Most NFL contracts are pretty absurd. The fact of the matter is that professional football players are generally paid a ridiculous amount of money. Even those who never see the field and make the league minimum are doing very well for themselves. The reason that most NFL contracts are so absurd is that the NFL is generally a buyer’s market when it comes to free agency. That means that guys that might not actually be worth all the money in the world are going to be offered all the money in the world because teams know that someone will overpay that player if they don’t. What this leads to is mid-to-low tier NFL players making more money than their stats seem to justify.
This practice is so common that you can find just about one player on every team that is being overpaid based on their production. More often than not, it’s not the team’s fault that they’re overpaying these players. Maybe they could have passed on them and moved on to the next guy, but the tendency is to write that big paycheck and then worry about what happens next after that. It’s standard operating procedure for NFL franchises, but there are times when the standard becomes extraordinary. There are some players in the NFL who aren’t just overpaid by league standards, but they’re overpaid simply because their contracts and their actual production just don’t make that sense. These are the most unproductive players on every NFL roster (according to their contract)
32 Arizona Cardinals - Sam Bradford
Bradford's contract is a bit of an odd one, but he could end up getting paid $20 million for the next NFL season if he manages to play in all 16 games.
The fact the Cardinals even had to offer that incentive should tell you all you need to know about this deal.
Bradford has been an injury magnet since he started his NFL career, and his production while healthy has been questionable at best. Arizona must have been pretty desperate for a QB to offer Bradford such a shockingly large contract.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Matt Schaub
We’re never going to fault an NFL team for pursuing a backup QB that has starting experience, but the fact remains that it’s possible to overpay for your insurance policy. Matt Schaub’s two-year, $9 million contract just doesn’t make sense. We get that he had a few brilliant seasons with the Texans, but he has also been inconsistent, unhealthy, and hasn’t started a whole season since 2012. We just wonder if Schaub is going to be able to perform that much better than a budget backup option.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco
We’re not going to sit here and fuel the Joe Flacco hate train, but if we’re comparing contracts to production, then it’s hard not to toss Flacco’s name into this ring.
The fact remains that the six-year, $120 million contract Flacco signed in 2013 was absurd.
For all intents and purposes, it was a bonus for his, admittedly brilliant, 2012 playoff run that ended in a Super Bowl victory. We get that you’ve got to pay a Super Bowl winner, but Flacco has not lived up to his contract since he signed it.
29 Buffalo Bills - Star Lotulelei
This one puzzles us a bit. If you look at Star Lotulelei’s career stats, you’ll find that he’s been a pretty good defensive tackle. However, most of his numbers have declined over the years. Even when his numbers were great...well, they weren’t that great. So shy did the Buffalo Bills sign him to a five-year deal worth $50 million? Well, it’s not exactly a buyer’s market out there for defensive tackles that are available and at least somewhat under budget. As such, they probably gave Lotulelei a little too much money so someone else couldn’t.
28 Carolina Panthers - Matt Kalil
Look, if you hire an offensive lineman who turns out not to be a total liability, you tend to keep him around. That’s especially true if he’s a left tackle. Still, there’s a point when you have to wonder if you’ve gone too far to retain an offensive lineman or acquire one. We think the Panthers may have overreached when they signed Matt Kalil to a five-year $55 million contract. Kalil has only been to one Pro Bowl, and that’s because a starter got injured. He’s good, but he’s not that good.
27 Chicago Bears - Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson has a 1,400 yard, 14 TD season to his name. That’s simply impressive. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he achieved those numbers as a member of a pretty stagnant Jaguars offense.
Outside of that season, though, Robinson has never reached 900 yards in an NFL season.
So when the Chicago Bears signed Robinson to a three-year $42 million contract, they banked on the possibility that they were signing the 1,400 yard Robinson. That’s a lot of money to spend on a possibility.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict is a good linebacker. He is occasionally even a great linebacker. He’s the kind of guy that a lot of defenses would love to have. However, he’s not necessarily “that guy.” He’s not the guy who is going to carry a defense like some other star defensive players will. He’s also a guy who has had to pay quite a bit in fines over the years and has been suspended. Put it all together, and you’ve got to wonder whether the Bengals regret signing him to a three-year, almost $40 million contract in 2017.
