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Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and the Most Underpaid Players in the NFL Today

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2011

Matt Forte, Chris Johnson & the Most Underpaid Players in the NFL Today

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    I wish I was underpaid like these next guys are underpaid. Alas, it is all relative.

    Consider the fact that Sam Bradford and other first-round draft picks make more money by signing their names to a piece of paper, straight out of college, then most of the following players have made in their entire careers.

    That means these guys are underpaid.

    It also means we could be headed for an extensive work stoppage. The guys on this list better start pinching their hundreds.

    *All posted salaries are approximations of players' 2010 salaries. The official salaries with bonuses have not been released

No. 30: Kyle Orton (Broncos)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    At the start of the 2010 season, Orton signed an extension worth over $8 million for the 2011 season.

    After a 2010 season that saw him post a 87.5 QB rating with zero run game, Orton has already earned that money.

    Salary: $2,620,000

No. 29: Kendall Langford (Dolphins)

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Langford is a very solid young 3-4 defensive end. He holds the edge well and occasionally gets pressure on the QB.

    I also firmly believe that his last name alone should earn him a couple of extra million a year.

    Salary: $476,805

No. 28: Wes Welker (Patriots)

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    Wes Welker is one of the most consisntent and productive receivers in the league.

    Welker had 86 catches for 848 yards in 2010—a down year for him.

    And that's still way more production than they are paying him for.

    Salary: $2,225,000

No. 27: Jared Veldheer (Raiders)

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    In a 2010 draft class that was supposed to be top-heavy with offensive tackles, this little known third-round draft pick went on to be one of the two most productive tackles.

    He took over full-time starting duties in Week 5 and the Raiders run game flourished.

    Salary: $400,000

No. 26: Hakeem Nicks (Giants)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Hakeem Nicks has turned into a legitimate No. 1 receiver. 

    He led all Giant pass-catchers in yards, receptions and touchdowns.

    He also helped every Giant fan forget about a receiver named Plexico something-or-other. That right there is probably worth a franchise tag.

    Salary: $3,205,000

No. 25: Colt McCoy (Browns)

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Colt McCoy showed enough promise in his rookie season for the Browns to seriously consider that they have their QB of the future.

    It's going to be a brief future, however, if they don't start paying him.

    Salary: $400,000

No. 24: Jacoby Ford (Raiders)

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Jacoby Ford didn't get much playing time until near the mid-way point of the season.

    When he did, he made the most of it. The kid was a human highlight reel.

    Get him the ball on a kickoff return, reception or a reverse and he is a threat to take it to the house.

    His house just isn't very big yet. 

    Salary: $390,000

No. 23: Michael Vick (Eagles)

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    In typical Michael Vick fashion, this was a season of extremes for him.

    Vick began the season as an overpaid backup and he ended it as an underpaid MVP candidate.

    Salary: $5,250,000

No. 22: Marques Colston (Saints)

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Colston is everything you'd want in a No. 1 wide receiver: He's tall, speedy and has great hands.

    Most of all, he produces—way beyond his contract.

    With 84 catches 1023 yards in the spread it around Saints offense, the Saints are staring down the barrel of a pay raise.

    Salary: $2,250,000

No. 21: Adrian Peterson (Vikings)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    "You're picturing me as Adrian Peterson again, aren't you?"

    "Don't be silly, Adrian Peterson."

    When you are the star of commercials, chances are you should be one of the higher paid players in the league.

    Peterson's pay is movin' on up in 2011, but in 2010....

    Salary: $2,815,330

No. 20: Curtis Lofton (Falcons)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Curtis Lofton is one of the league's premier young middle linebackers—although you wouldn't know it by his salary.

    Lofton ended the 2010 season with 118 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception.

    Salary: $452,280

No. 19: Steve Smith (Giants)

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    "In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of..." unless you are Steve Smith.

    Smith only played in nine games in 2010 and he was still third on the team in receptions.

    He was also still underpaid.

    Salary: $466,110

No. 18: Vince Wilfork (Patriots)

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    Vince Wilfork is one of those blocker-eating nose tackles whose impact on a game cannot be measured by stats.

    Wilfork is so good, however, he manages to put up some stats, too.

    In 2010, he totaled 57 tackles, two sacks and two passes defensed.

    He is also getting a big raise in 2011. 

    Salary: $2,207,280

No. 17: Michael Oher (Ravens)

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    I hope Mr. Oher got some money from The Blindside, because he is vastly underpaid in his daytime job as a franchise left tackle.

