Every NFL Team's Most Overpaid Player Entering 2021 Season
Due to the next-man-up nature of contracts and the consistent growth of the league, NFL players are as well-compensated as they've ever been. While we'll never fault a player for getting as much as they can, some of their teams may regret handing them big-money deals.
Which players aren't living up to their contracts? That's what we'll sort out here.
Focusing primarily on contract dollars and guaranteed money, we'll examine players whose recent performances—particularly in 2020—don't match up with the dollar amounts. Other factors, like positional value, projected role, career trajectory and injury history will also be taken into account.
Who is the most overpaid player on every NFL roster? Let's take a look.
Arizona Cardinals: DE Jordan Phillips
The Contract: Three years, $30 million with $18.5 million guaranteed
Arizona Cardinals defensive end Jordan Phillips is far from a bad player. However, the contract that he signed in March 2020 is not good.
Arizona inked Phillips following his breakout 2019 campaign with the Buffalo Bills, during which he racked up 9.5 sacks, 31 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss. But in his debut campaign with the Cardinals, he had only two sacks, 11 total tackles and a mere six quarterback pressures.
Phillips also appeared in only nine games last year before landing on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, Arizona didn't give itself an early out from his contract. Phillips still has $14.5 million in dead money remaining on his deal, which is $2.5 million more than his 2021 cap hit.
The earliest it would make sense for the Cardinals to get out from the deal is next offseason, when only $4 million in dead money will remain.
Atlanta Falcons: Edge Dante Fowler Jr.
The Contract: (Initially) Three years, $45 million with $29 million guaranteed
Like Jordan Phillips, pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. signed a free-agent contract after having a breakout season. That turned out to be great for Fowler and not so good for the Atlanta Falcons.
With the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, Fowler amassed 11.5 sacks, 58 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 35 quarterback pressures. However, it's worth noting—as the Falcons probably should have—that Fowler greatly benefited from playing alongside then-two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
In 2020, Fowler had only three sacks, 23 tackles, four tackles for loss and 23 quarterback pressures.
Fortunately, Atlanta was able to restructure Fowler's contract, reducing his cap hit to $15.3 million over the next two years. That takes some of the sting out of his deal, but the one-year wonder is still being overpaid. Fowler will carry a cap hit of $10.7 million in 2021 and has $15.3 million in dead money remaining.
Atlanta could part with Fowler next offseason, but it wouldn't save any money and would eat $4.6 million in dead money by doing so.
Baltimore Ravens: DE Calais Campbell
The Contract: Two years, $25 million with $20 million guaranteed
It's tricky to find an overpaid player on the Baltimore Ravens roster because the franchise rarely spends big in free agency. However, defensive end Calais Campbell qualifies based on his age (34) and the amount of guaranteed money on the deal.
Campbell is still a productive contributor—he was a Pro Bowler in 2020—but he is no longer an elite defensive end. His last double-digit-sack season came in 2018, and he was far less effective off the edge this past season.
in 2020, Campbell had only four sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. That level of production doesn't justify a $12.5 million annual salary. It's fair to wonder if his Pro Bowl nod was largely based on name recognition.
Unfortunately, the Ravens have no choice but to continue overpaying the soon-to-be 35-year old. Campbell is set to carry a cap hit of $13 million in 2021, and that sum is fully guaranteed.
Buffalo Bills: DT Star Lotulelei
The Contract: Three years, $18.6 million with $7 million guaranteed
In and of itself, Star Lotulelei's contract isn't excessive. The seven-year veteran is earning just over $6 million annually and has only $7 million in guarantees on his deal.
Where Lotulelei starts to appear overpaid, though, is when his salary is compared to his role.
In his two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Lotulelei has strictly been a rotational player. He has played fewer than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in each campaign and has rarely provided impact plays.
Between 2018 and 2019, Lotulelei produced only 36 total tackles, two sacks, seven quarterback pressures and two passes defended. After that underwhelming production—and after opting out of the 2020 season—Lotulelei is set to carry a cap hit of $7.6 million in 2021.