25 Cleveland Browns - Jarvis Landry
We’re a little on the fence about this one. On the one hand, Jarvis Landry has been a very good wide receiver. Even though he’s not really been a touchdown machine, he has gone over 1,100 yards twice in his career.
He’s a good receiver, but the Browns paid him like he’s a great one.
The five-year, $75.5 million contract that Landry signed makes him the sixth highest paid WR in NFL history.
Landry certainly isn’t the sixth best receiver of all-time (he’s probably not even in the top 50) so we’ve really got to wonder about that decision.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin never justified the first round pick that the Rams spent on him. He showcased flashes of brilliance as a triple threat (receiving, rushing, and special teams returns), but was never really “great” in any of those areas. We’re not entirely sure why the Cowboys were so eager to sign him, and we really don’t understand why the Cowboys were willing to pay $3 million for a year of Austin’s services. We’d be shocked if they decide to sign him after the season is done.
23 Denver Broncos - Case Keenum
Desperation is never a good thing. People can smell it on you even when you think that you’re clean. When the Denver Broncos signed Case Keenum, that wasn’t desperate. When the Denver Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million contract, that was desperate. Keenum has never played 16 games in an NFL season. The season in which he started 14 games saw him do fairly well (and win a playoff game) but he wasn’t brilliant. The Broncos are desperate for a QB, but Keenum isn’t that QB.
22 Detroit Lions: Nevin Lawson
It’s hard not to be shocked when you hear how much certain players make. We’re not just talking about the guys who sign record contracts. We’re also talking about the guys who are just “ok” and end up getting paid quite a bit of money. For instance, we’re not entirely sure why the Lions signed Lawson to a two-year, $9.2 million contract in 2018. Is it really that hard to find cornerbacks in the NFL? If this contract is any indication, it certainly seems to be.
21 Green Bay Packers - Randall Cobb
As any fantasy football player will tell you, it’s a dangerous game to play Packers WR roulette. Because Aaron Rodgers rarely has a “favorite” target (outside of Jordy Nelson for a few years), a single receiver rarely gets all the attention. So yes, Cobb did have a 1,281 yard and 12 TD season in 2014.
He’s also had a lot of “ok” and “awful” seasons.
Oddly, they decided to pay Cobb $40 million for four years in 2015. You have to believe they wish they had some of that cash back.
20 Houston Texans - Lamar Miller
A great running back is incredibly valuable. However, a great running back is generally defined as a guy who can consistently reach 1,000 yards and occasionally go over 1,200 or so. Lamar Miller has gone over 1,000 yards twice in his career, but he’s not yet proven he’s able to do that consistently or hit that “next level.” That being the case, the four-year, $26 million deal the Texans signed Miller to in 2016 was probably a bit excessive. Miller is good, but the Texans overpaid for good.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Eric Ebron
Look, not everyone is going to have a star tight end on the roster. At least not a star receiving tight end. That’s fine. A team doesn’t need a star receiving tight end to win the Super Bowl. What they need to do is not overpay on a guy who they wish was a star receiving tight end. So when the Colts decided to sign Ebron to a two-year deal for $15 million, they basically admitted that they’re reaching for a receiver disguised as a tight end and are willing to pay star money for one that is mediocre at best.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Marcell Dareus
Hey, we’re not going to sit here and tell the Jaguars how to recruit defensive players. In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve got a pretty great defense in Jacksonville. We’re also not going to pretend that Marcell Dareus didn’t have some great seasons in Buffalo.
However, there are reasons why the Bills were willing to unload Dareus and his absurd $95 million contract.
