Each NFL Team's Player Whose Best Days Are Behind Him Heading into 2022December 10, 2021
Each NFL Team's Player Whose Best Days Are Behind Him Heading into 2022
The inevitable decline of a once-great player can be difficult to watch. But Father Time remains undefeated, as is often said.
Every individual who achieves greatness at the highest level reaches a point when his physical capabilities begin to break down and he's no longer the player he once was.
Ben Roethlisberger's descent from a playmaking, Super Bowl-winning quarterback to the shell of that player he is today has affected an entire organization. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have a succession plan in place even though their quarterback's decline became obvious long ago. Now they're a mediocre squad.
The 39-year-old signal-caller expects this season to be his last in the Steel City, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Whether he continues to play or not remains to be seen.
Other teams will be looking at similar issues regarding marquee names on their respective rosters. Some may not be as drastic as the Roethlisberger example. But everyone chosen has already experienced his best days in professional football.
Arizona Cardinals: DE J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt's transition from the greatest player in Houston Texans history to a member of the Arizona Cardinals has been relatively seamless.
The 32-year-old remains a quality defender who's capable of setting the tone upfront. However, he's no longer a game-wrecker. Basically, Watt set a standard so high even he couldn't live up to his previous level.
Injuries are also a factor. Watt dealt with back issues during his time in Houston. Those slowed him to a degree. The defensive lineman has played a full slate of games only twice in the last six seasons. He's currently on injured reserve with a season-ending shoulder injury.
A semi-healthy Watt can still be a positive contributor. He's just not a force of nature anymore.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan doesn't have a lot of help nowadays. Aside from standout rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and a surprising season from Cordarrelle Patterson, the Atlanta Falcons lack talent around their quarterback.
Though that's a factor in Ryan's decline, his play has left much to be desired regardless.
From an individual perspective, Ryan will likely set a career low in QBR this season. His 48.0 rating is tied for 20th overall. His 6.9 yards per attempt is tied for 22nd overall. His 11 interceptions are tied for the fifth-most. Without a good supporting cast, Ryan isn't an efficient quarterback.
Furthermore, the 14-year veteran's contract is one of the worst in the league. Ryan will turn 37 next year, and his salary-cap charge escalates to a whopping $47.7 million.
That's a number that should be reserved for quarterbacks playing at an MVP level, but he hasn't been one of those for some time.
Baltimore Ravens: OT Alejandro Villanueva
The Baltimore Ravens initially signed veteran offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva as a replacement for Orlando Brown Jr., who the franchise shipped to the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade.
Villanueva's lone start at right tackle proved to be disastrous. The career left tackle never looked comfortable with the swap. Then Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury for the second consecutive season, and Villanueva flipped to his more natural side.
Now at left tackle, Villanueva hasn't looked out of place. He's not nearly the caliber of player Stanley is when healthy. But the Army veteran has always been dependable, even though he's never been an elite protector.
With Stanley back on the left side next season, the Ravens will have to decide whether Villanueva is worth keeping for the right tackle spot. The team can release Villanueva, save $6 million and find another replacement.
Buffalo Bills: DT Star Lotulelei
The Buffalo Bills are soft along their defensive interior. Buffalo's defensive performance Monday against the New England Patriots in a windswept and chilly contest showed how weak the unit is at the point of attack.
Statistically, the Bills aren't awful against the run. In fact, they rank 12th in rushing defense. However, the unit struggled against opponents the coaching staff knew could run the ball. As a result, Buffalo lost to the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and the aforementioned Patriots.
Star Lotulelei's return was supposed to help. Lotulelei opted out of the 2020 campaign. His reinsertion to the lineup added bulk and strength to the interior. But the previous version of the 2013 first-round pick has yet to show up this season.
Lotulelei turns 32 in less than two weeks and he's not providing what Buffalo needs on defense. As such, he could be released from the remaining two years on his contract after this season.
Carolina Panthers: CB A.J. Bouye
A.J. Bouye was once counted among the league's best cornerbacks, thriving with the Jacksonville Jaguars while playing opposite Jalen Ramsey.
