Life in the National Football League revolves around winning and losing. The same can be said for player contracts. Within every team lies at least one contract that just screams absurdity when matched with production output. You can't really blame the general managers for initially signing them though, considering the dog-eat-dog nature and competitiveness of the league. Gaps need to be filled. Positions need to be reevaluated. And besides, overpaying for players has always been a deeply rooted staple in NFL history, so it should not come as a surprise to anybody when a team forks over an arm and a leg for a player only to have it end up in a disaster (two words: Albert Haynesworth).
Much of the overpaying can be accredited to the rise of the salary cap a couple years back. Players that "outperformed" their prior contract were being paid the big bucks only to underwhelm as the impact player that they were made out to be. The worst part about it is that teams lock them up for X amount of years, their contracts soaking up a good chunk of cap space that they have to work with, which ultimately hurts them in the offseason. This goes without saying that teams will eventually look to restructure their contract or convert their fully guaranteed money into roster bonuses. Or, they can simply ask them to take a pay cut, although highly unlikely.
Now to be fair, most of these players have scratched and clawed their way to reach the pinnacle of their game. Nobody is downplaying the struggles and hardships that they had to endure to make the 53-man roster. The stats don't always make the man. However, considering the fact that their teams are absorbing their cap-heavy contracts with minimal results, it can be safe to say that their inclusion onto this list is justifiable.
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15 Mike Wallace
When the embattled wide receiver was traded from Miami to Minnesota for a fifth-round draft pick, he was thought to be the missing piece in offensive coordinator Norv Turner's aerial attack. Wallace failed to live up to the hype and posted career lows in receiving yards (473), touchdowns (2), and tied for receptions (39). Given that there is no dead-money hit on the Vikings' salary cap, the team can easily release him without any penalties.
14 Charles Johnson
The recent breakout of second-year defensive end Kony Ealy puts the 29 year-old at risk for being cut. With only one recorded sack in nine games for the 2015 season, are the Panthers really willing to continue to put money into a guy that has been showing signs of slowing down? Johnson, who turns 30 in July, is entering the final year of his six-year, $76 million contract. His base salary of $10.75 million has the Panthers in a bind, with his contract currently counting $15 million against the cap. Factor in the prioritization of re-signing prized cornerback Josh Norman, and you might be seeing Johnson in a different jersey come 2016.
13 Daryl Washington
Daryl Washington has not played a single down since December of 2013. After signing a four-year, $32 million contract with $5 million guaranteed, the former TCU product showed brilliant flashes during his playing time. With 18 sacks and a combined total of 393 tackles over four years, the sky seemed the limit for this young phenom. However, his career took a turn for the worst when he violated the NFL's substance abuse policy twice and was arrested for aggravated assault. Although he remains eligible for reinstatement, the Cardinals will have to decide whether or not he's worth the $7.5 million cap hit, and the headache.
12 Charles Clay
After signing a five-year, $38 million contract in March, there were, and still are, high expectations for the former seventh-round pick. His $7.6 million annual average currently makes him the fourth highest-paid tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas, and Jimmy Graham. Although his production was sub par for the 2015 season, 51 catches for 538 yards and 3 touchdowns, the Bills franchise is still gambling on their overpaid pickup. His contract is currently eating up a whopping $13.5 million in cap space for 2016.
11 Dennis Pitta
A former fourth-round pick out of Brigham Young University, the Baltimore Ravens tight end has played in just seven games over the past three seasons due to major injuries that required him to undergo multiple surgeries. After signing a five-year contract extension worth $32.5 million, with $16 million guaranteed, the Ravens committed to their tight end, expecting him to make a full recovery and eventually regain that chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco. It definitely does not look like that will happen any time soon, or even at all. Pitta was shut down near the end of the 2015 season when doctors deemed it unsafe for him to continue playing. With a $7.2 million cap hit in 2016, this is one contract the Ravens would take back if they could.
10 Torrey Smith
Smith showed brilliant playmaking abilities during his Baltimore tenure but fell flat during the 2015 season. His speed and ability to make people miss made him one of the most coveted free agents at the wide receiver position during the 2015 offseason. The 49ers managed to snatch him up on a five-year, $40 million contract in hopes of pairing him up with gunslinger Colin Kaepernick. Instead, Smith averaged career-lows in almost every category except touchdowns (tied for 4). The 49ers are taking a $7.6 million cap hit for the 2016 season.