Those reasons being that Dareus has been on the decline ever since he signed the deal. We doubt that Dareus is ever going to be worth the money the Jags are paying him.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Sammy Watkins
When Sammy Watkins entered the NFL, everyone talked about what a threat he could be. The key word there is “could.” Watkins always had the potential, but he had to prove his talents at the NFL level. Despite some flashes of brilliance here and there, Watkins hasn’t proven that he’s a “special” NFL talent. So why did the Chiefs sign him to a three-year $48 million contract? Well, it seems they believe they can be the team that unlocks Watkins true potential. We’ve got our doubts about that.
16 Los Angeles Chargers - Russell Okung
This one is up for some debate, but you’ve got to remember that we live in a “what have you done for me lately” NFL culture. So, if the question is whether or not we would have signed the Russell Okung who won a Super Bowl with Seattle, the answer is “yes.” However, Okung hasn’t been that Okung for quite a few years. Instead, he’s been a lineman of questionable quality. A lineman of questionable quality who is currently signed to a four-year, $53 million contract.
15 Los Angeles Rams - Ndamukong Suh
If you’re going off pure stats, we suppose that you could make an argument for paying Ndamukong Suh a decent amount of money.
However, a contract is sometimes about more than just stats.
So when the Rams signed Suh to a one-year, $14 million contract, we have to wonder whether they realized they were signing a guy with serious attitude problems and a history of dirty play. Even if they did, we wonder if they’ve realized that Suh hasn’t been a truly disruptive player for quite some time.
14 Miami Dolphins - Kiko Alonso
Wow, this one baffles us. Kiko Alonso is a fine linebacker. He’s a good guy to have on a good defense. Occasionally, he’s been more than that. He was especially brilliant in his rookie season. However, Alfonso is not a top-tier linebacker talent. At least he isn’t consistently that top-tier linebacker talent. What’s worse is that he’s suffered some serious ACL injuries in recent years. Put it all together, and you’ve got to wonder whether or not he’s really worth that monstrous four-year, $28.9 million contract.
13 Minnesota Vikings - Kirk Cousins
We’re not going to sit here and devalue what Kirk Cousins has done. The guy has never had a full NFL season in which he’s thrown less than 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. That’s a solid piece of quarterback talent. However, Cousins is currently ranked as the 98th best player in the league according to the official NFL rankings. He’s not seen as a once-in-a-lifetime talent. The Vikings certainly seem to think he’s one, though, considering that they signed him to a three-year, $84 million contract.
12 New England Patriots - Dwayne Allen
The New England Patriots don’t offer a lot of flashy contracts unless your last name is Brady, Gronkowski, or Belichick. However, don’t take that to mean that they don’t occasionally overpay talent.
So while we’re a little confused why they were so eager to pursue Dwayne Allen give the tight end’s “meh” stats and the fact they’re not exactly desperate for a tight end.
Nevertheless, they decided to eat the better part of Allen’s four-year, $29.4 million contract in their first deal with the Colts since 1985.
11 New Orleans Saints - Terron Armstead
Unless you’re a Saints fan, we’re guessing that you’ve never even heard of Terron Armstead. That’s probably because he’s an offensive lineman and offensive lineman aren’t usually famous unless they’re really, really good. Armstead isn’t really good. He’s pretty good. He’s mostly good. He’s ok. He was also the recipient of a five-year, $65 million contract in 2016. That’s an absurd contract for a guy who has had so many injuries throughout his career and continues to struggle when it comes to staying healthy enough to actually play.
10 New York Giants - Nate Solder
Nate Solder is another one of those guys that we’re not going to completely put down. After all, he’s been a reliable part of some great New England Patriots teams over the years. He’s a good guy, a hard worker, and by all accounts, a good teammate. However, we have some doubts regarding whether or not he’s a guy that’s worth the four-year, $62 million contract the Giants gave him. We’re happy for him, we hope he does well, but we’re just not sure whether or not he’s worth that astonishing contract.
9 New York Jets - Josh McCown
Again, we get the idea of signing a backup QB who has actual NFL experience. However, at some point, you’ve got to ask “Is this the guy we want leading our team in some kind of worst-case scenario?” We can’t imagine that there are many people who would answer “yes” to that question as it concerns Josh McCown.