Fortunately, the Bills aren't tied to Lotulelei beyond the 2022 season. While he's set to carry a cap hit of $9 million in 2023, Lotulelei will have no dead money left on his contract.
Carolina Panthers: LT Cameron Erving
The Contract: Two years, $10 million with $8 million guaranteed
An argument could be made for Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey here, strictly because big second contracts for running backs rarely pan out. However, McCaffrey is arguably the NFL's best dual-threat tailback when healthy.
Instead, we'll go with journeyman offensive lineman Cameron Erving, who expects to be the starter at left tackle this season.
A two-year, $10 million deal isn't a lot for a starting left tackle, but it is a lot for a player who has struggled to find a home and a position in the NFL. Erving, a first-round pick back in 2015, is now on his fourth team and third position after previously playing center and guard.
Erving has never played 80 percent of the offensive snaps in a season and finished 2020 on injured reserve. He hasn't shown the longevity or reliability to justify the $8 million guaranteed on his current deal.
With $5.8 million in dead money remaining on Erving's contract after this season, Carolina will essentially have to let him play it out.
Chicago Bears: Edge Robert Quinn
The Contract: Five years, $70 million with $30 million guaranteed
Like many players featured here, pass-rusher Robert Quinn signed his most recent contract following a standout season. After he racked up 11.5 sacks with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, he parlayed that into a five-year deal with the Chicago Bears.
in his first season with the Bears, Quinn produced a mere two sacks and 16 quarterback pressures. Chicago now appears set to use him in more of a rotational role to help improve his efficacy.
"I also think it's going to be balancing out the reps and the timeliness of getting him into games in the right situations where he can be at his best," outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey said, per Gene Chamberlain of Bear Digest. "There is some work to be done there and Rob knows that.
Even if Quinn improves this season, an average annual salary of $14 million is a lot to pay a rotational pass-rusher.
Chicago will be saddled with Quinn's contract for at least another season. Parting with him in 2022 is doable, though it will still be costly. Quinn is set to have a cap hit of $16 million in 2022 and will have $9.3 million in dead money remaining on his deal.
Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Trey Hendrickson
The Contract: Four years, $60 million with $16 million guaranteed
Pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson is only 26, and he may wind up living up to his hefty free-agent contract. Still, the Cincinnati Bengals' decision to pay him $15 million annually after only one strong season looks like an overpay for now.
Hendrickson logged 13.5 sacks and 33 quarterback pressures for the New Orleans Saints this past season while playing only 53 percent of the defensive snaps. However, Hendrickson had 6.5 sacks in his first three seasons combined and never played more than 40 percent of the snaps in any of those seasons.
Hendrickson could be a one-year wonder who isn't worth the deal that Cincinnati handed him. With little guaranteed money on the contract, the Bengals have at least hedged their bet.
Hendrickson is set to carry a cap hit of $14.5 million in 2022 and will have $7.5 million in dead money remaining after this season.
Cleveland Browns: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
The Contract: Five years, $90 million with $65 million guaranteed
Before joining the Cleveland Browns two years ago, Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the most electrifying receivers in the NFL. However, it's beginning to look like his three-Pro-Bowl run at the start of his career was a product of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Beckham hasn't made a Pro Bowl since 2016 and has mostly been a flop in Cleveland. He barely topped 1,000 yards receiving in 2019 and had only 319 yards and three touchdowns last season before tearing his ACL.
In many ways, Beckham has been the No. 2 wideout for the Browns, as Baker Mayfield has developed much better chemistry with slot receiver Jarvis Landry. Any way you slice it, though, Beckham has not earned his $18 million annual salary.
The good news for Cleveland is that New York paid Beckham's bonus money when it traded him. The Browns could part with Beckham next offseason with no dead money remaining on his contract.
Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott
The Contract: Six years, $90 million with $50 million guaranteed
Signing running backs to big second contracts is always risky, and Ezekiel Elliott is a prime example of why. The Dallas Cowboys ball-carrier was once arguably the league's best, but those days appear to be over.
After leading the league in rushing twice in his first three seasons, Elliott's yards-per-carry average has been on the decline. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2018—his last year as the league-leader—4.5 in 2019 and just 4.0 in 2020.
With quarterback Dak Prescott and much of the Cowboys starting offensive line sidelined, Elliott was merely average last season. He failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards and struggled to create big plays. By comparison, fellow back Tony Pollard averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had only two fewer rushing touchdowns on 143 fewer carries.
Elliott either needs a strong supporting cast to excel or has hit the wall as a pro. He is only 25 but already has more than 1,400 NFL carries on his body. Either way, the Elliott we saw in 2020 was not worth his $15 million annual salary.
If Dallas decides to move on from Elliott, the soonest it could do so is after the 2022 season. He'll be set to carry a cap hit of $15 million in 2023 but will have only $6.7 million in dead money left on his deal.
Denver Broncos: Edge Von Miller
The Contract: Six years, $114.1 million with $70 million guaranteed
Pass-rusher Von Miller is a future Hall of Famer, and his six-year contract seems reasonable in retrospect. A $19 million annual salary was high back in 2016, but Miller is now the seventh-highest-paid edge-defender in terms of AAV.
The problem is that the Miller we've seen over the past two years was not the seventh-best pass-rusher in the league. Ankle surgery wiped out his 2020 campaign, and he had only eight sacks the previous season. That marked the first time since 2013—when Miller was suspended for six games—that he failed to reach double-digit sacks.
With Bradley Chubb emerging as a Pro Bowler in 2020, Miller may no longer be the focal point of Denver's pass rush. However, the Broncos still chose to exercise his team option for 2021, so he is now set to have a monstrous cap hit of $22.2 million this season.
If Miller isn't back to being 100 percent—and more productive than he was in 2019—the 32-year-old will be massively overpaid in 2021.
Detroit Lions: DE/LB Trey Flowers
The Contract: Five years, $90 million with $56 million guaranteed
The Detroit Lions signed Trey Flowers to a massive contract two years ago that had the former regime's fingerprints all over it. Former head coach Matt Patricia knew Flowers well from their time together with the New England Patriots, and Flowers capitalized in free agency.
However, Flowers has not lived up to his contact—with only nine sacks in the past two seasons—and is now trying to make the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it, obviously you know it's something new," Flowers said, per Benjamin Raven of MLive.com.
Flowers was solid in 2019, finishing with seven sacks and 35 quarterback pressures. However, he missed nine games last season and has not been the high-end pass-rusher the Lions were hoping to get.
Flowers needed to be a high-level sack artist to justify his $18 million annual salary. Ideally, the position switch will help him justify his price tag.
The Lions could part with Flowers next offseason, but it will be financially painful. He's set to carry a cap hit of $23.2 million in 2022 and will have $12.9 million in dead money remaining on his deal.
Green Bay Packers: Edge Preston Smith
The Contract: Four years, $52 million with $16 million guaranteed
Though he had a good-not-great 24.5 sacks in his first four NFL seasons, the Green Bay Packers decided to take a chance on pass-rusher Preston Smith in 2019. Along with fellow addition Za'Darius Smith, he proved to be worth the gamble that season.
In 2019, Preston Smith logged 12 sacks and 34 quarterback pressures. However, he fell off in 2020 as Za'Darius Smith and 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary surpassed him as pieces of the pass-rushing puzzle.
Last season, Preston Smith logged a mere four sacks and 16 quarterback pressures. Those aren't the pass-rushing numbers that warrant a $13 million annual salary.
The Packers restructured Smith's contract this offseason, lowing his 2021 cap hit to $8.8 million. However, he still has $15.5 million in dead money remaining on the deal and is set to carry a cap hit of $19.8 million next season. Should Green Bay part ways with Smith in 2022, it would have to absorb $7.3 million in dead money.