Bouye is four seasons removed from that point in his career, and the 30-year-old veteran is now with his fourth team after signing with the Carolina Panthers in April.
Carolina has a lot of talent at cornerback after trading for Stephon Gilmore. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be paired with two former first-round picks next year in Jaycee Horn and CJ Henderson.
Bouye could easily be the odd man out since the team can save $3.5 million with his release. Even if he stays, he'll never get enough reps to re-emerge as a Pro Bowl-caliber performer and second-team All-Pro.
Chicago Bears: LB Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack is still a great player, as he's been for his entire eight-year career.
Three years ago, the Oakland Raiders won a major award at the 2019 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT for the year's best transaction after dealing Mack to the Chicago Bears. In hindsight, the Raiders might have made the right move but the Bears definitely got the better end of the deal.
However, Mack's presence in the Bears' lineup should start to diminish over time. Mack, who turns 31 in February, suffered a season-ending foot injury before being placed on injured reserve last month.
Mack posted six sacks in seven games, but one should expect him to lose a little explosiveness due to the nature of his injury and advancing age. He still has three years remaining on his current deal. He should be fine even if he's no longer an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Cincinnati Bengals: CB Trae Waynes
The Cincinnati Bengals signed cornerback Trae Waynes to a three-year, $42 million free-agent contract during the 2020 offseason. The organization will likely never get to experience the caliber of cornerback it envisioned when he agreed to terms.
Since joining the franchise, Waynes has played in two games, though he's been cleared to practice after spending a stint on injured reserve with a bad hamstring. A pectoral injury wiped out the entirety of the 2020 campaign.
Basically, Waynes' combined salary-cap hit of $25.8 million combined over the last two seasons has gone to waste. The figure escalates to $16 million next season. Injuries are out of Waynes' control, but the bottom line is he's running out of time to bring back value on the contract.
Cleveland Browns: WR Jarvis Landry
Jarvis Landry deserves so much credit for helping to establish a certain level of toughness and accountability within the Cleveland Browns organization after the team finished 0-16 during the 2017 campaign. But the once-prolific wide receiver has reached a point of diminishing return commensurate with his compensation.
This season, Landry is Cleveland's highest-paid player. Yet he's second on the team with 356 receiving yards. Yes, the Browns feature a run-first offense that doesn't highlight their receivers. But still, Landry is well on his way to setting career lows in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
The downturn is partially due to Landry's body not holding up anymore. He required offseason hip surgery last year. He's currently playing through a balky knee, which cost him four games.
At 29 years old, banged up and never the best athlete from the start, Landry's days of posting 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons seem to be long gone.
Dallas Cowboys: K Greg Zuerlein
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein owns one of the best nicknames in sports as "Legatron." The moniker is a play on words from the Transformers' Megatron, insinuating Zuerlein is a powerful robot capable of doing what normal humans can't.
Zuerlein's booming leg took the league by storm with a Pro Bowl appearance and first-team All-Pro nod in 2017. He converted 60 percent of his kicks of 50 yards or longer during his initial eight seasons.
Since becoming a member of the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, Zuerlein has made 35.7 percent of his long-range attempts. He's also missed three extra-point attempts in each of the last two seasons.
Legatron's field-goal percentage has remained average throughout his career, but what made him special compared to other kickers is clearly fading. Another year under contract may be one too many.
Denver Broncos: OT Garett Bolles
Denver Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles could very well turn out to be a one-hit wonder.
Bolles struggled throughout his first three seasons, particularly with committing penalties. Everything seemed to come together in 2020 when the 2017 first-round pick finally looked like an elite blindside protector. As a result, he earned a nomination as a second-team All-Pro.
But Bolles' standout performance came during a contract season. This season, he's regressed to the mean. To be fair, Bolles isn't a terrible left tackle and he's dealt with an ankle sprain. He'll turn 30 next spring, but he doesn't have as much mileage as his age suggests because he came into the league as a 25-year-old rookie.
A continued emphasis on technique and honing his craft should keep Bolles on the blind side for multiple years, though he may never again reach All-Pro status.
