The NFL salary cap has reportedly been raised to $123 million for the 2013 season. This is good news for many teams, but a few still have large payrolls without much to show for their big spending.
The San Francisco 49ers are an example of a franchise that is getting dangerously close to the new cap, as the team is just over $1 million below the threshold. But considering the team’s run to the Super Bowl, it is difficult to criticize the way the franchise has allocated its resources.
Other teams, however, are spending similar amounts of money and did not even reach the playoffs. There is plenty of time left in the offseason and things can change very quickly, but these franchises are still in an unfavorable position.
Here is the worst contract on each non-playoff team spending way too much money.
New Orleans Saints: S Roman Harper
Saints’ Cap Room: $5,434,758 (over cap)
Harper’s Salary: $6,350,000
Harper has been a productive player during his career and is a two-time Pro Bowler. But last season was a disaster for the Saints’ secondary.
2012 was actually a catastrophe for the entire defense, but the pass defense ranked 31st in the league. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) gave Harper the second-worst grade among all safeties, with only teammate Malcolm Jenkins getting worse marks.
The team has already hired Rob Ryan to overhaul the defense, and it will likely add several players on this side of the ball in the offseason.
Maybe an influx of talent and a coaching change can turn things around, but until that happens, paying a safety that kind of money to anchor the worst defense in football is not a smart way to do business.
Oakland Raiders: DT Tommy Kelly
Raiders’ Cap Room: $1,456,077
Kelly’s Salary: $8,874,267
There are a few candidates on the Raiders’ roster that could be highlighted here, but ultimately, Kelly is the team’s highest-paid player on the team, and it is difficult to figure out why.
He is 32 years old, Pro Football Focus rated him as the 74th-best defensive tackle in the game, and he has made just one Pro-Bowl in his career when he was selected as an alternate in 2010.
Players such as Carson Palmer and Darrius Heyward-Bey are also overpaid, but still had flashes of productivity last season.
There were few signs of hope from Kelly, and at 32, there aren’t likely to be many in the future.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB James Harrison
Steelers’ Cap Space: $2,686,592
Harrison’s Salary: $9,030,000
The Steelers’ cap situation is not nearly as concerning as the scenario the other two teams face, as evidenced by the fact that their most overpaid player is a former Defensive Player of the Year.
Still, at this point in his career, Harrison is overpaid.
Over the last two seasons, he has struggled with injuries and recorded just 15 total sacks. He will be 35 when the season starts, and he still plays with the reckless abandon that causes him to get hurt and penalized at a higher rate than other players.
But his age is the biggest concern, and at his current salary, the Steelers are taking a gamble that he will hold up for most of the season.