Houston Texans: WR Randall Cobb
The Contract: Three years, $27 million with $18 million guaranteed
Randall Cobb was a fantastic receiver before landing with the Houston Texans. He was a mainstay of the Packers offense for eight seasons and had a strong 2019 campaign with the Cowboys, finishing with 828 yards and three scores.
However, giving Cobb $9 million annually at his age (he'll turn 31 in August) was a misstep for the Texans.
Cobb was rarely a focal point of the offense last season and finished his first Houston campaign with 441 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.
The Texans will need Cobb to be better in 2021, but the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Deshaun Watson could thwart that.
Unfortunately, parting with Cobb is a non-starter this season. He is set to carry a cap hit of $10.5 million and has $12.3 million in dead money remaining on his deal. Houston can move on next offseason and save just over $8 million against the cap, though.
Indianapolis Colts: QB Carson Wentz
The Contract: Four years, $128 million with $108 million guaranteed
One could argue that Carson Wentz didn't deserve the four-year, $128 million extension that the Philadelphia Eagles gave him in June 2019. He had one Pro Bowl campaign on his resume and helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl in 2017, but it was Nick Foles, not Wentz, who guided them on that magical playoff run.
Wentz has been merely average since the 2017 season and was a disaster in 2020. He tied for the league lead in interceptions (15) despite playing only 12 games and finished with a career-low 72.8 passer rating.
Now that Wentz is a member of the Indianapolis Colts, a new franchise will be overpaying him. The good news for Indy is that the Eagles paid out a lot of Wentz's guaranteed salary before trading him.
Wentz still has $47.4 million in dead money remaining on his contract, and his 2022 cap hit of $27 million is guaranteed. However, if Wentz cannot reignite his career under head coach Frank Reich, the Colts could part with Wentz in 2023 with no dead money remaining on his deal.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin
The Contract: Three years, $40 million with $29 million guaranteed
Bad teams often have to overpay in free agency, which is exactly what the Jacksonville Jaguars did with cornerback Shaquill Griffin this offseason. Jacksonville, which won only one game last year, gave Griffin a deal worth $13.3 million annually.
Griffin is now the 12th-highest-paid corner in the NFL in terms of annual value, which his play doesn't justify. He was a four-year starter before arriving in Jacksonville—and a Pro Bowler in 2019—but he isn't elite.
Over the past three seasons, Griffin has surrendered 1,984 yards and 15 touchdowns in coverage. While he did log five interceptions over that span, he also allowed an opposing passer rating over 93.0 in each of his last three campaigns.
There's no faulting Griffin for taking the money, and there's no faulting Jacksonville for overpaying to improve the league's 31st-ranked defense. However, Griffin is going to be excessively compensated for at least the next two years.
The earliest out for the Jaguars will be in 2023, when Griffin will carry a cap hit of $17.5 million and have only $4 million in dead money remaining.
Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Frank Clark
The Contract: Five years, $104 million with $62.3 million guaranteed
When the Kansas City Chiefs traded for pass-rusher Frank Clark in 2019, the Michigan product was coming off of a three-year stretch in which he logged 32 sacks. However, Kansas City's decision to immediately sign him to a new five-year deal looks like a massive miscalculation in retrospect.
Clark has been a Pro Bowler in each of his two seasons as a Chief, but he has racked up only up 14 sacks and 52 quarterback pressures. Those aren't bad numbers, but they don't line up with his $20.8 million annual salary.
Kansas City also has to be concerned with Clark off the field, as he was recently arrested for the second time this offseason on a firearms charge. Clark had off-field concerns coming into the NFL, as he was dismissed from the Michigan program after being arrested and charged with domestic violence and assault.