Detroit Lions: DE Trey Flowers
Trey Flowers never developed into the top-flight pass-rusher the Detroit Lions hoped he'd become after signing a massive five-year, $90 million free-agent contract.
To better understand how big of a deal that is in today's game, only seven edge defenders—Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett, Von Miller, T.J. Watt, DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark—own more lucrative contracts.
Basically, the Lions saw what Flowers did as a consistently disruptive force during the New England Patriots' last Super Bowl run and thought it would translate into Matt Patricia's defense.
Flowers did register seven sacks during his first season in the Motor City. But he's had only 3.5 sacks in the two seasons since. On top of the production issues, Flowers' season came to an end prematurely because of a knee injury. He has two years left on his contract with a cap hit over $23 million in each campaign.
Green Bay Packers: WR Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb is a member of the Green Bay Packers for a second time because quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted him there.
The organization orchestrated a trade with the Houston Texans to keep the reigning MVP happy, though Cobb isn't the same receiver he was when he had at least 60 receptions in every season from 2014 to 2017.
Cobb is second on the team in receiving yards, but he only has 375 yards, 708 behind Davante Adams. The Packers don't have a true No. 2 option in the passing game.
To make matters worse, the 31-year-old Cobb may miss the remainder of the season with what head coach Matt LaFleur described as a "significant" core injury.
Realistically, Rodgers won't be with the Packers next season. Yet Cobb will remain under contract. Should the organization expect the veteran receiver to provide much for whoever is behind center? Probably not.
Houston Texans: OT Marcus Cannon
Marcus Cannon is the Houston Texans' only non-specialist over the age of 30 who's signed beyond this season.
The Texans didn't even sign the 33-year-old to his current five-year, $32.4 million deal. The New England Patriots did. Therein lies the connection.
Nick Caserio looked at his old team and brought along a veteran the general manager thought could help in the short term. Houston traded fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Patriots for Cannon, fifth- and sixth-round selections.
Cannon opened the season as the Texans' starting right tackle. He's now on injured reserve after requiring back surgery. Basically, the entire Texans roster needs to be overhauled, and right tackle is no exception.
Indianapolis Colts: TE Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle's best season came in 2017 when he caught a career-high 80 passes for 690 yards. To understand how long ago that is in football time, Andrew Luck didn't retire until after the 2018 season.
To this day, Doyle is a quality contributor, particularly as an in-line blocker. He's integral to the Colts' second-ranked rushing attack. He's also less of a threat in the passing game. A year from now when he's 32 years old, the legs aren't going to be any fresher to make him a mismatch as a receiver.
From this point forward, Doyle should be viewed as a veteran with the capability of catching some passes as a security blanket over the middle of the field and a blocker. With a $6.2 million salary next season and Mo Alie-Cox slated to enter free agency, Doyle can remain a key contributor even though he's not the same offensive contributor he was a few years ago.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C Brandon Linder
The Jacksonville Jaguars should wipe the slate clean and start fresh with a new supporting cast around this year's No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
While the approach is great in theory, it probably won't happen in practice. Center Brandon Linder will be one of the most intriguing offseason decisions.
Continuity between a center and a young quarterback will certainly help the latter's overall development. But Linder turns 30 in January and holds a $10 million salary-cap charge next season, and his play continues to decline.
Maybe the pivot's performance this season can be explained away by a knee injury he suffered during the middle of the campaign. Linder missed five games as a result. Whatever the case, the Jaguars can't feel like they've gotten the most out of their center since he signed a five-year, $51.7 million contract extension prior to the start of the 2017 campaign.
Kansas City Chiefs: TE Travis Kelce
To be clear, Travis Kelce remains one of the league's best tight ends. But his days of setting records for the position are in the past.
Kelce is now 32 years old and a victim of his own greatness.
In a 17-game schedule, the three-time first-team All-Pro is on pace to snag 99 passes for 1,201 yards. His current production is a slight downturn compared to the previous three seasons during which the tight end averaged 102 receptions and 1,327 receiving yards.
Basically, the argument here is that Kelce is no longer putting up historic numbers year in and year out, though he's more than capable of staying a featured weapon in the Kansas City Chiefs offense.