He’s never been anything more than serviceable, he’s 39 years old, and he’s currently benefiting from a one-year, $10 million contract.
That’s a little excessive in the case of a guy who we can’t really even call “good.”
8 Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr
A big contract can mean a lot of things. The hope is that it means “We think you’re a top-tier talent, and we want to pay you like a top-tier talent.” However, it sometimes means, “We don’t think we can do better and we don’t want you to leave.”
Derek Carr seems to be a case of the latter. He’s been a good quarterback for the Raiders, but there’s a worry that we’ve seen his ceiling. If so, that ceiling isn’t worth his five-year, $125 million contract.
7 Philadelphia Eagles - Alshon Jeffery
The contract mileage a receiver can get out of a great season or two is pretty impressive. To be sure, Alshon Jeffery did have a truly great season in 2013 and a pretty good season in 2014. Outside of that, though, he hasn’t done much. He certainly didn’t do much for the Eagles last year besides turn in some good playoff performances. Those performances aside, we’ve got to gawk at the four-year, $52 million extension the Eagles currently have Jeffrey signed to. That seems to be a little much.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers - Joe Haden
The problem with boom or bust players is that you typically have to sign them for their boom years. To be certain, Haden has had some boom years with the Browns.
He’s proven to be a very capable corner who, at times, doesn’t really showcase his best.
So there are plenty of reasons to wonder whether or not the Steelers made the right move when they signed Haden to a three-year, $27 million deal. He had a bit of a bust year in his first year under contract, so here’s hoping for a boom.
5 San Francisco 49ers - Jerick McKinnon
Someday, someone is going to have to sit down and explain Jerick McKinnon to us. When you look at McKinnon’s stats, you see the kind of stats you’d expect to see from a somewhat promising backup. That makes sense given that McKinnon has been a somewhat promising backup. However, we feel like there’s a reason Minnesota never promoted him to a starter.
Whatever that reason was, it apparently didn’t bother the 49ers when they signed him to a four-year, $30 million. It hasn't gotten off to a good start, with McKinnon tearing his ACL.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Doug Baldwin
To be honest, the Seahawks aren’t grossly overpaying anyone at the moment. At least since they got rid of Jimmy Graham and Kim Chancellor retired. That being the case, we’re going to bestow this honor on Doug Baldwin. Baldwin’s four-year, $46 million contract isn’t absurd by any means, but it does mean that the Seahawks believe that he’s their star receiver when Baldwin has been more of a really good number two guy with number one upside. Again, though, he’s not being overpaid by much.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Ryan Jensen
Here’s one that someone close to the situation is going to need to explain. You may not know this, but Ryan Jensen is the highest paid center in the NFL. If that doesn’t seem right to you, that’s because it’s only technically correct. It’s certainly not “right’ from a merit standpoint. After all, Jensen has never even been nominated to a Pro Bowl. While some of that can be attributed to bias, the fact is that Jensen isn’t the best center in the league despite the fact that he’s paid as the best center in the league.
2 Tennessee Titans - Dion Lewis
Not every overpaid player is overpaid because of a gaudy contract. Some of them are just overpaid in general. Consider Dion Lewis who has been one of “those guys” on the Patriots for quite a few years now.
He was a New England role player and little more than that.
When the Titans signed him to a four-year, $20 million contract, though, they instantly informed the world that they believe Lewis can be something special. To be honest, we don’t see special when we look at Dion Lewis. We see one of “those guys.”
1 Washington Redskins - Jordan Reed
We again arrive at another one of those instances when an NFL team overpays a tight end. Ever since tight ends became potential game-breaking receiving threats, NFL teams seem to be willing to throw money at any tight end who can catch a ball. Even still, we have a hard time understanding the Redskins’ obsession with Jordan Reed considering that he’s only had one great season during a contract year. Regardless, he’s currently in the midst of a five-year, $50 million contract that will keep him in Washington for some time.