    Salary: $1,252,000

No. 16: Alterraun Verner (Titans)

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    If you don't know the man Titans fans call "ATV," you will.

    Verner had a great season at corner for the Titans and an amazing one considering his rookie status.

    Verner tallied 93 tackles, 11 passes defensed and three interceptions. He also did that at an amazing value.

    Salary: $320,000

No. 15: Zach Miller (Raiders)

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Zach Miller is such a great pass-catching TE, that even JaMarcus Russell could complete passes to him.

    In 2010, Miller again led all Raiders in yards, catches and touchdowns.

    And he did this despite battling a Plantar Fascia injury for much of the season.

    Salary: $550,000

No. 14: DeSean Jackson (Eagles)

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    DeSean Jackson is one of the most electrifying players in the game. I mean, come on, who else do you know that has a walk-off punt return?

    Along with his punt returns, Jackson also added over 1,000 yards in receptions.

    And all of that for a bargain basement price.

    Salary: $783,615

No. 13: Pierre Garcon (Colts)

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    67 catches for 784 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games—not bad for a guy making almost the league minimum.

    Salary: $391,760

No. 12: Jerod Mayo (Patriots)

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    Jerod Mayo is the glue of the Patriots defense—largely due to the fact that he makes almost every tackle.

    In 2010 Mayo made $2,915.40 per tackle.

    Salary: $507,280

No. 11: Vontae Davis (Dolphins)

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    Davis has worked his way up to the title of "shutdown corner"—one of the most valued commodities on the NFL pay scale. 

    Teams rarely throw his way, which is good for him, because he isn't getting paid to work as hard as most corners.

    Salary: $1,625,000

No. 10: Haloti Ngata (Ravens)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Haloti Ngata is one of the rare freaks with the body of a nose tackle, but the athleticism of a 3-4 end.

    The guy eats offensive lineman for dinner, running backs for dessert and then uses quarterbacks as a toothpick.

    Just to make sure he deserved to be near the top of this list, Ngata even threw in some snaps as a short yardage fullback.

    Salary: $1,250,000

No. 9: Clay Mathews (Packers)

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    Clay Mathews spent the entire 2010 season in the opposition's backfield; he is the heart and soul of a Super Bowl defense.

    He also is pushing Troy Polamalu for best hair (crazy Trojans).

    However, maybe Mathews just can't afford to cut his hair.

    Salary: $1,860,000

No. 8: Mike Williams (Buccaneers)

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    With 65 catches, 964 yards and 11 touchdowns, Williams had an insanely productive rookie season.

    Not too shabby for a fourth-round draft pick.

    Salary: $410,000

No. 7: Chad Henne (Dolphins)

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    When the Dolphins primary owner claimed that he thought Henne would be the organization's greatest QB, people laughed at him.

    Maybe he is just using lofty praise in lieu of pay.

    Salary: $440,000

No. 6: Chris Johnson (Titans)

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    Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images

    In 2010, Chris Johnson was not a part of the Tennessee Titans offense, he was their offense.

    He scored one-third of their touchdowns, had almost all of their rushing yards and led the team in receptions.

    Salary: $550,000 + $1.25 million in escalators

No. 5: Josh Freeman (Buccaneers)

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    Josh Freeman is developing faster than his contract can pay him.

    Freeman was one the league's most consistent QBs in 2010 and he ended the season with a 95.9 QB rating.

    Salary: $1,380,000

No. 4: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs)

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    Jamaal Charles introduced himself to the NFL world at the end of the 2009 season.

    In the 2010 season, Charles had that world on a string.

    Charles totaled 1,935 yards from scrimmage and he earned himself a new contract for the 2011 season. In 2010, however, he was among the most underpaid.

    Salary: $390,200

No. 3: LaMarr Woodley

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    If Woodley rang the fine-bell like his teammate, James Harrison, he'd be broke.

    Woodley finished the 2010 regular season with 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.

    Salary: $466,240

No. 2: Matt Forte (Bears)

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    Just the fact the Matt Forte had to run the ball behind the Bears offensive line is reason enough to earn him top NFL dollar.

    Throw in the fact that he went over 1,000 yards and tied for the team league in receptions and you have a player deserving to be one of the team's highest paid.

    He wasn't.

    Salary: $388,120

No. 1: Arian Foster

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Arian Foster put up 2,220 yards from scrimmage and scored 18 touchdowns in 2010.

    Foster is so unbelievably underpaid that when he ended the season as the league's leading rusher, his offensive lineman took him out to dinner.

    Salary: $390,000

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