Of the four major professional sports in North America, it is hard not to argue that NFL players get the short end of the stick. With the exception of quarterbacks, it seems NFL players are massively underpaid, especially when you compare contracts in other leagues, such as the NBA and MLB. NFL brings in the most revenue by far, yet it seems like many players are not compensated like they should be. Also, remember NFL players do not have fully guaranteed contracts like other sports, so we can see players get cut at any time, just like what happened to Jeremy Maclin this offseason. I guess part of this is that NFL teams have massive rosters in comparison to other leagues.
So yes, in general, NFL players are underpaid. However, this does not mean there are still some players around the league that are overpaid. It is remarkable to look at some of the underpaid players and compare them to the overpaid players. It makes you wonder what the football executives were thinking when they handed out those contracts. This article will demonstrate this by discussing 8 of the best current bargains in the NFL and 7 of the most overpaid players. I will try to avoid discussing players on their rookie contracts.
14 Bargain - Malcolm Butler
People that follow the Patriots closely know how valuable Malcolm Butler has been. Heading into the 2017 season, Butler will be playing on a year deal worth $4 million. Consider what some other corner backs around the league are getting, including Butler's teammate Stephon Gilmore, and this is an absolute bargain for the Patriots.
If you recall, Butler helped all Patriots fans forget about Darrelle Revis because of his effective play. While Butler may not be the biggest corner, he makes up for it in his heart and aggression. Very rarely do you see Butler get beat clean and even when his opponent does make the reception, Butler is usually right there for a quick tackle. A great bargain for New England.
13 Overpaid - Doug Martin
Doug Martin signed a hefty contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and I bet they already regret it. Martin was given a contract of 5 years and over $35 million. In a day and age where running backs are not as vital as they once were, that is a ton of money to give to a running back if your name is not David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, or Ezekiel Elliott.
Also remember that the Bucs have other good running backs in Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims and finally, remember that Martin was recently suspended for four games for violating the league's drug policy. I would not be surprised if the Bucs try to find a way to get rid of this contract.
12 13. Bargain - Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman is one of the best wide receivers in the league, but there has not been a point in his career where he has he been paid like one. Recently, Edelman signed a two year contract extension worth about $11 million to stick around in Foxborough. This seems a little low for a player that is Tom Brady's favourite target. With Edelman now having suffered a torn ACL, that contract bargain may cost him some serious money, as the Patriots could essentially move on from Edelman after this season. It is being said that Edelman knew he was taking less than what he could get on the open market because he loves playing for the Patriots.
Overall, Edelman is a heart and soul player that every team could use. When he is not going off for 10 catches and 100 yards in a game, he is still a very effective blocker and valuable on special teams. Players like these do not grow on trees and the Patriots should be thankful they have him.
11 Overpaid - Joe Haden
At one point, it looked like Joe Haden was going to become one of the all time great corner backs. However, a combination of decline in play and perhaps the terrible organization that is the Cleveland Browns have made him one of the most overpaid players in the league. Haden is making an average of $13.5 million a year, which is far too much for a player that is not elite at his position. I remember watching a couple of Browns games last year and it seemed like every time Haden was thrown at, the opposing reciever would be open and make a catch. Specifically, I remember Amari Cooper torching Haden.
Overall, Haden is now 28 and may still have a few good years left in him, but he has failed to live up to expectations of his big contract and perhaps that is why the Browns are shopping him.
11. Bargain - Dontari Poe
Dontari Poe fell off a little bit in his last two seasons with Kansas City, and as a result, he was not able to secure a long term contract in free agency. The Atlanta Falcons were able to steal Poe for a one year prove it type deal worth around $8 million dollars. If Poe can get back to his dominant self, him and Grady Jarrett will prove to be a lethal combination. Generating pressure up the middle on a quarterback is the best way to take them off their game and you can never have enough of these type of players.
I expect Poe to have a big year, especially since he has slimmed down quite a bit. This will help him earn a big contract this off-season. Essentially, this will be a perfect one year marriage for Poe and the Falcons: Poe gets to resurrect his career, and the Falcons get a very good player during their Super Bowl window.
10 Overpaid - Allen Hurns
The Jaguars did not even have to sign Allen Hurns to a contract extension, as he still had two years left on his rookie contract. I get the idea of being proactive, but why pay such a young player so much cash when you do not need to. In total, the Jags gave Hurns $10 million a year over four years. The Jaguars now surely regret dishing out this kind of money to Hurns as he only was able to accumulate 477 yards and 35 catches in 2016. Management decisions like these are why the Jaguars continue to miss the playoffs.
To be fair to Hurns, he did miss some time with injury and perhaps this is why he struggled the entire year. He is still a young player that can get back on track, but right now he is one of the most overpaid receivers in the NFL.
9 Bargain - LeGarrette Blount
Yes, I know LeGarrette Blount has struggled in preseason. To me, this means nothing, because Blount will step up his game when the regular season begins like he has done the last several years while playing in New England.
The Philadelphia Eagles had a huge problem last year in goal line situations and Blount will solve that problem. So while I do not expect Blount to rush for 1,000 yards this season, I do expect him to have double digits in the touchdown category., which is what the Eagles need from him. Having a sure thing like Blount in the red zone is a young quarterback's dream and we will see Carson Wentz benefit tremendously, which makes Blount and his 1 year contract of 1.25 million an absolute bargain.
