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.
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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 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.
While Sanu had nearly 800 yards and five touchdowns in 2014, he was limited to less than 400 and no receiving TDs last season. Most of Sanu’s games this season saw him have only have a few receptions for less than 40 yards. While he’s obviously a second-option to the impressive Julio Jones, Sanu has not performed like a receiver who is averaging $7 million a season.
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.
In 2014, he did have a better season with nearly 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. Before suffering from a torn ACL and MCL, his 2015 season was very mediocre with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; the Ravens were 3-7 during the games he did start. The 2016 season has looked the same where his only three-touchdown game was against the abysmal Cleveland defense, who also intercepted Flacco twice.
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.
In fact, 2016 has seen a bit of a decline with a number of games where he’s thrown for less than 200 yards. Some fans might feel injuries to Sammy Watkins and other receivers hasn’t helped, but Taylor’s up and down performances still makes him seem more average at the position. The Buffalo Bills are likely going to hover around the .500 mark unless Taylor becomes more of a franchise quarterback, or they find one.
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.
Unfortunately, Thompson hasn’t quite been able to keep up with the speed of the NFL action. His rookie season saw him collect 30 total tackles and one sack in 14 games so far. The one thing he’s done that is noteworthy this year was a fumble return for a touchdown. Other than that, Thompson has been almost invisible in the Panthers defense that has struggled a lot since the departure of cornerback Josh Norman.
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.
After an improved season in 2015 with only 11 interceptions, Cutler has reverted to his bad habits of throwing into coverage. He’s also had some talented receivers in the Chicago offense that include Alshon Jeffery. His season ended in November after suffering a torn labrum, and Cutler will likely be dropped by Chicago. His contract no longer has guaranteed money and $17 million a season seems too high for him.
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.
The fact that he has missed a number of games means that a good portion of his big contract signed in 2014 is going to the league in fines and missed game checks. The Bengals are paying him $19 million over four years, so they have a reason to be unhappy with his lack of dependability.
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.
In 2014, he had just three interceptions in 15 games. An ankle injury limited him to no picks in 2015. This year has been tough for Haden. He’s defended less passes than one would expect from a cornerback being paid a total of about $16 million. If this is a sign that his skills are diminishing, the Browns are stuck financially until his contract is up in 2020.
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.
Carr had some success with eight interceptions and six fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Kansas City. After six interceptions between 2012 and 2013, Carr went without an interception in 2014 and 2015. He finally broke the streak this season in the season opening loss to the New York Giants. The good news is that his contract only has a few seasons left before the Cowboys can cut him loose without hurting their salary cap.
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.
Okung is good at best. Considering the big contract that he was signed during the last offseason, he should be doing a great job at left tackle. However, Pro Football Focus rates Okung just barely within the top 50 tackles in the entire league. While he’s maintained a great level of run blocking, his pass blocking has become his weakness. This hasn’t helped the Denver offense find a good, consistent rhythm this season.
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.
However, he hasn’t been able to play up to that kind of paycheck. In fact, he’s barely been able to play at all. Injuries kept him to playing in only one game last season. He’s spent most of the 2016 season with a combination of quadriceps and knee injuries. Luckily, the Lions have been able to move on with a chance at winning the NFC North.
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.
Cobb’s numbers so far this season have not been close to the 2014 season. Other wide receivers have been more dependable targets, including Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. However, Cobb is the highest paid wide receiver on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. Being the highest paid in a position group creates expectations that Cobb hasn’t met this season.
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.
His numbers since then have not been up to par. Part of that has to do with a number of injuries that he’s suffered over the last four seasons. Between 30 games played in 2014 and 2015, he had just 104 tackles and one sack. Cushing has also struggled this season. While part of it is due two broken bones in his back, his performance has still been underwhelming considering the big extension.
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.
After four seasons with the Colts as a dependable starter, Castonzo was signed to a four-year, $43.8 million contract with $35 million guaranteed. While he can’t be blamed for all of the Colts’ offensive line problems, it’s hard to defend his current salary with all of the struggles the Colts have had protecting Luck, who just signed a $122.9 million deal last offseason.
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.
His first year with Jacksonville was sort of depressing with just 455 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. Thomas had a worst season this year with 281 yards and four touchdowns in just nine games. Thomas was recently placed on the injured reserved due to a back injury; essentially ending his 2016 season.
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.
While he did have a respectable season last year with 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns, his numbers dipped significantly in 2016. He’s struggled to have any games where he caught more than six receptions for 68 yards back in the second week of the season. This season has also included a nagging groin injury. But he’s fallen down the receiver chart with tight end Travis Kelce and the rookie Tyreek Hill stepping up as leading targets.
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.