And that's OK. Tyreek Hill has assumed the mantle as the Chiefs' leading receiver. Kelce is still a mismatch, but his usage rate should decline in the coming years as he gets older.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Cory Littleton
Cory Littleton was living his best life in 2018.
The linebacker led the Los Angeles Rams with 125 tackles during the regular season. Littleton performed particularly well in space by ranking second with 24 stops in pass coverage, per Pro Football Focus. His team made it all the way to the Super Bowl. He also earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro nods.
Two years later, Littleton signed a three-year, $35.3 million free-agent contract to join the Las Vegas Raiders. He hasn't been the same defender since. Interestingly, the 28-year-old defender has struggled in coverage, as he's been with two different systems since joining the team.
Disappointment in his signing will only grow next season if he doesn't play well once his salary-cap charge escalates to $15.8 million. Being outplayed by Denzel Perryman, who's operating on a two-year, $6 million deal, certainly doesn't help matters.
Los Angeles Chargers: RT Bryan Bulaga
The Los Angeles Chargers offensive line would be complete if Bryan Bulaga could stay healthy, but the right tackle hasn't been since he signed with the organization in 2020.
In two seasons, Bulaga played in 11 total games. The veteran blocker missed six games last season with a back injury. He only played in one game this season before being placed on injured reserve with back and groin problems.
At 32 years old with back issues, Bulaga probably isn't the team's answer at right tackle.
The 11-year veteran still has one more year remaining on his contract, and his salary-cap charge escalates to $14.1 million. A reworked deal or a release may be greater possibilities than Bulaga playing on his current contract.
Los Angeles Rams: OT Andrew Whitworth
What Andrew Whitworth has done as an offensive lineman may be even more amazing than Tom Brady's longevity at quarterback. This Monday, Whitworth will become the first player to start at left tackle at the age of 40.
The 16-year veteran has quietly gone about his business for years with no specific end in sight.
"To me, the only way that I would retire is there'd have to be a situation where either financially the Rams can't afford me or there's just some way where it doesn't work out for the both of us for me to be back," Whitworth said, per ESPN's Lindsey Thiry. "So that would really be the only scenario where I would ever really see me retiring."
As good as Whitworth has been for a very long time, a few cracks in his near-flawless armor may be forming. The athleticism of today's edge-rushers is starting to give him some trouble. Whitworth could easily play a few more years, though he won't be counted among the league's elite as he once was.
Miami Dolphins: CB Byron Jones
Byron Jones is an example of a player who thrived in a certain system because his skill set was the perfect fit only to disappoint elsewhere.
Jones developed into one of the game's better cornerbacks under the supervision of former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Jones excelled in Marinelli's zone-heavy scheme, where the defensive back could use his size and length to overwhelm wide receivers.
The Miami Dolphins don't necessarily rely on the same approach even after signing Jones to a five-year, $82.5 million free-agent deal before the start of the 2020 campaign. Jones is a good player, but he's not the best cornerback on the team. Xavien Howard is. Yet Jones is paid like a No. 1 corner at $16.5 million annually.
"Good" will have to be good enough for the Dolphins since Jones, who turns 30 next season, won't be playing in Marinelli's system anytime soon (or ever again).
Minnesota Vikings: S Harrison Smith
At one point in Harrison Smith's career, the safety could be considered the very best his position had to offer.
Smith earned a first-team All-Pro nod in 2017. He made the second team the following season. From 2015 to 2019, the defensive back went to five consecutive Pro Bowls.
Today, Smith is a good safety. He's not an elite performer anymore. The Minnesota Vikings made a mistake by paying a player for what he previously accomplished instead of future production. In August, Smith signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension to make him the league's second-highest-paid safety on an annual basis even though he turns 33 after this season.
Considering Smith's age, the fact that his salary-cap hit ranges from $13 to $20 million over the next four seasons is ludicrous.
New England Patriots: LB Kyle Van Noy
The New England Patriots are tricky when trying to assess future decline in performance, because the organization usually does a good job investing its money and letting go of a player too soon instead of too late.
