NFL 2012 All-Bargain Team: Starters with Cap Hits of $1 Million or Less
There's a term in economics used to describe the lag in a worker's rise in productivity compared to his compensation. We say that wages are "sticky," that they don't instantaneously adjust to properly reward output. In no profession would that be more true than those who step between the lines of an NFL field.
Guys in the league don't always get paid what they're worth. Some of them make too much (What's up, Albert Haynesworth?), but the majority of misaligned salaries are skewed in favor of the owners. And they like it that way, in part because when players like that actually do get the big contracts, they don't always live up to expectations (I'm looking at you, Chris Johnson).
Could we build a team out of some of these overachievers? An entire starting lineup of offense and defense? We can. In fact, I have, and it's not a terrible team. Actually, the offense is stacked. Where we'll see some issues is on the defensive side of the ball, as you'll see shortly.
Take a look at this team that I built, using only players with a 2012 cap hit of less than $1 million. You might have some better options or maybe I totally blanked on a guy, or maybe you're using different salary information than I am. Feel free to tear this list apart, like you'd tear coupons out of the Sunday paper...not that you'd use coupons...or still buy newspapers. I guess some people still do that. I think it's cute.
Enough chatter. Let's check out my NFL All-Discount Team.
Quarterback: Colt McCoy (2012 Cap Hit: $677,750)
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So Colt McCoy isn't a dazzling selection here, but he was the Browns starter before James Harrison knocked him out of the 2011 season with a concussion. He managed 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in the 13 games that he did play, and Cleveland was so impressed with the job that he did that they drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round.
But compared to the rest of the sub-million club (Kellen Clemens, Jimmy Clausen, David Carr, and so forth), Colt is a superior choice. And while there are escalators that could push McCoy's compensation over $1 million for 2012, we couldn't find documentation of that sufficient enough to exclude him from the list.
Running Back: LeSean McCoy ($957,500)
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What a bargain the Eagles have been getting with Shady here. Over the last two years, McCoy has tallied 3,296 yards from scrimmage and 29 touchdowns. And this guy is making less than a million bucks this season. Just insane.
McCoy is the total package. He can run between the tackles and also catch passes out of the backfield. And he can pass block. At least, he can as well as one could when Michael Vick is your quarterback. He's a champagne running back on a beer budget if ever there were one.
Running Back: Danny Woodhead ($849,786)
Woodhead is one of the more understated weapons for the New England Patriots. With the rise of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez last season, Woodhead saw a big drop in his production in 2011, registering only a single touchdown.
Like McCoy, Woodhead brings his own versatility to the offense as a change-of-pace back but also a receiving threat out of the backfield. Although inch-for-inch, you're really not getting much of a price break.
Left Tackle: Phillip Loadholt ($918,750)
We can't afford a legitimate left tackle with our current cap constraints, so we're moving Minnesota Vikings right tackle Phillip Loadholt to the left side. In addition to making 47 starts in his team's last 48 games, Loadholt has some really cool dreads.
Left Guard: Brian de la Puente ($540,000)
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Brian de la Puente is actually the starting center for New Orleans right now, but we're moving him over one spot to maximize opportunity here.
I think Brian would be cool with that. He actually entered the league in 2008 but bounced around the practice squads for the Chiefs, Seahawks and Panthers before finally getting his shot with the Saints last year, starting in 12 games.
Center: Stefen Wisniewski ($841,750)
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Wisniewski was a second-round pick out of Penn State in last April's draft. He lived up to his billing. He was a Week 1 starter and was named Rookie Of The Week in Week 3.
Most importantly, he didn't miss a start all year, and so he was worth the room we made for him on our All-Bargain line.
Right Guard: Evan Dietrich-Smith ($565,000)
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Dietrich-Smith (No. 62) might unfairly be remembered as the victim of Ndamukong Suh's stomping in Week 11. But the Idaho State product started three games for the NFC North Champion Packers in 2011. He is known for his versatility on the line, having played all five positions there in college.
Evan actually was released in training camp before the 2010 season before re-joining the team in Week 17 that year. His timing was impeccable, as Green Bay would go on to win Super Bowl XLV just a few weeks later.