Pro Football Focus considers Robinson as one of the worst offensive tackles in the league. In addition to struggling with pass blocking, Robinson is also one of the most penalized linemen in the NFL. Most of his penalties are due to holding. While he’s still young and many think he could be as good as legend Willie Roaf, many question when that could happen.
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.
But since signing a six-year, $63-million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, Maxwell has not had the same success. In fact, he’s given up a number of big plays that have made him look exposed in a system he’s not used to. That’s why the Eagles decided to trade Maxwell to Miami, where he hasn’t been able to put up bigger numbers. Maxwell is someone who hasn’t been able to show he can be a true starting cornerback in the NFL.
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.
His current contract pays him $7 million this year and $13 million next season. However, Bradford has developed a history of injuries where he’s only had two full seasons as a starter. As a former number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, he’s considered a bit of a disappointment. The frustrating part is that he’s had good seasons like in 2012 (3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions).
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.
Yet he sits behind receiver Julian Edelman and tight ends Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski in yards. His previous four seasons in Buffalo don’t really warrant “top receiver money” for any NFL roster. Between 2012 and 2015, he had 87 receptions for 959 yards and six touchdowns. Hogan plays like a secondary option whose funds are better suited to compensate Edelman.
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.
Byrd was certainly the word with 22 interceptions in his five seasons with the Buffalo Bills; two of which returned for touchdowns. But his first two seasons with the Saints have yielded only one interception, with 2016 looking more of the same. What’s worse for the Saints is that releasing him during his contract before next season would count as an $11.7 million cap hit. They are pretty much stuck with him for a while.
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.
Those numbers earned him a five-year, $62.5 million offer from the New York Giants. His tackling numbers are certainly staying up to par with his years in St. Louis. But he’s not getting the same pass defense numbers that gave me all of the scoring opportunities he had before coming to New York. Fans are hoping he gets out of his slump since the cap hit if released early can reach up to $15 million.
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.
Last year’s numbers earned him a one-year contract for $12 million for this season. But his touchdown-to-interception ratio declined greatly this year. Part of that goes back to the 24-3 loss at Kansas City in September when he threw six interceptions. The Jets will likely not re-sign him for 2017 after the team decided to bench him for Bryce Petty.
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.
But as a free agent, Irvin was able to secure a four-year, $37 million contract from the Oakland Raiders. On paper, it looked like a very good decision for the Raiders. He has a few sacks this season, but he’s still not playing at the same level that many thought he was in Seattle. It is a little early, but the contract with $19 million guaranteed leads to being labeled as overrated.
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.
His current contract seems extremely high for someone who has never even been listed as a starter. The Eagles must have thought they had something special in Curry. But his overall career statistics aren’t really deserving of such a lucrative contract. It’s a contract the Eagles are essentially stuck with until the 2021 season.
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.
Heyward-Bey only caught three passes for 33 yards in his first year in Pittsburgh in 2014. He would improve to 21 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns, but he’s reverted back to catching about one-third of his targets in 2016. It’s disappointing considering the Steelers signed him to a three-year, $3.8 million deal before this season. Pittsburgh is getting more production out of receivers making about half of Heyward-Bey, including Sammie Coates.
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.
In the same number of games in 2016, he’s actually collected less tackles and no sacks during the first 12 games of the season. While it might still be a little early, Liuget’s decrease in production should be alarming. His contract features about $30 million guaranteed and the Chargers are on the hook until the 2021 offseason.
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.
Entering the 2016 season, head coach Chip Kelly actually benched him in favor of starting Blaine Gabbert. The 49ers decided to put the quarterback who was making almost $20 million this season on the bench. He would return to the role in October, but would lose his first seven starts of the season with a completion rate under 55 percent. Kaepernick’s future with San Francisco looks grim going into the 2017 offseason.
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.
But Chancellor struggled in 2014 as that number fell to about seven and then down to four in 2015; although he did sit out the first two weeks due to a contract holdout. But Chancellor has not been able to prevent big passing plays this season, which shows that he’s starting to have troubles being a shutdown safety in a defense that is already dealing with key injuries like Earl Thomas.
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.
However, Sweezy has yet to play a down for the Buccaneers. He has spent pretty much the entire season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. This is a frustrating situation for the team who signed him after he had passed a physical. But Sweezy had a back procedure during the offseason that has kept him from practice. He is currently the most overpaid player on Tampa Bay's roster.
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.
In his first year with the Titans last season, he only had 38 total tackles, along with seven sacks. He’s surpassed the sack total this season, but it looks as if his tackling numbers are taking a bit of a decline. The old defense regarding his performance was that his low career numbers were due to injuries. But he’s been healthy and hasn’t missed a start in Tennessee.
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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