8 Overpaid - Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin is making WR1 money without the WR1 numbers. Heck, it is even arguable he has not put up WR2 numbers at this point. Sure, Austin can score a touchdown in the blink of an eye, and you can also argue he brings special teams value, but at the end of the day, he has not been consistent enough to justify an average salary of $10.5 million.
Think about this: Edelman can basically do everything Austin can, but at a much higher level. Yet, Edelman is making about half of what Austin is. Wonder why the Patriots have been such a good team? Reasons like that come to mind. Overall, Austin has never recorded a 600 yard receiving season in his career and is making too much money. Yes, he still has potential, but until he proves he can be consistent he will be on the overpaid list.
7 Bargain - Chris Harris Jr.
Chris Harris Jr. has been underpaid ever since he came into the NFL. He was an undrafted free agent in 2011, which puts him at the bottom of the pay scale. Additionally, Harris signed a nice hometown discount for the Broncos a couple of seasons back. Harris Jr. should be at least a top three paid cornerback, in my opinion. From an analytics point of view, Harris is always rated as one of the highest corners in the game. From the eye test, Harris is one of the best, if not the best slot corners in the game. What makes him even more special is that he can do the same on the outside.
Entering the third of his five-year, $42.5 million contract, Harris will make $6.9 million in 2017. He's the 19th-most expensive corner in the NFL, the second-most on the Broncos. Talk about a deal for John Elway and co.
6 Overpaid - Mike Glennon
The Chicago Bears sure paid a lot of money to a guy that is going to be a holdover at the quarterback position. 3 years and $45 million with $19 million guaranteed is too much for a guy that has not proven he can be a starting quarterback. I get that the $19 million guaranteed makes it easy for the Bears to get out of the contract, as this is essentially a prove it type deal, but still, I feel that they did not have to throw even that much cash at Glennon. After all, Glennon has not proven he can be a starter for a good team.
I guess the Bears plan is to be a mediocre team for the next couple of seasons until Mitchell Trubisky is ready to take over. My guess is that it is going to be another rough season for Bears fans.
5 Bargain - Casey Hayward
With all of the defensive troubles the Green Bay Packers have, it is hard to understand why they let Casey Hayward walk in free agency a couple of years ago. Sure, many people saw Hayward as a cornerback that could only play in the slot, but the 5 million average Hayward received from the Chargers in 2016 is well worth the price (not to mention the slot label is incorrect, as Hayward has a versatile game).
In the end, Hayward sure proved his doubters wrong this past season. Hayward led the NFL with seven interceptions, earned a spot in the Pro-Bowl and also made the All-Pro second team. Hayward himself has even been on the record stating that he was the best cornerback in the game last season. Expect more solid play from Hayward this season.
4 Overpaid - Joe Flacco
First, I want to make it clear that I would take playoff Joe Flacco over many other quarterbacks in the league. The problem is Flacco has not been very good in the regular season ever since the Ravens won the Super Bowl, so we do not get to see "January Joe." Yes, Flacco has had an inconsistent offensive line, too much turnover at the wide receiver position, and average running backs, but I expect a player with his contract to be able to elevate others around him.
Overall, Flacco was supposed to be the guy to lead the Ravens after Ray Lewis and Ed Reed retired, but he has yet to show he is worth the boatload of money the Ravens gave him. Now, with back problems slowing him all offseason and training camp, can we really expect Flacco to elevate his game? Unless the defense is tremendous this season, expect another 8-8 type season
3 Bargain - Aaron Rodgers
Many may be surprised to see Aaron Rodgers on this list since he is making over $20 million a year, but when Joe Flacco and Kirk Cousins are making more money than Rodgers, he is considered a bargain. Rodgers is the most talented quarterback in the game and probably the second best overall QB after Tom Brady. Thus, the only quarterback that should be making more money or similar to him is Brady.
Rodgers has carried the Packers franchise for a few years now, even with a non-existent defense. He seems to make a play or two a game that make you say wow. If the Packers are able to improve their defense and Rodgers is able to be a bit more consistent, look for the Packers to get back to the Super Bowl.
2 Overpaid - Brock Osweiler
I really thought Brock Osweiler was going to be a top 15 quarterback after he signed with Houston. In his brief stint as the Bronco's starter, he showed me a lot of strong quarterback trait, such as a strong arm, he seemed to have the respect of his teammates, and he also showed tremendous composure, especially in the game where Denver beat New England in overtime.
However, something just did not click with Osweiler in Houston and now Cleveland. His accuracy has been terrible, he does not seem to understand the systems well, and as a result his annual salary of $18 million and guaranteed pay of $37 makes him the most overpaid player in the league. He couldn't beat out rookie QB DeShone Kizer for Cleveland's starting job, even though many felt going into 2017 that Kizer would be on clipboard duties.
1 Bargain - Tom Brady
The obvious and easy choice for this list. Tom Brady has been the biggest bargain in the NFL for many years to come and as long as continues to play this will always remain the case. Brady has consistently taken less money than what would be on the open market. Heading into this season, quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and Kirk Cousins will be making more than Brady. How ridiculous does that sound? Brady has more championships and MVPs than any of these quarterbacks ever will, but they are bringing home more money.
To be fair, it is probably easier to take a pay reduction when your wife is bringing in tons of money, but this does not change the fact that Brady has been a bargain for the Patriots.