Most Overpaid & Underpaid New England Patriots Currently on the Roster

Marc FreshmanContributor IJuly 1, 2012

Most Overpaid & Underpaid New England Patriots Currently on the Roster

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    The business side of football can give you headaches. It's painful to see your favorite teams and players stuck in arduous contract struggles.

    When money's on the line, no team is immune to a little tug-of-war. Even the Patriots have had their share of business disputes.

    In fact, a huge part of this offseason was dominated by Wes Welker's contract negotiations. At times, it was really rough to watch.

    How much is Welker worth? Not so easy to pinpoint.

    Putting your finger on a player's monetary worth is a difficult thing to do. But then again, the team has already done it for us. All that's left is to scrutinize the numbers and debate our findings.

    Here are the most overpaid and underpaid Patriots currently on the roster. 

Ras-I Dowling

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): Four-year / $5.3 million

    Ras-I Dowling is an athletic outside cornerback who plays with energy, speed and tenacity. His skill set is undeniable, and his ability to contribute on special teams makes him all the more valuable.

    Problem is, Dowling has a lengthy injury history.

    From high school to college to the combine, Dowling has endured a broken hand, a fractured left ankle, a banged-up right knee and a pulled hamstring.

    Injuries have continued to haunt Dowling in his professional career. In 2011 (his rookie season), he was struck with a hip injury in Week 2 and missed the rest of the season. The injury required surgery.

    Dowling's talent certainly qualifies him as a player to watch in 2012. I would love to see him bounce back and take the league by storm. But until he does, he'll continue to be defined by his injuries rather than his remarkable skills.

    Verdict: Overpaid

Tom Brady

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): Five-year / $78.5 million

    On the surface, this dollar figure looks solid and worthy of the elite champion who receives it.

    Brady deserves to be in a category of his own.

    But guys like Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Sam Bradford and Tony Romo are inked to stunning, head-scratching deals, which place them in varying stages of a similar elite category. 

    Considering that Brady's still getting his team to the Super Bowl while these other quarterbacks are struggling to get their teams into the playoffs, it would seem that only one of these guys deserves to be earning like a king.

    Verdict: Underpaid

Logan Mankins

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): Six-year / $51,000,000

    Logan Mankins is a tough guy. He played in the Super Bowl with a torn ACL. That's ridiculous.

    He's a warrior of the highest caliber, and as such, one can understand why he qualified as No. 51 on Forbes' list of the highest-paid athletes.

    But moving forward, I continue to worry about his health and long-term durability. He had surgery over the offseason, and it's difficult to get a sense of when he'll return.

    In this situation, it may be wise to see the glass as half empty; prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised by the best. Nine months of recovery would place his return in November.

    But even after Mankins returns, he may not be at full strength. It would be devastating to see his profound career affected by this injury.

    Verdict: In danger of seeing a massive dip in future production   

Kyle Love

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): 2012: $540,000, 2013: Restricted Free Agent

    Kyle Love is an essential component of everything the Patriots hope to accomplish in the future. And at 25 years old, this young defensive tackle is only beginning to reveal his true powers.

    Coming off his best season, Love is an impact player on defense who has remained surprisingly durable and consistent. Great body, great skill set, a terrific defender who creates havoc in various positions.

    The guy's a true talent.

    He's a perfect complement to Vince Wilfork, and I would love to see him remain in New England as he develops his talents into the future.

    Verdict: Underpaid 

Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): Brace: Four-year / $3.8 million; Cunningham: Four-year / $3.1 million

    Ron Brace and Jermaine Cunningham are in similar positions heading into the new season. Both are former second-round picks who, thus far, have been mixed bags of production.

    They both have a lot to prove.

    But as of now, there's not a lot of evidence to qualify them as breakout candidates for 2012. Faith in them remains vague and abstract. 

    Sterling Moore, on the other hand, has demonstrated a crystal clear reason to believe. There's tangible evidence to suggest that he's on the cusp of something special. Same goes for Kyle Love, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

    Nobody is writing off Cunningham and Brace. They have time to make an impact. And given their modest salaries, even the worst-case scenario would prove to be a relatively painless financial hit.

    But considering the fact that Aaron Hernandez and Sterling Moore are about to earn under a million bucks apiece in 2012, it seems justifiable to give Brace and Cunningham a kick in the pants and remind them that lower-paid players can still affect the course of big games.    

    Verdict: Treading on overpaid territory 

Wes Welker

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    Contract Details (Source: ESPN): One-year / $9.5 million

    Only a few years removed from a blown knee, Wes Welker has managed to get stronger and quicker. He possesses a dazzling skill set, demonstrated by a feverish ability to move the chains and a knack for catching the ball low to the ground where defenders can't reach.

    Similar to Danny Woodhead, Welker takes full advantage of his small frame to squirm through defenses and collect precious yards.

    He's a phenomenal player and will be in the discussion for a possible trip to the Hall of Fame. A Super Bowl championship would go a long way to cementing his future glory. I'd like to see him stick around long enough to achieve that dream and establish himself as one of the finest Patriots of all time.

    Verdict: Underpaid 

Aaron Hernandez

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    Contract Details (Source: Rotoworld): Four-year / $2,738,000; 2014: Free Agent

    Aaron Hernandez had his breakout year in 2011. During the regular season, he tallied 79 receptions, 910 yards and seven touchdowns. In the postseason, he registered 19 receptions, 188 yards and two touchdowns (one of which came in the Super Bowl). Outstanding production.

    Hernandez is a staggering athlete. He has total body control. He's extremely light on his feet, has great mobility and superb coordination. As a hybrid tight end/receiver, he's the mold of what future NFL players will look like. 

    Plus, he's been known to moonlight as a running back, which is a talent I'd like to see him expand upon in 2012. This guy is a very rare athlete.

    I'd love to see him sign a long-term contract and stay in New England for the long haul.

    Verdict: Underpaid

Rob Gronkowski

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    Contract details (source: ESPN): Six-year / $53 million extension

    Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker form a three-headed monster. Such a balanced offensive onslaught spreads the coverage, which enables each head of the monster to indulge in generous portions of feeding time on the field. These three players maximize each other's abilities.

    When Gronkowski got a new contract over the offseason and the other two didn't, it felt a little strange. It got even stranger when you took a look at the mind-warping numbers of the deal.

    Gronkowski's epic extension got done fast and with seemingly effortless ease. This sheds light on a value discrepancy among the heads of this three-headed monster.

    In a certain sense, that value discrepancy is valid. Last season, Gronkowski had 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 18 total touchdowns. He's rewriting the definition of the tight end position in the NFL.

    Having said that, this deal could still have painful consequences. With Hernandez set to become a marquee free agent in 2014 and Welker's post-2012 future in limbo, Gronkowski's massive contract may eat up the kind of dough that prevents this three-headed monster from remaining in New England.

    Tough to imagine this two-tight end offense trimmed in half. Also tough to imagine the Patriots without Welker. And yet, these are suddenly things to think about. Such is the price of a $50,000,000+ extension.  

    Verdict: Conflicted