Who Are the NFL's Most Grossly Overpaid, Underpaid Players?
Who's to say which players in the NFL are overpaid and underpaid?
It's always a touchy discussion, especially when it comes to the first part of the question.
Well, yours truly has the assignment. I focused on five players in each category, making a case for each cause. Keep in mind this is primarily based on performance relative to salary and not injuries, with one notable exception.
We also know there are some very young players on the underpaid list, which is understandable because none of them are onetime first-round draft choices.
So sit back, ponder the choices and feel free to make your own suggestions. We have provided each player's 2015 salary, which includes base pay and any bonuses.
In case you are wondering, the temptation was there to put J.J. Watt on the underpaid list.
Overpaid: WR Mike Wallace, Minnesota Vikings
2015 Base Salary: $9.85 million
Back in 2013, the Miami Dolphins attempted to upgrade their offense in free agency by signing speedy wide receiver Mike Wallace, a Pro Bowler with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011, to a five-year, $60 million contract.
In two years with the Dolphins, Wallace totaled 140 receptions for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers are somewhat similar to those of Antonio Brown, Wallace's former teammate with the Steelers. The All-Pro wideout's totals read 129 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 scores.
The only big difference is that Brown's statistics are for 2014, not two years.
Wallace, who scored 10 touchdowns last season, is looking to revitalize his career in the Twin Cities after being dealt to the Vikings this offseason. He will get a hefty paycheck in 2015 and must do more than he did in Miami, where he failed to lead the team in catches in both his seasons in Florida.
Underpaid: QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
2015 Base Salary: $1.542 million
We may as well get the elephant in the room out of the way as soon as possible.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was a third-round selection in 2012 and is in the final year of his rookie contract.
In three seasons, he's thrown for 9,950 yards and 72 touchdowns, committing 34 turnovers (26 interceptions and eight lost fumbles). Wilson has rushed for 1,877 yards and 11 scores.
The two-time Pro Bowler has also helped lead the Seahawks to the playoffs for three straight years, including back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. Wilson and the Seahawks prevailed in Super Bowl XLVIII and fell just short of making it back-to-back triumphs at Super Bowl XLIX.
There's no doubt Wilson's performance has exceeded his contract. Does he deserve to be one of the NFL's highest-paid players after just three seasons in the league, as colleague Jason Cole recently reported he might become?
That's a question only the Seahawks can answer.
Overpaid: OLB Lamarr Houston, Chicago Bears
2015 Base Salary: $5.95 million
Last offseason, the Chicago Bears inked defensive end Lamarr Houston to a hefty, five-year, $35 million contract. He had spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and looked to be a major part of a new-look defense in the Windy City.
We didn't see a lot of Houston in 2014, as we found out that while his play was suspect, his other moves also left a lot to be desired.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was on the field for 405 plays and was less than spectacular for the league's 30th-ranked defense. He also injured himself in a lopsided Week 8 loss at New England, when he opted to celebrate a sack of Jimmy Garoppolo late in a 51-23 defeat. Houston injured his knee and was lost for the season, as documented in October by Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The five-year pro returns in 2015 at a new position (outside linebacker) in Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense. Along with that challenge, perhaps Houston could come up with some new options on how and when to celebrate.
Underpaid: OLB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Base Salary: $738,418
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have fallen upon hard times in recent seasons, winning just seven of their last 38 games, dating back to November 2012. But it's hard to blame outside linebacker Lavonte David for those losses—well, apart from maybe Week 1 of 2013 against the New York Jets.
In any case, the former second-round pick has led the team in tackles for three straight years with 139, 145 and 146 stops, respectively. Add in a combined 10 sacks, six interceptions, six forced fumbles and 19 passes defensed over that span.
David is due for a Goliath-like contract after 2015. But will it come from the Buccaneers?
Overpaid: TE Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
2015 Base Salary: $7 million
Perhaps it's not really his fault, considering the St. Louis Rams' situation at quarterback the past two seasons.
Nonetheless, tight end Jared Cook has only occasionally flashed some impressive moments since leaving the Tennessee Titans for the Gateway City in 2013.
A total of 32 games for the Rams has resulted in 103 catches for 1,305 yards and eight touchdowns to date. Cook made 52 receptions in 2014 after snaring 51 catches in 2013.
Perhaps the numbers will change this upcoming season with new quarterback Nick Foles at the controls. But so far, the addition of Cook hasn't been part of a successful recipe.
Underpaid: RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
2015 Base Salary: $1.542 million
There's a lot to be said for reliability, which means there's a lot to be said for Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris.
A total of 48 games adds up to 48 starts, 876 carries, 3,962 yards and 28 touchdowns, which is not bad for the 173rd overall pick in the 2012 draft (sixth round) from Florida Atlantic. Morris has also been named to the Pro Bowl twice in three seasons.
Yes, Morris' attempts and rushing yards have decreased each year since his impressive rookie performance, when he totaled 335 carries for 1,613 yards and 13 scores. But you can also chalk that up to factors beyond his control.
Overpaid: DT Ziggy Hood, Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Base Salary: $3.95 million
Following their victory in Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers owned the final pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. They opted for University of Missouri defensive end Evander "Ziggy" Hood. He spent five relatively unimpressive years with the Black and Gold before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.
Last season, Hood played in all 16 games for Gus Bradley's club. He did not start any contest and, according to Pro Football Focus, was less than imposing against the run.
Yes, just under $4 million for 2015 isn't an earth-shattering sum. But Hood remains an enigma. Perhaps a second season in Bradley's system may get him on track.
Underpaid: OLB Jamie Collins, New England Patriots
2015 Base Salary: $746,909
Unsurprisingly, the New England Patriots aren't breaking the bank when it comes to paying outside linebacker Jamie Collins. That’s certainly not a surprise when you consider his tenure on the team and the philosophy of the organization, which works.
Granted, the second-round pick in 2013 from Southern Mississippi has played only two seasons. But what we've seen to date has been impressive.
Last season, Collins led the club with 116 tackles while totaling four sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. He's also amassed 36 tackles and two interceptions in five postseason games for New England.
The Patriots have had their share of bad luck when it comes to linebackers staying healthy in recent seasons—see Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower. And while it may not come any time this year, Collins could be due for a healthy raise.
Overpaid: CB Prince Amukamara, New York Giants
2015 Base Salary: $6.898 million
Six interceptions in four seasons doesn't appear to be worth roughly $7 million in 2015.
Yes, New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara totaled three of those picks in just eight games this past season. But his play, much improved in 2014, has been spotty at best since the Giants selected him with the 19th overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft.
This will be a very interesting year for Amukamara, who is entering the final season of his rookie deal. Will the Giants take a leap of faith and hand this Prince a king's ransom? So far, he ranks as a disappointment.
Underpaid: OLB DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions
2015 Base Salary: $3.5 million
A third-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2009, linebacker DeAndre Levy may be one of the most underappreciated defensive players in the league.
In 2014, he racked up a team-high 151 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks, one interception and five passes defensed. In six seasons, he's picked off 12 passes (six in 2013), totaling at least one interception in each, and has knocked down 33 passes.
Levy has also totaled 100-plus tackles in three of his last four seasons. In an offseason of change for the Lions defense, he may be the unit's most reliable performer.