The average career in the NFL is around three years long. The league is compiled of hundreds of players, most having to fight for a job. Add in over two-hundred rookies that make it into the league annually through the draft and one can imagine how hard it is to sustain a career in the league. There have been countless greats to have played the game of football, some so good they’re considered to be NFL “legends.” While individual accolades are what sets these players apart, football is a team sport with a focus on a single goal that can only be achieved as a group.
The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the sporting world. Each year teams hope to build and improve enough, so that they might reach it. In order to do so, a team is going to need its share of great players. But even the best players can’t shoulder the burden alone. They’ve got to have a consistent supporting cast around them in order to make any progress. Even some of the worst teams in the NFL are home to some of its biggest name stars. Being the best player on a bad team might mean getting more attention, but it also means never tasting success at the pro level while wearing that uniform.
Plenty of great players have never been to or won a Super Bowl. Jim Kelly and Dan Marino are two of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, yet both failed to win the big game when they had the chance. However there is something much worse than never reaching or winning a Super Bowl – and that’s failing to make the playoffs. It seems somewhat unnecessary to mention, but the road to the Super Bowl goes through the playoffs. When teams envision themselves holding up the Lombardi, making the playoffs is sort of a default. And yet, some teams have failed to get to this first step for years. Same for their players. The big name guys in less successful franchises get paid like they should, but come January are watching the playoffs on their couches. They don’t know what it feels like to be competitive that time of year.
These are the 15 highest paid players to never play in a playoff game.
15 Mike Pouncey – $7 Million
2014 marked Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey’s fourth year with the organization. A first round pick of the Dolphins in 2011, Pouncey has gotten better with each season and has gained the respect of his peers as one of the premier interior offensive linemen today. The Dolphins took notice and signed the two time pro bowler to a five year, $44.75 million contract extension earlier this offseason. Last year, he missed some time due to offseason hip surgery. He returned week six at guard. The results were impressive as the team went 3-2 within his first five games back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry running the ball and keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright for most of that stretch.
14 Reshad Jones – $7.712 Million
Rashad Jones has been consistently putting up great numbers for the Miami Dolphins, but despite his big play ability and track record, Jones is still sort of an unknown to most fans, unless you follow the AFC East. Last year, he ranked third among 87 safeties in the NFL, according to ProFootballGuide. Keep in mind that he’d missed the first four games due to a suspension. Regardless, he still managed eighty tackles and three interceptions. He along with Brett Grimes are the lifeblood of Miami’s secondary and along with Louis Delmas, should be one of the better secondary’s in the league.
13 Alex Mack – $8 Million
While he isn’t a big name player in the NFL, Cleveland Browns center Alex Mack plays a key role on the offense. Last year, Mack missed the last 11 games of the regular season. Prior to losing him the Browns had a top three rushing attack and were in the top ten in points per game. But after losing Mack, Cleveland finished 17th in the league in rushing and 28th in points per game. No doubt he’s a key part of that offense but six straight years of losing might’ve finally gotten to the all pro center. Starting next year, Mack can choose to opt out of his current contract and while Mack has full freedom on deciding whether or not he’ll be in Cleveland after 2016, the Browns can’t entertain trade offers till the beginning of the 2017 season.
12 Marcell Dareus – $8.06 Million
Last season, Marcell Dareus had one of his best statistical seasons. Yet it was not enough to push the Bills into the playoffs. Despite their strong defense, Buffalo can’t get much going on offense. With a quarterback competition currently underway, the Bills will continue to rely on big play by their strong defensive squad. Dareus is one of the youngest and most productive names in that group. His 10 sacks last year put him second on the team behind Mario Williams and his efforts got him recognized by his peers who voted him 53rd on the NFL’s Top 100 list.
11 Rodger Saffold – $8.25 Million
The St. Louis Rams made some big moves this offseason in the hopes of competing in the NFC West this coming season. The addition of Nick Foles as well as first round pick Todd Gurley means that the team will be relying on their offensive line to keep their new franchise quarterback upright and create holes for their rookie runner. That’s a tough job for a group that projects to be one of the youngest in the NFL in 2015. Leading the group is tackle Rodger Saffold. Coming off shoulder surgery, Saffold looks to be a veteran preens on the Rams line and – should his shoulder be fully healed – will be counted on to keep some of the NFL’s fiercest pass rushers at bay.
10 Jared Cook – $8.3 Million
Another of many Rams on this list, tight end Jared Cook was brought in with the hopes that he’d be the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. While he hasn’t been a complete bust, he certainly hasn’t lived up to his expectations since signing with St. Louis. Don’t let his numbers fool you. Cook is one of the few competent receivers on a Rams team that lacks true superstar ability. Maybe now that the team traded for Nick Foles, the team will be able to spread the ball around more efficiently. St. Louis has slowly been getting better, but in order to make a legitimate playoff run – in a very tough division – the Rams are going to need their superstar players to step up. Cook included.
