The 10 Most Overpaid Players in the NFL
Some players in the National Football League should be arrested for robbery.
While players like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins and Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers play for comparative peanuts while putting up Pro Bowl numbers, some veterans fatten their bank accounts while accomplishing very little on the field.
They are the NFL's most overpaid players.
In the interest of objectivity, two criteria were used to determine the NFL's biggest gold-diggers.
First, a player had to average more than $10 million in annual salary according to Spotrac (subscription required). No penny-ante crooks here, folks. We're talking grand larceny.
Second, all of the players listed here graded outside the top 20 at their position in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
In other words, they're getting paid like elite players, but they aren't performing like them.
However, there is one exception to that second caveat on this list, and he kicks things off.
10. Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills
Average Salary: $16 million
PFF Ranking: 17th
When the Buffalo Bills signed defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $96 million contract in 2012, he became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
After one year, the Bills have plenty of reasons for buyer's remorse.
Yes, Williams tallied 10.5 sacks in 2012, and the 28-year-old ranked just inside the top 20 players at his position, according to Pro Football Focus.
However, those 10.5 sacks were tied for 17th in the NFL, and Williams ranked 35th among 4-3 defensive ends in PFF's pass-rushing metric.
Granted, Williams battled a wrist injury for much of last season. A return to full health in 2013 should help.
Maybe then Williams will start earning that whole "NFL's highest-paid defensive player" moniker.
9. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Average Salary: $13 million
PFF Ranking: 23rd
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is the poster child for everything that was wrong with the old collective bargaining agreement.
Before ever playing a down for the Rams, Bradford was signed to a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million in guaranteed money, making him the highest-paid rookie in NFL history.
Since then, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft has done very little to justify all that coin.
Yes, Bradford has played behind porous offensive lines and with less-than-stellar receivers.
The 25-year-old also posted the best numbers of his short career in 2012, throwing for more than 3,700 yards and a career-high 21 touchdowns.
However, the fact remains that Bradford has yet to post a 4,000-yard season, 25 scoring passes or a quarterback rating of over 83.
He's also never cracked the top 20 quarterbacks in PFF's rankings, and last year he finished behind the likes of Kevin Kolb and Ryan Tannehill.
8. Philip Rivers, QB San Diego Chargers
Average Salary: $14 million
PFF Ranking: 28th
Back in 2009, when Philip Rivers signed his seven-year, $98 million extension, it seemed like a shrewd move by the San Diego Chargers.
After all, Rivers was coming off of the first 4,000-yard passing season of his career and had just thrown a career-high 34 touchdown passes.
Rivers then went on to pass for more than 4,200 yards, post his second of three straight seasons with a passer rating of more than 100 and make the Pro Bowl for the second time.
Unfortunately, as of late, it's been a much different story.
Rivers' 3,606 yards in 2012 was his lowest output since 2008, and after throwing only 45 interceptions in his first five NFL seasons, Rivers has thrown 48 over the past three years.
Add in an eye-popping 16 lost fumbles over that three-year stretch, and a player who not long ago was considered an elite NFL quarterback is now facing a make-or-break 2013 season.
7. Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams
Average Salary: $12 million
PFF Ranking: 24th
Over his five-year NFL career, Chris Long has developed into an excellent pass-rusher. After logging a career-high 13 sacks in 2011, the team rewarded that growth, signing Long to a five-year, $60 million contract extension.
The 28-year-old then went on to tally 11.5 sacks in 2012, but Long's ability to get after the quarterback isn't the problem.
While Long was a top-10 pass-rusher in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, he was absolutely terrible against the run, ranking as the third-worst 4-3 end in the NFL in that category.
Chris Long may be very good at what he does, but $12 million a season is an awful lot of money for a one-trick pony.
6. Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Average Salary: $12 million
PFF Ranking: 91st
The new CBA has made it much more cost-effective for teams to build through the draft, so many NFL clubs have adopted a more cautious approach to free agency.
The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, approached free agency this year with all the subtlety of a Michael Bay movie.
The jewel of Miami's free-agent haul was wide receiver Mike Wallace, whom Miami signed to a $60 million deal that makes the 26-year-old the NFL's third highest-paid player at his position.
That's in spite of a 2012 season where Wallace accrued the fewest receiving yards since his rookie season, ranked well outside the top 75 wideouts in the NFL, according to PFF, and was 45th in the league in yards after the catch.