Right Tackle: Orlando Franklin
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Franklin is the third second-round pick to make our All-Bargain offensive line and the second tackle. He started all 16 games in his rookie season with the Denver Broncos in 2010.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham ($706,285)
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Jimmy Graham has sort of a televangelist name, which makes sense, as he had so many Saints fans screaming, "Thank you, Jesus!" last season.
Graham, who played basketball and not football at Miami, emerged as arguably the biggest red zone threat in the league last year. In his second NFL season, Graham caught 99 balls for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns.
If there's a better tight end in the league right now, I don't know who it is.
Wide Receiver: Victor Cruz ($490,000)
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Nobody had a better second half of 2011 than Cruz, who had five 100-yard receiving games while helping his New York Giants lock down the NFC East and eventually their second Super Bowl victory in four years. His explosive deep-threat speed makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Cruz is set to become a restricted free agent in 2013, and unless he pulls a Plaxico Burress on the New York party circuit next fall, he'll get a nice upgrade on the deal he'll currently finish this year.
Wide Receiver: Antonio Brown ($514,358)
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Brown saw his production jump in his second NFL season, tallying 1,108 yards on his way to his first Pro Bowl appearance. His 69 catches are part of the reason that Hines Ward won't be coming back in 2012. Brown wasn't only more dynamic than Ward last season—he was much, much cheaper.
Defensive Tackle: Terrence Cody ($770,000)
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Cody started all 16 games for a Baltimore Ravens team that was just one game away from the Super Bowl in 2011. He was credited with 34 tackles in his second NFL season.
Defensive Tackle: Corey Peters ($681,750)
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Keep your head up, Corey! You just made the All-Bargain Team! Which means that you're most likely underpaid for what you've been doing. Okay, never mind then. As you were.
Peters started all 16 games for the Falcons last season, another playoff team. He tallied 26 tackles and a sweet one-handed interception against Cam Newton. So why is he so sad?
Defensive End: Connor Barwin ($917,500)
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Barwin was...Oh jeez. He looks like he's having a rough day, too. Doesn't he?
Anyway, Barwin played sort of a DE/OLB hybrid for the Texans last year. He registered 34 tackles. That doesn't really sound like a lot. Maybe that's why he's so upset.
Defensive End: Da'Quan Bowers ($876,256)
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Bowers is a bit green to be starting on our squad, but he is affordable. He saw limited action last season in Tampa Bay's 4-3 scheme last season. And they were pretty terrible.
I guess they can't all be Pro Bowlers.
Linebacker: Sean Lee ($840,000)
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Lee carries on the tradition of great linebackers to have come out of Penn State.
In his second season with the Cowboys, Lee started all but one game and was credited with 105 tackles. If Dallas comes through in the NFC East this year, they'll owe a lot of credit to Lee.
(And if they don't, they can just blame Tony Romo.)
Linebacker: Brian Rolle ($489,150)
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Rolle (No. 59) started 13 games in 2011 and had 41 tackles. He's also one of 387 people in the NFL whose surname is "Rolle." I may have miscounted there.
Linebacker: Jacquian Williams ($484,750)
Williams hasn't quite ripened as an NFL talent just yet, but the Giants are in love with his potential. He managed only two starts in his rookie year but still saw a lot of playing time, managing 78 tackles.
Cornerback: Marcus Gilchrist ($897,300)
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Cornerback is one of those positions in the NFL where it's tough to find guys on the cheap. Even a second-year player like Marcus Gilchrist, who went 50th overall in 2011, will run us almost $900k.
Gilchrist did manage four starts last year and two interceptions. And from the looks of the image, he also incurred a serious case of pinkhand, which is actually quite treatable.
Cornerback: Glover Quin ($607,304)
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Quin comes to us for a much better value. He started every game for the Texans last season (and the season before that) and registered 59 tackles.
Strong Safety: Madieu Williams ($890,000)
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Williams (No. 20) signed a one-year deal with the Redskins last month. He's one of the few veterans on our All-Bargain team. The 30-year-old played in 15 games last season with San Francisco but managed only three starts. But as far as we were concerned for our strong safety, it was Madieu or John Wendling.
Who's John Wendling, you ask? Exactly.
Free Safety: Sherrod Martin ($859,000)
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Martin will be entering his fourth NFL season in 2012. He has started in 31 of the Panthers' last 32 games at safety. He currently boasts seven career interceptions.