As with any business in the world, there are good deals made and bad deals made. The same holds true in the NFL.
When the late Al Davis ran the show for the Oakland Raiders, there were a lot of questionable contracts given out to players that essentially held the team back. Some fans are still haunted by the contracts of JaMarcus Russell, Javon Walker, and DeAngelo Hall.
Now the Raiders have a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie, and he has already showed to be more judicious in spending money when building a roster.
With that said, there are still players on the roster not living up to their contract and some who are bargains. Let's take a look at the most overpaid and underpaid players on Oakland's roster.
Note: All contract information was obtained from Spotrac.com
The Oakland Raiders drafted Rolando McClain eighth overall in the 2010 NFL draft. He signed a five-year, $40 million contract, including a $23 million signing bonus.
The Raiders expected to get the same player who was a 2009 All-American from Alabama, but he has been anything but that so far in his NFL career.
McClain has made more news off the field than on it, and that needs to change in 2012. He did improve his numbers in 2011 with 99 total tackles and five sacks. He shows flashes in the run game and an ability to pass rush.
The problem is that McClain is a complete liability in pass coverage. He also is the big reason why the Raiders ranked 27th in both rush and pass defense in 2011.
McClain needs to start showing he is the total package to justify his draft spot and the $5.57 million he will make in 2012 if he expects to even be with the team beyond this season.
Matt Shaughnessy proved to be more valuable than the four-year, $2,602,000 contract he signed in 2009, despite not playing in 2011 due to injury.
The Raiders sorely missed his presence on the defensive line, even prompting Richard Seymour to recognize the importance of Shaughnessy when he returned to mini-camp.
In 2010, Shaughnessy played in all 16 games, including eight starts and went on to have a fine season. He had 56 total tackles, seven sacks, and two forced fumbles. He looked to build off that in 2011 before going down with a season-ending injury.
Shaughnessy is going to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season and if he returns to his 2010 form, he will likely demand a huge payday on the market.
With the money the Raiders have tied up in contracts with other players on the roster, it may be difficult for them retain Shaughnessy's services, but in 2012, his $778,062 cap hit is a huge bargain.
Like Rolando McClain, Darrius Heyward-Bey is a beneficiary of joining the NFL before there was a rookie wage scale. He was drafted seventh overall in the 2009 NFL draft and signed a five-year, $38.25 million contract.
The good news for the Raiders is that he has already been paid most of that money with an astronomical $21.9 million given to him in 2010. The bad news is that he really has not lived up to expectations.
In 2011, Heyward-Bay showed signs of life by putting together a decent season. He ended 2011 with 64 receptions for 975 yards and four touchdowns. He built a good rapport with quarterback Carson Palmer and showed he is capable of making tough catches in traffic.
However, his overall career numbers do not justify the money he has made and the $5,779,000 cap hit he will bring in 2012. Heyward-Bey has a higher base salary than Larry Fitzgerald and a higher average salary than Anquan Boldin.
Heyward-Bey seems poised to make 2012 his breakout year. If he can put up numbers like the top-caliber receivers in this league, then is contract can be a little more justifiable. Until then, consider him overpaid.
Marcel Reece is a major X-factor for the Oakland Raiders. He brings a dynamic to the team that no other fullback in the league can. His ability, along with the fact that he will make just over $500,000 in 2012, makes him a steal.
Reece had been staying away from the Raiders for offseason workouts because he wanted a long-term deal with the team. He eventually hushed concern by signing his exclusive rights tender.
What Reece brings to the table makes him a unique weapon to experiment with in 2012. He has already shown the ability to run and catch the football. He can line up in a couple of different spots in a formation, including receiver, and be a threat.
He has also shown an ability to block, but with the signing of Owen Schmitt, the Raiders may give Reece more of an opportunity to have the football in his hands.
If given the chance to show what he can do, Marcel Reece could end up being the biggest bargain for the Oakland Raiders in 2012.
You look at the numbers Tommy Kelly put up in 2011 and you go, "not bad." He had 41 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.
But then you look at his seven-year, $50.5 million contract he signed back in 2008 and you start to get sick. To say that Kelly has not lived up to his contract would be an understatement.
Kelly did put up solid seasons back-to-back in 2010 and 2011, but with eight seasons in the league and only 33 career sacks, there is a lot left to be desired.
Kelly is starting to enter the latter stages of his career, and it is hard to imagine him getting any better than his 2011 season. Although some will say it is better late than never, never still does not cut it for Kelly.
He will make just under $9 million in 2012. For a defensive tackle on the 27th-rated rush defense in 2011, that amount is just not justifiable.
Notice how the pattern got broken by going with another overpaid player? That should give some insight to what the Raiders are dealing with.
Anyway, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league so they should be paid more than most players in the league. But it is hard to say that Carson Palmer has earned his four-year, $43 million contract.
Palmer gets a pass in 2011. He essentially had no chance by joining the team in the middle of the year and being thrust into action without any practice. He has to prove that he can still be a franchise quarterback.
With what the Raiders gave up to acquire Palmer and what he is going to be paid in the next couple of years, he better prove that this season or that deal will go down as a bust for Oakland.
Palmer will make a little under $5 million this season, but then that amount jumps to just under $17 million in 2013 and then just under $19 million in 2014. That is a huge chunk of change for a 32-year-old quarterback who has only thrown more than 30 touchdowns in a season once in his nine-year career.
If the Raiders make the playoffs and show real progress toward winning a championship, then it is all worth it. Until then, Palmer is just another overpaid player on Oakland's roster.