where he started all 16 games and collected 45 total tackles and four-and-a-half sacks. He also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. After getting his new contract, Liuget’s 2015 season was cut short after being placed on injury reserve. Still, his production fell a bit with about 28 tackles and three sacks in 11 appearances.
5 5. San Francisco 49ers – Colin Kaepernick, QB
When the San Francisco 49ers offered quarterback Colin Kaepernick a six-year contract for $114 million, no one expected the chain of events that would follow. The 49ers would finish 8-8 with Kaepernick’s passing numbers taking a slight drop from 21 touchdowns in 2014 to 19 in 2013. Things got worse in 2015 when he went 2-6 as a starter with just six touchdowns against five interceptions.
4 4. Seattle Seahawks – Kam Chancellor, S
Since coming to the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, Kam Chancellor has developed a reputation of being one of the most physical safeties in the league. His big hits on receivers, tight ends and everyone else on offense have drawn eyes throughout the league. However, his coverage abilities may have diminished a bit over the past few seasons. After signing a four-year, $28 million contract in 2013, he tied a career high with 12 passes defended.
3 3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – J.R. Sweezy, OG
The Seattle Seahawks should be given some credit for developing offensive linemen who are able to get big contracts with other teams. With Russell Okung deciding to leave for a big contract with the Denver Broncos, offensive guard J.R. Sweezy was able to do the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs signed Sweezy to a five-year, $32.5 million contract through the 2020 season.
2 2. Tennessee Titans – Brian Orakpo, LB
Sometimes, the market can allow for a player who might not be one of the best to be compensated like one. Brian Orakpo was a veteran linebacker who spent six seasons with the Washington Redskins. During that time, he had 40 quarterback sacks, but only 171 tackles, which seems like a low number for that period of time. But he was able to get a four-year, $31 million contract with the Tennessee Titans.
1 1. Washington Redskins – DeSean Jackson, WR
This one could actually be a coin flip between the two highest paid wide receivers on the Washington Redskins roster. While Pierre Garcon is being paid about $8.5 million for the final year of his current contract, he still has about 714 receiving yards (second on the team). But DeSean Jackson is making a little more than Garcon, but putting up more disappointing numbers in 2016.
Jackson is catching just a little more than 50 percent of his targets this year in Washington. But that’s been his problem for most of his career in the NFL. Even when he had 1,000-yard seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008, he’s often had a lot of opportunities that went through his hands. There’s a good chance Washington will let Jackson leave and keep others on the roster like Jamison Crowder.
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