Please read my B/R colleague, Timothy Hockemeyer's take on this same subject.
While there is no Albert Haynesworth on the Chicago Bears roster, there are some highly paid players. Let's take a look at who the most overpaid are.
Compared to other major professional sports, NFL players are not as overpaid as you may think, Haynesworth notwithstanding.
The only guaranteed portion of their contracts are the singing bonuses. They can be cut at any time and teams often only have to pay for service time accrued.
Plus, careers are a lot shorter in the NFL than in some other sports, such as MLB for example. And the long-term implication of playing such a violent sport often leaves disastrous consequences.
Still, it's a lot of money to you and me. And since we help pay for the salaries, in part, through merchandise sales, tickets, TV viewing and concessions, it is only fair that we call out any player making more money than his performance warrants.
When given this assignment, I looked at both "cap" numbers and actual salary. In an effort to circumvent the salary cap, teams often play around with salaries, resulting in cap numbers that look far different from actual salary.
At first blush, the Bears don't really have any seriously overpaid players. But when digging deep and being honest, the results don't always match the salary as compared with other players in the league.
Look, I am in no way unhappy that the Bears signed Peppers. Far from it. In fact, the first year worked out great as his impact often was greater than his numbers would suggest.
Still, if you remove the fan element and look strictly at the amount of money paid and the expectations it creates, the performance doens't quite match the expenditure.
Based on salary alone, Peppers was only the ninth highest paid player in the NFL last season at $7 million. But his $20 million cap hit was one of the highest in the NFL.
And I'm sorry, but nine sacks just doesn't cut it.
Again, a lot of what Peppers provided the team is difficult to measure in terms of statistics, but we expected more.
There simply were games in which we hardly even noticed that he was on the field, which should not happen when making that kind of coin.
Now, in terms of actual salary, Peppers again looks like a bargain for 2011, as his salary is only $900,000. But you can't ignore the fact that Peppers was one of the highest paid players in the league last season.
Yes, next on this list is the Bears QB, Jay Cutler. Again, it's not that he had a terrible year in 2010, it's just that he was paid to be among the top QBs in the NFL, and he simply fell short.
A lot of the reasons why Cutler has failed to reach his potential are beyond his control. The offensive line didn't block well at times, and his receivers didn't always run the best routes. Furthermore, he was operating under yet another new coordinator last year.
But performance is like a woman scorned. It can be a beautiful thing when it's going good, but it can turn on you just as quickly.
When the Bears traded for Cutler, they signed him to a five-year, $49.7 million contract extension. Cutler collected $15 million last year and produced better numbers than 2009, yet not good enough to vault him into the elite territory in which he is being compensated.
Cutler made just about as much money as Peyton Manning last year, so let's compare stats (in a "down" year for Manning):
CMP ATT YDS CMP% TD INT RAT
Jay Cutler 261 432 3,274 60.4 23 16 86.3
Peyton Manning 450 679 4,700 66.3 33 17 91.9
Not a completely fair comparison, but it leaves room for improvement for Cutler. Improvement that should come if the line blocks better.
I hate to include Urlacher on this list, because he returned from injury to have a terrific season last year. Still, there isn't much difference between his performance and that of his running mate at linebacker, Lance Briggs.
The difference is in the paycheck. Urlacher is set to earn $7.5 million this year, while Briggs will take home $3.65 million. Hardly chump change, but a discrepancy nonetheless.
Unless you believe in players getting compensated for past performance, the idea of Urlacher making more than $6 million than Peppers doesn't really make sense (Julius has a salary of $900,000 this season).
Again, the real money is in the signing bonus which, for Urlacher, was $7 million when he signed his extension in 2009. Plus, he earns and additional $1 million in performance bonus each year.
Is he overpaid? Probably not, at least by today's standards. But he's the second highest paid Bear, so he makes this list, whether he's shedding blocks or not.
I could be a wise ass and say that anything the Bears are paying Chris Williams is too much, and I wouldn't be far from the truth.
The fact that he makes over one million this year, when he hasn't done anything in the NFL yet, is a product of the whole rookie scale that used to be in place for first round picks.
If Williams was anything other than a high draft pick, he'd be shown the door by now. Instead, he keeps getting opportunities.
Chester Taylor was paid $7 million last year and statistically, he had the worst season in the history of the NFL for backs with more than 100 carries, averaging a paltry 2.4 yards per carry.
With the signing of Marion Barber, Taylor may be the odd man out. But since the majority of his free agent contract has already been paid out, he's a relative bargain at just over $1.2 million in 2011.
But he will turn 32 in September, so it's unlikely we'll ever see the 4.1 yard average that he has had throughout his career.