The soonest the Chiefs can part with Clark is after this season, unless an NFL review of his recent arrests leads to discipline and the voiding of guaranteed money. Right now, Clark is slated to carry a cap hit of $25.8 million in 2021, with $37.9 million in dead money remaining.
Next offseason, Clark will have a cap hit of $26.3 million, with $12.9 million in dead money remaining.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Cory Littleton
The Contract: Three years, $35.3 million with $22 million guaranteed
The Las Vegas Raiders signed linebacker Cory Littleton last offseason after he had nine passes defended and two interceptions to go with 134 tackles and 3.5 sacks with the Rams in 2019. However, he wasn't the same player for the Raiders in 2020.
Littleton finished last season with only 82 tackles, no sacks and no passes defended, and he allowed an opposing passer rating of 97.9. He also missed a whopping 17 tackles in 14 games.
The guaranteed portion of Littleton's contract makes it virtually impossible for the Raiders to move on. Littleton has $19.3 million remaining in dead money this season—compared to a $9.3 million cap hit—and will still have $10.6 million in dead money remaining next offseason.
With three years that automatically void following the 2022 season and dead money lasting through 2025, the Raiders will still be paying Littleton after his contract ends. Based on his 2020 performance, this was a massive overpay.
Los Angeles Chargers: C Corey Linsley
The Contract: Five years, $62.5 million with $26 million guaranteed
Center Corey Linsley is coming off an All-Pro campaign with the Packers, and the Los Angeles Chargers desperately needed to find a replacement for the retired Mike Pouncey. Still, he greatly benefited from an underwhelming market and L.A.'s need to protect young quarterback Justin Herbert.
Linsley has only one high-level campaign on his resume—one in which he missed three games—and he will turn 30 later this month. Giving him more than $12 million annually is risky, especially after he spent part of 2020 on short-term injured reserve with a knee injury.
In terms of annual salary, Linsley is now the second-highest-paid center in the NFL. He's also a soon-to-be 30-year-old with one All-Pro nod and no Pro Bowl appearances.
The good news for the Chargers is that they can get out of Linsley's deal following the 2022 season if necessary. Linsley will be set to carry a cap hit of $13.1 million in 2023 and will have $7.8 million in dead money remaining.
Los Angeles Rams: Edge Leonard Floyd
The Contract: Four years, $64 million with $32.5 million guaranteed
Pass-rusher Leonard Floyd had a breakthrough 10.5-sack season in 2020 and cashed in. The Rams are now overpaying for a player with one strong season on his resume—a season in which he got to play next to Aaron Donald.
Dante Fowler Jr. also had a double-digit-sack season playing next to Donald before tailing off elsewhere, so it's hard to know whether 2020 was a breakthrough for Floyd or a fluke. Before arriving in Los Angeles, he averaged a modest 4.5 sacks from 2016 to 2019 with Chicago. His 10.5 sacks last year were a career high.
Floyd hasn't shown the consistency to warrant such a hefty contract, and L.A. is stuck with it for at least the next two seasons.
The soonest the Rams could part with Floyd is after the 2022 season. He'll have a cap hit of $19 million in 2023 and $7 million in dead money remaining on his deal.
Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker
The Contract: Four years, $30.5 million with $21.8 million guaranteed
Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker isn't overpaid because of his annual salary. But $21.8 million was too much guaranteed money to give a player with only one strong season on his resume.
Parker racked up 1,202 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2019, and he signed his four-year extension that December. However, he averaged only 554 yards and two touchdowns in the four previous campaigns.
Parker fell back to earth last season, amassing 793 yards and four scores, and he is unlikely to regain his role as a No. 1 target in 2021. Miami selected Jaylen Waddle with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 draft and added speedster William Fuller V in free agency.
Parker will likely be a complementary piece at best in 2021 and is set to carry a cap hit of $12.1 million. Parting with him won't be a realistic option until next offseason, as he still has $15.9 million in dead money on his deal.
If the Dolphins do decide to move on in 2022, they'll face a $5.4 million dead-money cap charge.
