NFL's All-Underpaid Team: Defense
Which players are a steal? Which are stealing money? Alex Marvez unveils his All-Overpaid and All-Underpaid teams for 2008.
In this second series, we look at 11 players on defense who have provided the best value for their teams. Some names you'll recognize, but most you might not since these guys don't get the pub that the offense players do, but they are just as impactful.
Be sure to see the other slideshows of All-Underpaid (Offense), All-Overpaid (Offense) and All-Overpaid (Defense).
Defensive Line—Tony Brown, Titans
After failing to stick with three other teams, Brown was grateful for the three-year, $5 million contract extension he received from Tennessee in September 2007. In retrospect, the Titans got a bargain. Brown, who has a $1.3 million base salary for 2008, has teamed with Albert Haynesworth to become one of the NFL's top defensive tackle tandems. Brown also was the league's only defensive tackle to appear in more than 80 percent of his unit's snaps in 2007.
Defensive Line—Tank Johnson, Cowboys
After off-field problems led to his 2007 release by Chicago, the Cowboys were able to get this Tank at a discount. Johnson has gotten his life in order while also developing into an outstanding nose tackle, a position he had never played in Chicago's 4-3 defensive scheme. Johnson is heading for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent in 2009.
Defensive Line—Elvis Dumervil, Broncos
Dumervil's size (5-foot-11, 260 pounds) caused him to slip into the fourth round of the 2006 draft. But of all the players selected that year, only the top overall pick (Houston's Mario Williams) has more sacks in the past two-plus seasons than Dumervil's 26. Williams was given $26.5 million in guaranteed money and is earning $1.6 in base salary for 2008. Dumervil scored a $400,000 signing bonus and is stuck at the NFL-minimum of $445,000 for third-year players.
Linebacker—DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys
Don't feel sorry for a player who has already earned roughly $10 million off his rookie contract. But Ware has clearly outplayed the deal he signed four years ago with 49.5 sacks, including 16 in 2008. Ware will be entering the final year of his Cowboys contract next season, but don't expect Dallas owner Jerry Jones to let him leave.
Linebacker—James Harrison, Steelers
If Dan Rooney has any money left after buying out his brothers for majority team ownership, he should give Harrison a well-deserved raise. The 30-year-old Harrison is getting better with age, already having registered a career-best 15 sacks along with 89 tackles in 2008. Harrison is being paid $1.8 million this season as part of a four-year, $5.5 million extension he signed in April 2006 while still a backup.
Linebacker—Parys Haralson, 49ers
Despite all the draft disasters under Mike Nolan, the former 49ers head coach could spot linebacker talent. He hit pay dirt with Patrick Willis and Haralson, a 2006 fifth-round pick who is blossoming as a 3-4 outside linebacker with a career-high seven sacks. Haralson received a $176,000 rookie signing bonus and is currently playing for the $455,000 league-minimum base salary for third-year players. In comparison, 49ers backup linebacker Tully Banta-Cain -- who lost his starting spot to Haralson during the preseason -- has a $1 million base salary and received a $2.9 million signing bonus when signing with San Francisco as a free agent in 2007.
Linebacker—Barrett Ruud, Bucs
With all due respect to future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, Ruud has become Tampa Bay's best linebacker. He also should be a player the Bucs target for a contract extension. Ruud is earning $520,000 in base salary this season as part of a 2005 rookie contract that included $2 million in signing bonus.
Cornerback—Ellis Hobbs, Patriots
The Patriots made a shrewd business move by signing Hobbs to a five-year contract as a 2005 third-round pick rather than the standard four-year deal for the slot.
Having started since his rookie campaign, Hobbs would have been a hot commodity as a free agent during the offseason. Instead, Hobbs is locked into an NFL-minimum salary of $545,000 for 2009 and is making $1.46 million this season.
Cornerback—Ron Bartell, Rams
With his four-year, $2.9 million contract expiring at season's end, Bartell is set for a big payday in 2009. He is the best cornerback in St. Louis, which may try to keep his services with a franchise tag. That would guarantee Bartell a one-year salary in excess of $10 million. Not bad for a player earning $520,000 in 2008.
Safety—Nick Collins, Packers
With five interceptions -- including three returned for touchdowns -- Collins has hit his stride in his fourth NFL season. The Packers are known for rewarding young talent with contract extensions, so Collins could be in line for a significant raise from his $520,000 base salary this season. Collins is set to earn $545,000 in 2009, the final year of a rookie contract that included a $600,000 signing bonus.
Safety—Jarrad Page, Chiefs
With more than $30 million currently available under the salary cap, the Chiefs are squandering an excellent opportunity to sign one of their few quality young players to a long-term contract.
Page, who is earning $445,000 this season, has career-highs in tackles (65) and passes defensed (eight) along with three interceptions. The Chiefs could place a high restricted free-agent tender offer on Page during the off-season to scare away interested suitors.