A.J. Smith has always been known to capture talent. The last two off-seasons displayed his level of intelligence regarding the needs of the San Diego Chargers.
Before we keep going, I would like to point out that I am not a fan of A.J. Smith. Although he has done a spectacular job creating a team, he has yet to fire Norv Turner, which is the number one reason San Diego hasn't been to the playoffs in two years.
Anyway, Smith has done his part this season. He's loaded the Chargers with talent. Everyone must be thinking, "If Philip Rivers is making $10 million a year and Eric Weddle is the highest paid safety ever, how do the Chargers afford the rest of the big names?"
It's actually pretty simple.
San Diego gives players contracts that will pay them most of their money in the last years. For instance, Antonio Garay will be making $1,600,000 this season and $5,000,000 next season. With that being said, it seems as if the Chargers window could be closing. Philip Rivers' salary will go from $10 million to $15 million by 2015. The money situation is going to be a mess a few years from now.
So let's take a look at the player's salaries and see who's being overpaid and who's being underpaid for the 2012 NFL Season.
3. Nate Kaeding: Yes, Kaeding is the 16th highest paid kicker in the NFL. So how can he be overpaid? Because the Chargers have Nick Novak on the roster, and he's only set to make $700,000 this year. Kaeding is better than Novak, but not by much.
Novak had a breakout season last year, mainly because of the Chargers' inability to capitalize in the Red Zone. Although Kaeding is known as the best regular season kicker in NFL history, his postseason woes scare me. Instead of paying Kaeding $2,000,000 this year, the Chargers should just stick with Novak at $700,000.
2. Atari Bigby: This one makes absolutely no sense to me. Atari Bigby is going to make $2,500,000 this season. Last year in Seattle, Bigby made $658,000. The year before in Green Bay, he made $1,759,000.
In 2011, Atari Bigby had 18 total tackles, no interceptions and only two passes defended. It surprises me that they would give Bigby that much money when a guy like Jim Leonhard is still available. Atari will make the most money he has ever in an NFL this season.
Clearly, the Chargers overpaid their new strong safety.
1. Jeromey Clary: For a guy who gave up 11 sacks last season, he's happy to be the seventh highest paid player in San Diego. He'll be making $2,850,000 this year, raising to $4,550,000 by 2014. It's unbelievable to think Clary, arguably the worst offensive lineman on the Chargers roster, is the HIGHEST paid offensive lineman for the Chargers.
Clary may only be 28-years-old, but that doesn't mean the Chargers should give him $2.8 million. Jeromey Clary isn't overpaid a little, he's extremely overpaid.
3. Nick Hardwick: Not only is Nick Hardwick underpaid, but he's also very underrated. Hardwick is the main guy who kept what was left of the offensive line together last season. He's the anchor, and has been since 2004. He just signed a three year contract to stay in San Diego, but like most of the roster, his big money will come in the end. This season, Hardwick is making $1,250,000, less than half of what Clary will be making.
There's been nothing but praise for Hardwick, whether it's from coaches or Philip Rivers explaining how important of a role he really plays.
2. Jared Gaither: Another offensive lineman. Jared Gaither is the big boy. He stepped in late last season, replacing Marcus McNeill at left tackle, and gave Philip Rivers the most protection he had seen all season.
Speculation spread around San Diego during the early parts of free agency regarding Gaither. He was searching for big money, which he deserves. He proved his value in the last couple games in 2011, so the Chargers signed him to a four year, $24.6 million contract.
As mentioned before, Gaither will join the many others who has to wait to receive most of his money. In 2012, Jared Gaither will only be making $1,000,000 but it will raise to $6,000,000 by 2015. He's the fifth highest paid offensive lineman on the Chargers this season, which is the biggest reason he's underpaid.
Is Jared Gaither Underpaid?
1. Ryan Mathews: If someone were to tell me that Ryan Mathews will be the 29th highest paid Charger and the 42nd highest paid running back in the league for the upcoming season, I would laugh.
Well, it's true.
Mathews will make $712,750 this season. That's less than his backup Ronnie Brown, who is making $825,000. Unlike most of his teammates, his paychecks will not raise a whole lot, getting up to $1,478,250 by 2015.
It's only his third year in the NFL, and his first season having a normal offseason. Mathews has signing bonuses and endorsements to get his money, as do most players, but he's going to show everyone this season why he's deserving of a making top ten money for running backs in the NFL. He surely should be making more than Reggie Bush.
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