Minnesota Vikings: QB Kirk Cousins
The Contract: Two years, $66 million fully guaranteed
Credit Kirk Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, for reinventing the way that quarterback contracts are negotiated. Cousins took less total money in exchange for his deal being fully guaranteed.
Considering that Minnesota tried to trade up for quarterback Justin Fields, the team may be ready to move on from the 32-year-old sooner rather than later.
With Cousins' 2020 extension carrying over from his previous deal, he still has $76 million in dead money on his contract. Even if the Vikings wanted to part with Cousins' cap hits of $31 million and $45 million in 2021 and 2022, respectively, they couldn't.
And they gave a ton of guaranteed money to a guy who has one Pro Bowl appearance and one playoff berth on his Vikings resume. Cousins has lived in the above-average category for the majority of his NFL career.
For being good-not-great, Cousins will eventually walk away from Minnesota with $150 million.
New England Patriots: TE Hunter Henry
The Contract: Three years, $37.5 million with $25 million guaranteed
The New England Patriots' signing of tight end Hunter Henry is a classic example of someone capitalizing on an underwhelming player pool and a high demand. Henry was a solid tight end for the Chargers, but he did not warrant a $12.5 million annual salary or $25 million in guarantees.
His best season came in 2019, when he had 652 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Henry has never reached the 700-yard mark and has missed 25 games in five campaigns.
In terms of annual salary, he is now the third-highest-paid tight end in football—tied with fellow offseason addition Jonnu Smith and behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce, respectively. Henry has a more worrisome injury history than Smith and isn't in the same stratosphere as Kittle and Kelce.
New England is basically stuck with Henry's contract for the next two seasons, as his 2022 cap hit ($15 million) is less than the dead money ($19 million). The Patriots could part with Henry after the 2022 campaign but would have to eat $5 million in dead money to do so.
New Orleans Saints: S Malcolm Jenkins
The Contract: Four years, $32 million with $16.3 million guaranteed
Safety Malcolm Jenkins first left the Saints in 2014 and went on to be a three-time Pro Bowler with the Eagles. New Orleans brought back Jenkins in 2020 free agency and largely overpaid him to do so.
Jenkins is still a starting-caliber safety—don't get that wrong. He started all 16 games last season and tied for a career-high three interceptions. However, he is 33 years old and no longer the elite defender he once was.
In 2020, Jenkins allowed 504 receiving yards in coverage and three touchdowns. He also had seven missed tackles.
An $8 million annual salary isn't excessive for a strong safety, but it's a lot for one nearing the back end of his career. Jenkins will only carry a cap hit of $5.1 million this season, but he still has $13 million in dead money on his deal.
The soonest New Orleans can reasonably move on will be next offseason. Jenkins will have a cap hit of $11.7 million with $7.9 million in dead money. Even if the Saints wait until 2023 to move on, they'll have to eat nearly $4 million in dead money.
New York Giants: WR Kenny Golladay
The Contract: Four years, $72 million with $40 million guaranteed
On one hand, New York Giants wideout Kenny Golladay has been a quality No. 1 receiver. On the other hand, Golladay played with an elite passer in former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and got a massive deal in a weak market for receivers.
By comparison, Corey Davis signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the Jets.
Now, Golladay is a more accomplished receiver than Davis. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2018 and '19 and led the league with 11 touchdown receptions in 2019. However, he was playing in a more potent passing offense and is coming off an injury-plagued five-game campaign. Golladay has just 235 more receiving yards than Davis in the same four-year stretch.
The 27-year-old wideout has to prove that he is back to 100 percent after last year's nagging hamstring issue. He also has to show that he can excel without Stafford throwing him darts downfield. He will earn $18 million annually for the opportunity.
If Golladay doesn't pan out with quarterback Daniel Jones pulling the trigger, New York will be stuck. Golladay only has a cap hit of $4.5 million this season but will carry a hit of at least $21 million in each of the next three years. The dead money on his contract won't dip below $10 million until 2024 either.