9 T8. Jason McCourty – $8.6 Million
The Titans weren’t much to talk about last year. A struggling run and pass game along with weak performances by a young secondary played roles in Tennessee ending up with the second overall pick in this year’s draft. Jason McCorty is returning to Tennessee for his seventh season after being selected by the team in the sixth round in 2009. Over the years, McCourty has developed into one of the team’s most reliable players. While the rest of the secondary struggled last year, McCourty held his own pretty well and will now get some help in the form of free agent Perrish Cox.
8 T8. Andy Levitre – $8.6 Million
Coming from Buffalo, Andy Levitre was expected to be one of the top guards in the league when the Tennessee Titans signed him to a six year, $46.8 million deal in 2013. But injuries have caused the Titans guard a number of problems over the last couple years. His inconsistent play due to nagging knee problems have left the Titans at a loss. Now entering his third year with the Titans, Tennessee hopes to see him healthy and playing to his full potential. Especially now that he’s part of a line tasked with protecting number two overall pick Marcus Mariota.
7 Jared Odrick – $9 Million
Though they might’ve lost first round pick Dante Fowler to an ACL injury earlier this offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars still have a brand new face in Jared Odrick. The former first round pick is coming into 2015 with high expectations surrounding him. The Jags signed the ex-Dolphin to a five year, $42.5 million deal in the hopes that he could help rejuvenate their defensive front. Now without Fowler, Odrick might have to shoulder a good deal of the Jaguars pass rush on his own. He’ll replace Red Bryant who was more of a run stopper, so Odrick – who has recorded 165.5 sacks as a defensive end – should add a whole new dimension to Jacksonville’s defense.
6 Joe Thomas – $10.2 Million
Now entering his ninth season since being selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, Joe Thomas is one of the few truly impactful players on the team. Considered to be the best tackle in the game, (he ranked 25th overall on the NFL’s Top 100 this year, highest of any offensive tackle) Thomas will once again be blocking for a new quarterback this season. Veteran Josh McCown might end up as the starter entering training camp as Johnny Manziel continues to work on his fundamentals and make up for his abysmal rookie year. But Cleveland knows that they can count on Thomas, who hasn’t missed a game since entering the league.
5 Joe Haden – $11.7 Million
Well Joe Thomas was earlier mentioned as one of the few impactful players on the Browns roster. Another is cornerback Joe Haden, a shutdown corner with a talent for making big plays. Among the league’s best at his position, Haden has earned the right to be mentioned alongside guys like Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Cleveland’s secondary is one of their most promising groups. With Haden leading the pack, they might just make some noise in 2015.
4 Chris Long – $12.5 Million
The Rams definitely have one of the most devastating pass rush duos in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. As it stands, most would recognize St. Louis as a strong defensive football team that often has to pick up the slack for their substandard offense. With that seemingly set to change, the Rams will continue to look to their defensive line to play like they’ve been playing the last couple of years. Chris Long only played in six games last year and didn’t really put up good numbers, with only five tackles and a sack for the veteran. But 2015 looks like it could be his year. Prior to his injury plagued 2014 season, Long averaged 11 sacks over the last three years. Now healthy, he should continue to be a disruptive force on the defensive front.
3 Sam Bradford – $12.985 Million
Being the first overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft, there was no shortage of expectations for Sam Bradford. He was thought to be the guy that would lead St. Louis into the playoffs after years of disappointment. And during his rookie campaign he looked like he could be that guy. But injuries slowed him down and completely derailed his career as a Ram. Now with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bradford is battling Marc Sanchez for the starting job. He’s only played two full seasons, but in those two seasons he has showed that he can be a competent quarterback. Should he manage to stay healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t succeed in Philadelphia.
2 Gerald McCoy – $14.595 Million
The 2010 draft also gave the league two premier interior pass rushers in Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Suh might be more of a well-known after signing his massive new contract with the Dolphins, but McCoy has developed into one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top talents as well as a great leader. Though he started his career a little slow, McCoy has been named to three straight Pro Bowls. What’s more, he’s shown that he can be a great pass rusher, racking up 23 sacks over the past three years. Good numbers but judging by the way he rips through offensive lineman and gets to the quarterback, they can definitely get better soon.
1 Robert Quinn – $16.744 Million
Opposite Chris Long on the St. Louis Rams defensive from is Robert Quinn. Quinn – who is just two years removed from a season that saw him put up 19 sacks – is without a doubt the best 4-3 defensive end in football. He’ll continue to play a major role on a line that recorded 40 sacks in the last 11 games last season. A line that should only get better now that all its key players are healthy. Quinn, Long and second year man Aaron Donald form one of the fiercest pass rushing trios in the league. With Quinn, who put up 40 sacks in the last three seasons, leading the way there’s no telling as to how good they can be.