9 Ryan Clady
Drafted 12th overall out of Boise State back in 2008, the 29-year-old left tackle has struggled to stay healthy throughout the most of his career. He tore his patella tendon back in 2010, suffered a Lisfranc fracture in 2013, and most recently tore his ACL last season. The four-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract back in 2013 and is counting $10.1 million against the Broncos salary cap for 2016. With uncertainty of how he'll bounce back when he returns from injury, expect the Broncos to actively try to renegotiate his contract.
8 Dwayne Bowe
Dwayne Bowe's first season as a Cleveland Brown was humiliating to say the least. After signing a two-year, $12.5 million contract after the 2014 season, there was much anticipation to see what type of production he could bring to the table. Unfortunately, he never even showed up to the table. Playing only seven games, the injury-prone Bowe finished the 2015 season with an anemic five catches for 53 receiving yards. His underwhelming, and statistically dismal, season has Browns fans in uproar. Not to mention the Browns are taking an $8 million cap hit for the upcoming season. What a mess.
7 Julius Thomas
At the end of the 2014 season, the former Bronco tight end decided to welcome a hefty pay raise and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his first season as a Jaguar, the 27-year-old veteran gave then-rookie quarterback Blake Bortles a nice red zone option, but only produced pedestrian numbers to finish the season with 46 catches for 455 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. His five-year, $46 million contract, signed in 2014, brings a $7.3 million cap hit 2016.
6 Donald Butler
One of the most overpaid defensive players in the league, the 27-year-old linebacker out of Washington is currently on the third year of his seven-year, $51.8 million contract. After a series of errant miscues and an abysmal showing on the defensive side, Butler was shuffled out of the lineup. He finished the 2015 season with just 43 total tackles and less than a sack, at just 0.5. The Chargers are expected to take a $9.28 million cap hit for the 2016 season.
5 Jairus Byrd
The hard-hitting safety brought little to nothing to the already porous Saints defensive backfield. In 2014, the Saints picked up Byrd as an unrestricted free agent from the Buffalo Bills and inked him to a six-year, $54 million deal that included $26.3 million guaranteed. His 2014 season was limited to only four games due to a knee injury.
After getting back on the field in 2015, he proceeded to finish with a lackluster 52 total tackles and one interception. It doesn't help that he contributed to a team that allowed 284 passing yards per game. Yikes...
4 Ndamukong Suh
The 29-year-old talented defensive end cashed out by signing a lucrative six-year $114 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. After ruthlessly dominating offensive linemen for four seasons in Detroit, Suh took his talents to South Beach. His presence was felt immediately. Suh finished the 2o15 season with 58 total tackles and 6 sacks. However, his bulky contract has put Miami in a frugal position, facing a $28.6 million cap hit for the 2016 season. With numerous gaping needs in both the offense and defense, look for the Dolphins to try and restructure Suh's contract to free up valuable space.
3 Jay Cutler
Chicago's star quarterback has been in the spotlight for quite some time now. His controversial seven-year, $126.7 million deal signed in 2014 still has analysts baffled, especially since his playoff record stands at a mere one win versus one loss. What is apparent though, is that his contract is eating up a good chunk of the Bears' salary cap, $17 million to be exact. With $10 million guaranteed for the next season, it looks like the Bears are willing to ride with Cutler until a viable replacement is found, or drafted.
2 Drew Brees
Drew Brees is the face of the New Orleans Saints. The 37-year-old quarterback has shown no signs of slowing down with age and continues to lead the pass-heavy Saints with the team on his shoulders. Now, his contract is an entirely different story. With an NFL-high cap charge of $30 million, the Saints have little room to breathe in the offseason. Brees alone accounts for over 20 percent of the entire team's total cap space. Come on now, that is just plain ridiculous. Don't expect the Saints to part with their team captain either, as they officially guaranteed $10.85 million out of Brees' $20 million owed in 2016.
1 Brandon Carr
When the Cowboys decided to sign Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million contract back in 2012, they also invested in a longterm solution at cornerback. Well, that was nothing short of a disaster. He vastly underperformed each year of his contract and never lived up to the gross amount of dead money and cap space that he was eating up year after year. If the Cowboys were to release Carr, they would also have to give up $7.4 million in dead money that could be used to address positional needs. Even Jerry Jones admitted that they overpaid the man. Now if that doesn't say enough...
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