New York Jets: LB C.J. Mosley
The Contract: Five years, $85 million with $51 million guaranteed
It's hard to argue that linebacker C.J. Mosley didn't deserve a big free-agent contract in 2019. He was a centerpiece of the Ravens defense and a four-time Pro Bowler. However, Mosley has delivered next to nothing to the New York Jets since they acquired him, and there's no telling if he was simply a product of the Ravens' system.
He played just two games in 2019 before suffering a groin injury that ended his campaign. He then opted out of the 2020 season.
While one can't blame a player for injuries or for opting out amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality is that the Jets are now stuck paying a 29-year-old who has played just two games in two years.
The soonest New York could feasibly part with Mosley is after the 2022 season. He'll carry a cap hit of $18.5 million in 2023 and will have just $3 million in dead money that year. Ideally, Mosley will return healthy in 2021 and start living up to his $17 million annual salary. Until then, though, the Jets are overpaying for an unknown.
Philadelphia Eagles: CB Darius Slay
The Contract: Three years, $50.1 million with $30.1 million guaranteed
Cornerback Darius Slay was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Lions and still only 29 years old when the Eagles traded for him. Surrendering third- and fifth-round picks to acquire Slay seemed reasonable. Signing Slay to a three-year extension that included $30.1 million guaranteed, though, was risky.
Slay is now on the wrong side of 30, and he failed to be a Pro Bowl-caliber defender in his first year in Philadelphia. While he did start 14 games in 2020, he surrendered 851 yards in coverage and allowed an opposing passer rating of 111.9.
If Slay is in a decline, that's a significant problem.
The Eagles are stuck paying Slay for at least two more seasons. He'll only carry a cap hit of $6.6 million in 2021 thanks to an offseason restructuring. However, he still has $22.3 million in dead money on his contract and will have a cap hit of $22.0 million next season.
Should the Eagles decide to part with Slay in 2022, they'll have to absorb $15.6 million in dead money. Philly could save $12.9 million by parting with Slay in 2023 but would eat $10.1 million in dead money to do it.
Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger
The Contract: One year, $14 million with $12.9 million guaranteed (sort of)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger restructured his contract this offseason and will only carry a cap hit of $25.9 million in 2021. However, a large chunk of money was turned into a signing bonus that will be spread out over the next five years.
Roethlisberger has $35.2 million in dead money on his deal, and based on his performance in 2020, he isn't worth that.
Yes, he helped Pittsburgh win the AFC North and earn 12 wins. However, Big Ben's trademark arm strength was noticeably absent, and he struggled to stretch the field late in the season. His yards per attempt (6.3) would have marked a career low if not for his two-game stint in 2019.
The reality is that Roethlisberger is a 39-year-old quarterback who can no longer carry an offense the way he once did. This isn't to say that Pittsburgh cannot win a championship with him under center in 2021, but the Steelers are set to pay the future Hall of Famer more for what he's done for the franchise than what he can do now.
San Francisco 49ers: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The Contract: Five years, $137.5 million with $74.1 million guaranteed
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had made just seven NFL starts when the San Francisco 49ers handed him a lucrative five-year contract. With such a limited resume, Garoppolo was hardly worth $27.5 million annually then—and he hasn't been worth it since.
Yes, Garoppolo did help take the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019. However, he's been above-average at his best and on injured reserve at his worst.
Health has been a significant issue for Garoppolo, who has missed 23 games over the past three years. He has never been a Pro Bowler and has produced a passer rating above 100.0 only once during his tenure in San Francisco.
While Garoppolo is set to carry a cap hit north of $26 million in each of the next two seasons, the 49ers could realistically part with him at any time. He only has $2.8 million in dead money on his contract in 2021 and will have just $1.4 million remaining next offseason.
The 49ers traded up to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the third overall pick in this year's draft, so it's highly likely that they'll stop overpaying Garoppolo within the next 12 months.