As such, Kyle Van Noy makes this list almost by default. He's been outstanding this season and played as well as any other linebacker at points. Van Noy is the perfect fit for the Patriots.
With all of that said, New England features two starters over 30 on defense who are signed beyond this season. Lawrence Guy joins Van Noy as the potential holdovers. Of the two, Guy plays fewer snaps. The organization also has his eventual replacement on the roster in Christian Barmore.
Van Noy is interesting in that he turns 31 next season, and it's difficult to project him playing this well, particularly in pass coverage, for another campaign. Van Noy will definitely have a place in Bill Belichick's defense because he does everything well, but maintaining his current performance a year from now may be asking too much.
New Orleans Saints: WR Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas put together arguably the greatest start of any football player's career. In his first four seasons, the wide receiver set records with 470 receptions for 5,512 receiving yards. He led the league in receptions twice, earned three Pro Bowl nods and became the 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
It's all downhill from there.
Thomas played through injuries last season in an attempt to take advantage of Drew Brees' final season with the New Orleans Saints. By doing so, he put off possible surgeries he needed to fix the aforementioned injuries, particularly a significant ankle issue. Thomas experienced a falling-out with the organization based on how the coaching staff and front office called his commitment into question. Eventually, Thomas had the surgery, which ended his 2021 campaign before it even started.
Moving forward, Thomas isn't even guaranteed to be a part of the Saints roster with salary-cap hits over $24 million in each of the next three seasons. If he is, he won't have Brees throwing him the ball. Furthermore, the status of his ankle remains to be seen once he returns to a football field.
New York Giants: TE Kyle Rudolph
It may be a tad early to describe New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay as a declining player, though he's definitely disappointed after signing a four-year, $72 million free-agent contract this offseason.
Instead, another recent addition fills the spot.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph was once counted among the league's best at the position. Rudolph may have never put up numbers like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but the 32-year-old went to two Pro Bowls as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
The 11-year veteran signed with the Giants this offseason and hasn't provided much. So far, Rudolph has caught 19 passes for 165 yards through 11 games. As a receiving threat, his production has decreased in each of the last three seasons. Rudolph is not a particularly impressive in-line blocker, either.
With Evan Engram set to enter free agency and Rudolph clearly not the answer, tight end will be among the Giants' long list of areas to address next year.
New York Jets: LB C.J. Mosley
The New York Jets made a mistake the moment they offered linebacker C.J. Mosley a five-year, $85 million free-agent contract during the 2019 offseason.
Yes, Mosley had been a four-time Pro Bowl honoree and second-team All-Pro to that point. However, such a large investment in a non-premium position was foolhardy from the start.
Since then, the 29-year-old defender has missed nearly two full seasons between a groin injury and his decision to opt out of the 2020 campaign. Mosley has played in 11 of 12 contests this year, but he's struggled immensely, particularly with coverage assignments where he could post a career-low in passes defended over a full campaign.
Maybe Mosley needs a year or so to shake off some rust and get back to the player he once was. The more likely scenario involves him playing one more season for Gang Green, since $16 million of next year's salary-cap figure is guaranteed, before the organization parts ways with the linebacker in 2023.
Philadelphia Eagles: DE Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham is an all-time great for the Philadelphia Eagles.
He may never be appreciated by typical NFL fans for how good he's been throughout his career when others around the league put up much bigger sack numbers and received far more attention. Even so, Graham was one of the league's top edge-defenders for an extended period. Entering this season, he ranked fourth in total pressures since the start of 2017, per Pro Football Focus.
Age and a major injury this fall will lead toward Graham's decline in performance.
The defensive end will be 34 by the start of the 2022 campaign, and he'll be coming back from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in a Week 2 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
With two years remaining on his current deal and salary-cap figures over $9 million for each, the Eagles hope Graham's inevitable recession is gradual.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Joe Schobert
Joe Schobert can simultaneously be one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' best offseason acquisitions to fill a void at inside linebacker while acknowledging he's probably never going to be the same player he was a few years ago.