Not exactly the sort of production you're looking for from a game-breaking, "elite" wide receiver.
5. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Average Salary: $10 million
PFF Rank: 59th
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is the NFL's highest-paid running back, and after topping 2,000 yards on the ground in 2012, that makes sense.
The fact that Darren McFadden ranks second in average salary behind Peterson? Not so much.
This is the same Darren McFadden who has topped 1,000 yards on the ground all of once in five seasons. The 25-year-old averaged a pitiful 3.3 yards per carry last year. McFadden lost as many fumbles in 2012 as he scored touchdowns. He ranked dead last among all NFL running backs in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
Yes, a failed switch to a zone-blocking scheme a year ago bears some of the blame for that horrible showing.
However, the offensive line isn't to blame for McFadden being able to play a full 16-game season only once in his career.
If there's a silver (and black) lining, the relic of the Al Davis era that is McFadden's contract expires after the 2013 season, so it's time to put up or shut up where McFadden is concerned.
4. Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears
Average Salary: $10.2 million
PFF Ranking: 96th
Devin Hester is one of the best return men to ever play in the National Football League. His 18 combined special teams return touchdowns are an NFL record. The 30-year-old has been named an All-Pro four times.
With all of that said, however, the fact that Hester ranks seventh among all NFL wide receivers in annual salary is almost laughable.
Hester has never caught 60 passes or topped 800 yards in a season, and even his impact on special teams has decreased in recent years.
Since the NFL moved up kickoffs to the 40-yard line, the number of touchbacks have increased, and Hester has only one kickoff return for a score since 2007.
Hester was also held out of the end zone on punt returns in 2012. His 8.3-yard average was his lowest since 2009 and the lowest of his career in a season where he had at least 40 returns.
Those 40 returns are also his highest number since 2008. Teams aren't even afraid to kick it to Hester anymore.
3. Will Smith, DE, New Orleans Saints
Average Salary: $10.2 million
PFF Ranking: 61st
You know things are bad when a player takes a $6 million pay cut, and his average salary still looks out of whack.
That's the case with New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, who signed a six-year, $70 million contract with the Saints back in 2008 before restructuring that deal earlier this year.
The reasons for that restructuring were both plainly evident and plentiful.
The 31-year old was due a $9 million base salary in 2012, despite the fact that he has only registered double-digit sacks twice in nine years, with the last time occurring in 2009.
Since then, Smith has also served a pair of suspensions as a result of the "StarCaps" and "Bountygate" brouhahas.
This year's switch to a 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan doesn't bode well for a player who has never played in the scheme, but at least Saints fans can take solace in the knowledge that the chances of Smith seeing his $10.4 million base salary in 2014 are slim to none.
OK, it's none.
2. Tyson Jackson, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
Average Salary: $11 million
PFF Ranking: 30th
Speaking of overpriced defensive ends taking pay cuts.
Back in 2009, the Kansas City Chiefs made Tyson Jackson the third overall pick, handing him a five-year, $57 million contract with more than $30 million in guaranteed money.
Since then, Jackson has tallied all of five sacks in four seasons, and last year the 26-year-old was the fifth-worst 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Chiefs have redone Jackson's deal twice in the past two years, most recently in March.
That latest do-over shaved Jackson's base salary this season to $4.2 million, which, based on his performance to this point in his career, is about $4 million too much.
Thankfully for the Chiefs, Jackson's contract expires after the 2013 season.
1. Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Average Salary: $11.7 million
PFF Ranking: 37th
Like there was ever any doubt who was going to top this list.
It wasn't that long ago Mark Sanchez was the toast of New York after leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games.
Now? He's just toast.
In between, then-general manager Mike Tannenbaum inked Sanchez to possibly the most bizarre contract extension in NFL history, a three-year deal with $40.5 million in "new" money attached.
So how did Sanchez reward the Jets for their, um, generosity?
He had an absolute nightmare of a 2012 campaign, of course!
The 26-year-old posted the worst numbers since his rookie season, failing to throw for 3,000 yards, tossing five more interceptions than touchdowns and finishing the year as the NFL's second-worst quarterback, per Pro Football Focus.
Oh, and then there was this.
When you make more than $10 million in average salary and the defining moment of your National Football League career was a butt fumble, then you are the league's most overpaid player.