Seattle Seahawks: RB Rashaad Penny
The Contract: Four years, $10.8 million with $9.8 million guaranteed
While it's difficult to consider a player overpaid when he's on his rookie deal, that's where we're at with Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny. The team selected the San Diego State product in the first round of the 2018 draft, and he has spent most of his time since injured or on the bench.
A torn ACL ended Penny's 2019 season, and he spent the bulk of 2020 on the physically unable to perform list. Even when healthy, though, Penny has not been a significant piece of the Seahawks' game plan.
Through three seasons, Penny has appeared in 27 games. He has just 823 rushing yards, 158 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. Penny has never started a game and has made roughly $1 million per score.
The Seahawks declined the fifth-year option on Penny's deal and can move on from him next offseason. However, parting with Penny now would cost Seattle $2.1 million in dead money against a $3.4 million 2021 cap hit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Cameron Brate
The Contract: Six years, $40.8 million with $18 million guaranteed
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not consider any of their players overpaid after winning Super Bowl LV. However, the contract of tight end Cameron Brate does appear to be excessive when compared to other highly paid players on the roster, like pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett (four years, $68 million) and franchise-tagged wideout Chris Godwin ($16 million in 2021).
Brate received a lucrative six-year deal following a 591-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2017. However, he has not tipped the 500-yard mark since and has regularly split time at the position.
Prior to 2020, Brate primarily shared the load with O.J. Howard. With Howard sidelined (Achilles) for most of 2020, it was Rob Gronkowski. Yes, Brate was a piece of the Super Bowl puzzle, but he only contributed 282 yards and two scores during the regular season at the cost of $4.3 million.
The good news for Tampa is that parting with Brate next offseason is feasible. He'll have a cap hit of $7.3 million but only $1.9 million in dead money remaining on his deal.
Tennessee Titans: Edge Bud Dupree
The Contract: Five years, $82.5 million with $35 million guaranteed
The Tennessee Titans were desperate for pass-rushing help after amassing only 19 sacks in 2020 (third-fewest in the NFL). Their decision to overpay Bud Dupree is understandable from that standpoint.
But $35 million is a lot of guaranteed money to hand a player who's coming off a torn ACL. It's also a ton of cash to give a guy who regularly saw single blocking while playing opposite T.J. Watt in Pittsburgh. Dupree has never been a Pro Bowler and has just one double-digit-sack season in his career.
The Titans are paying Dupree like a No. 1 pass-rushing option, but he averaged 6.5 sacks per season with the Steelers and had six or fewer sacks in four of his six seasons.
The soonest Tennessee can get out from under Dupree's contract is after the 2022 campaign, though doing so will still be painful. He will carry a cap hit of $20.2 million in 2023 but will have $9.6 million in dead money remaining on his contract.
Washington Football Team: S Landon Collins
The Contract: Six years, $84 million with $44.5 million guaranteed
Safety Landon Collins was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Giants before landing a massive free-agent deal with the Washington Football Team. While he was a terrific box safety in New York, he was too often a liability in coverage, allowing an opposing passer rating of 113.0 in his final season in the Big Apple.
One could argue that Collins didn't deserve the contract in the first place based on his inefficiency as a pass defender. He hasn't been much better in Washington. In 2019, he allowed an opposing passer rating of 114.5. In 2020, he missed nine games with a torn Achilles and watched as Kamren Curl had a strong rookie campaign (88 tackles, three interceptions, 82.3 opposing passer rating).
Now, Collins may be out of a starting job.
"Reinstalling Collins just because of seniority doesn't work. Not playing someone with the team's second-highest cap figure also doesn't work," The Athletic's Rhiannon Walker wrote.
Parting with Collins now doesn't make sense, as he still has $26.3 million in dead money remaining on his contract. Washington could save more than $6 million next offseason by doing so but would still eat $9.6 million in dead money by releasing Collins.