One thing stood out while reviewing the contracts of the NFL cornerbacks who had the highest cap numbers in the league in 2013: Giving CBs big deals is often bad business for teams.
A true shutdown corner can be the cornerstone (no pun intended) of a championship defense. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks if you don’t believe me. Still, there’s a bit of “buyer beware” when it comes to making any cornerback the highest-paid player on a defense.
Over half of the guys mentioned in the list below did not, quite frankly, fully earn their money via how they performed on the field in 2013.
10. Carlos Rogers – San Francisco 49ers: $7,344,531 in 2013
Rogers is paid to be a great cornerback, but he only produces as does a good corner. He had two picks and 47 total tackles in 2013, and he is set to turn 33 years old in the summer. There’s one more negative aspect to Rogers playing for San Fran next season:
His cap number is about to go up to over $8 million.
The 49ers asked Rogers to take a pay cut last offseason. The veteran declined at that time, but he may not have a choice this spring if he is to remain with the club. His restructuring his deal is likely the only way Rogers and San Francisco will not soon part ways.
9. Ike Taylor – Pittsburgh Steelers: $7,695,930 in 2013
Taylor has gone on the record and said that he wants to retire as a member of the Steelers. If only loyalty was the main thing impacting his future. Pittsburgh’s cap situation is a mess, and the to-be 34-year-old cornerback who will probably have to move to safety to remain with the Steelers is part of the problem.
Taylor is no longer the player of old. His cap number would be nearly $12 million if the upcoming NFL year started today. You want to retire in Pittsburgh, Mr. Taylor? You’re going to be asked to prove it by giving the team a major discount.
8. Charles Tillman – Chicago Bears: $8 million in 2013
Add Tillman to the list of players who could be moving on to a different team, and soon. A tricep injury cost him half of his 2013 campaign, and the Bears recently gave Jay Cutler a contract that should keep the quarterback in Chicago until he calls time on his playing days.
That money for Cutler’s contract is going to have to come from somewhere, and thus Tillman making an exit from the only NFL franchise he has known makes sense. There is one worry for Chicago. The defensive back has already been linked with division rivals the Detroit Lions.
We all agree that Tillman will intercept at least one Cutler pass next fall, right? Thought so.
7. Leon Hall – Cincinnati Bengals: $8.4 million in 2013
Hall hasn’t played a full NFL season since 2010. He is rehabbing from a torn Achilles for the second time in three seasons. Hall is on his way to being ready to go in September, but his cap number is going to increase by $300,000.
Hall’s deal being restructured makes perfect sense for both parties. Cincy would get some salary cap relief, Hall would get his, but in a different way, and he’d be doing a solid for a team that has, if we’re being honest about the situation, paid him more than he’s been worth over the past several years.
6. Tramon Williams – Green Bay Packers: $8.5 million in 2013
Williams is No. 1 on the depth chart, but not in production. That classification belongs to Sam Shields. I’m not suggesting that the Packers should be looking to cut Williams. Green Bay has plenty of cap space, and it’s not as if Williams isn’t good.
Williams’ cap number rises to $9.5 million in 2014. Green Bay extending his current deal to lower that figure isn’t a must, but it would give the Packers that many more options in free agency. Whether or not the club is exploring that option isn’t yet known for sure.
5. Joe Haden – Cleveland Browns: $9,086,129 in 2013
Haden and the Browns are reportedly working on a long-term deal. That’s only good news for Cleveland fans. Haden did go through a rough patch last season, during which he was beaten for touchdowns in three consecutive games.
That said, he’s still one of the best in the business at the position.
Haden, only 24 years old, gets better with every year, and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be a shutdown corner sooner than later. Haden would start for any team in the league.
4. Champ Bailey – Denver Broncos: $10.75 million in 2013
Bailey did not technically earn his massive paycheck in 2013. He dealt with injuries throughout the campaign, and he only appeared in five regular season games. That said, Bailey was, for what it’s worth, on the field for every one of Denver’s postseason games.
A player who is headed for the Hall of Fame as is Bailey gets paid for his CV as much as he does for what he can currently contribute on the field. You won’t catch me saying anything negative about Bailey and his stellar career.
3. Johnathan Joseph – Houston Texans: $11.25 million in 2013
The Texans went 2-14 last season, and they possess the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Nobody, absolutely nobody, associated with the team deserved whatever it is they got paid in 2013, Joseph included.
It’s a new day for a team that has a brand new coaching staff. Joseph is coming off of toe surgery, and his cap number doesn’t get any lower anytime soon. Head coach Bill O’Brien blowing the roster up is hardly a crazy notion.
2. Cortland Finnegan – St. Louis Rams: $15 million in 2013
An eye injury cost Finnegan nine games in 2013, and it looks like that is how his St. Louis career will come to an end. The heavy rumor in the middle of February was that he would be cut by the Rams. St. Louis doing so would save them about $7 million. However, recent reports seem to indicate that Finnegan may indeed be staying with the team, although he will likely be expected to take a significant pay cut.
Finnegan has been a swing and a miss for the Rams so far. He’ll have to make some sacrifices to prove that he ‘s worth keeping on the roster.
1. Darrelle Revis – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $16 million in 2013
Tampa Bay was nothing short of a disaster for much of the season. Revis blamed now former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano, who reportedly was at least partially responsible for the front office overhaul in Cleveland. Revis and his teammates won’t have Schiano to kick around anymore, and they’ll all have to do better next season.
Revis is the most-expensive cornerback in the game, but it’s not a stretch to suggest that some out there would pick Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks ahead of the former star of the New York Jets. There were even reports last month that the Bucs could cut Revis. That decision would save Tampa Bay $16 million, although it appears as if the Buccaneers aren’t ready to take that step.
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