Schobert has never been an All-Pro or Pro Bowl-caliber performer with any type of consistency. He made his one and only Pro Bowl appearance in 2017. Still, the linebacker has been reliable and productive.
During the previous four seasons, Schobert averaged 130 total tackles. He's a notch below that pace during his first campaign with the Steelers organization.
Also, his coverage continues to be a sore spot. Schobert has never been the most athletic inside linebacker, but he had a knack for getting into throwing lanes and being in the right spot. However, his performance against the pass has been a concern for two straight seasons.
San Francisco 49ers: C Alex Mack
Alex Mack has been one of the league's best centers for the majority of his NFL career. He's one of the most intelligent and physically imposing pivots to play in the modern era. He excelled with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons before joining the San Francisco 49ers.
But the six-time Pro Bowl selection is now 36 years old and showing signs of decline.
Mentally, Mack is exactly whom any squad would want calling out protection schemes and recognizing defensive fronts. He's also well-versed in Kyle Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme. But he's signed through two more seasons, and his performance during the early portion of his Atlanta stop is now in the past.
A member of the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team, Mack is a competent cog in a 49ers offensive front who's no longer the same dominant blocker he was during his best seasons.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson
Through the first half of the 2020 campaign, Russell Wilson was the leading MVP candidate. Since then, he's been a mediocre-to-above-average quarterback.
Wilson is still a quality starter, and multiple franchises will vie for his services next offseason if/when he becomes available in a trade.
However, Wilson will likely set career lows in passing touchdowns and QBR. The latter has dropped 29 points compared to last season's performance. The 33-year-old isn't as effective as a runner, either, with only 29 attempts for 133 yards.
Granted, the 10-year veteran needed surgery to the middle finger on this throwing hand after hitting it on a helmet against the Los Angeles Rams. Still, his downturn in play started a year ago with signs he may never return to the player who once led the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls.
Wilson might not be an MVP-caliber quarterback right now, but he's still a talented option. The Seahawks must decide whether to keep or trade him after this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Lavonte David
Of course, Tom Brady seems like the logical choice here since he's 44 years old and the vast majority of his career is already complete. Yet the middle-aged wonder continues to play as well as he ever has. So, there's absolutely no reason to think he's going to decline in the next year or two. It'll happen eventually, but no one should bet against the GOAT.
Meanwhile, the interesting part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' current roster makeup is how loaded it is with expiring contracts. Of those currently signed, 27 players are set to become free agents, including Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Ryan Jensen, Ronald Jones II, Alex Cappa, Jordan Whitehead, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
Some will re-sign. Until then, options for a declining player are few and far between with Lavonte David serving as the de facto choice because A) he'll turn 32 in January and B) the Buccaneers linebackers haven't played as well this season as their Super Bowl LV performance indicated.
Tennessee Titans: WR Julio Jones
Availability has been the biggest concern with wide receiver Julio Jones over the last two seasons. The future Hall of Famer continues to deal with hamstring issues that, at times, limit his full route-running repertoire.
Last year, Jones missed seven games because of injury. He's only seen the field in half of the Tennessee Titans' contests this fall.
The two-time NFL receiving yardage leader turns 33 next year. His body is already letting him down despite being one of the most physically impressive targets to ever play the game. Jones can still be an effective part of the Titans offense. At the same time, the chances of him returning to form and catching over 100 balls for 1,400 or more yards are remote.
Jones was once the game's best wide receiver. Now, he's just another talented option if he's available.
Washington Football Team: S Landon Collins
At 27 years old, Landon Collins concludes this list as its youngest inclusion. Three factors are working against Collins as it pertains to his long-term projection.
Financially, he's the league's highest-paid safety with a contract worth $84 million in total. As such, he should be counted among the league's best defensive backs. Yet Collins hasn't made a Pro Bowl since he joined the Washington Football Team. His level of play doesn't accurately reflect his pay.
Second, the seven-year veteran suffered a torn Achilles tendon last season, which further limited a player whose best contributions already came as a box safety.
Finally, Collins has gotten progressively worse in coverage overall. Maybe a full year removed from surgery will help. At this point, he'd be better suited as a sub-package linebacker than a safety being asked to cover in space.