National Football League safeties are often tasked to do the dirty work in secondaries. They are sometimes the last line of defense in stopping rushing attacks. Some are routinely used in blitz packages.
A versatile safety does a little bit of everything out on the field. He is utilized as a pass-rusher on one play before being asked to stop a top wide receiver on the next. Some of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL rack up over 100 total tackles per season.
Here are the highest-paid NFL safeties according to their cap hits for the 2014 season.
All values from Spotrac
10. William Moore — Atlanta Falcons: $5.15 million cap hit
Moore is far and away the best safety on the Falcons and one of the top players in the team’s secondary. He is also tied up with the club for the foreseeable future. Moore is under contract through the end of the 2017 season, but his dead money value does drop down to $1.65 million in 2017. The club will have the option to review the Moore deal at that time.
There is currently no reason to believe Moore won’t be with the Falcons three years down the road. He has grabbed 14 interceptions over the past four seasons. Moore had a career-high 86 combined tackles in 2013.
9. Kam Chancellor — Seattle Seahawks: $5.825 million cap hit
There are some within the NFL who believe that Chancellor is set to have a breakout campaign in 2014. The 26-year-old who has only missed a single regular season start in his four years in the NFL already has a history of posting impressive stats. He had three picks and 99 combined tackles in 2013, and he has seven career forced fumbles.
There is some reason for concern regarding Chancellor’s play in 2014. He is coming off of hip surgery that occurred this past spring. Chancellor is expected to be fully fit and ready to go for Week 1 of the upcoming season.
8. Troy Polamalu — Pittsburgh Steelers: $6.3875 million cap hit
Polamalu is a living legend amongst fans of the Steelers. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion and has been named to eight Pro Bowl squads. Odds are that Polamalu will be accepted into the Hall of Fame not too long after he calls time on his playing career.
Age is, as the saying goes, the great equalizer, and not even Polamalu can escape that. He will turn 34 years old next April, and the Steelers could soon be on the verge of rebuilding the team’s roster. Pittsburgh is able to part ways with Polamalu in 2016 without suffering a massive cap hit.
7. Tyvon Branch — Oakland Raiders: $7.157 million cap hit
2013 was a year that Branch would likely prefer to forget. An ankle injury kept him off of the field for all but two games last season, and a similar problem could again limit him in the early stages of the upcoming campaign. Branch has reportedly suffered another ankle knock, and the severity of the injury is not yet known.
The 27-year-old has proven himself to be a play-maker when he is able to participate in games. He had no fewer than 104 combined tackles each year from 2009 through 2011. Branch is currently signed with the Raiders through the end of the 2017 season.
6. Earl Thomas — Seattle Seahawks: $7,373,215 cap hit
One of the perks of winning a Super Bowl is that players on that team get paid, and in a big way. Thomas put pen to paper on a deal that guaranteed him no less than $25.725 million. $9.5 million came his way via a signing bonus. He could, under the current terms of his deal, become a free agent in 2019.
Thomas earned his money for what he does on the defensive end of the ball, but he could be called to play a different role with the club in 2014. The Seahawks have utilized Thomas for returning punts in preseason games. Speedster Percy Harvin has a history of struggling in that aspect of the game, and Seattle needs a dynamic returner.
Thomas could be that man.
5. Michael Griffin — Tennessee Titans: $8 million cap hit
The Titans are a team in limbo in August 2014. Ken Whisenhunt is in as new head coach. Tennessee is, on paper, no better than second-best in the AFC South. The club will soon have to decide if quarterback Jake Locker is the man to lead the offense past this season.
Griffin sees signs of optimism as it pertains to how the Titans will perform this year.
“It’s a different team now,” Griffin said during an interview that occurred in July. “It’s a different mood when you come here. You’re just excited and ready to play football. (Before) you just had a lot of guys that had other things on their minds. Other things were more important. They were just happy to be here rather than more happy to win football games. That being said, the guys who are here (now) want to play football.”
4. Dashon Goldson — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $9 million cap hit
Goldson is one of many defensive players who still need to adapt to the modern NFL. The safety got a reputation for being a heavy hitter during his six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, but not all of those blows will be allowed in today’s concussion-conscious league. Aim low, Mr. Goldson, and you shouldn’t have to worry about meeting with league officials during midweeks.
The next two seasons will be vital to the 29-year-old earning one last big payday before he retires as an active player. Tampa Bay could part ways with Goldson in 2016 without suffering any penalty. Goldson underwent ankle surgery this past offseason, but that is not expected to be a problem come September.
3. Antrel Rolle — New York Giants: $9.25 million cap hit
The Giants were awful for half of the 2013 season. They dropped six straight games to begin the year, the team’s offensive line routinely hung quarterback Eli Manning out to dry, and the Big Blue defense was, for much of the season, far from a wrecking crew.
Rolle was not part of the problem, as he had a banner year on the field. The veteran of nine NFL seasons picked off a career-high six passes in 2013. His 98 combined tackles were also a pro career best. Rolle will be expected to be one of the defensive leaders for the Giants in 2014.
2. Eric Weddle — San Diego Chargers: $10.1 million cap hit
Weddle is recognized as one of the top safeties in all of the NFL. It appears that EA Sports agrees with that assessment. Madden ’15 has Weddle tied for third-best in free safety ratings among all players at that position.
The San Diego lineup mainstay has earned that respect with his play.
Weddle has accumulated 18 interceptions in his seven NFL seasons. He had a career-high 115 combined tackles in 2013. The 29-year-old will be looking to ink a new deal soon, as his current contract ends at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
1. Eric Berry — Kansas City Chiefs: $11.6197 million cap hit
“When is it time to panic about Eric Berry?” That is not a headline Kansas City fans want to be reading in August.
Berry has been battling with a heel injury throughout the summer. He missed the team’s first three preseason games, but he did manage to return to practice on August 25. His status for Week 1 of the season is up in the air.
The 25-year-old who signed a contract that guaranteed him over $25 million back in 2010 could become a free agent in the winter of 2016. Berry has been an All-Pro in every season outside of 2011 when he tore his ACL in September, and the Chiefs would do well to lock him up long-term so long as he remains healthy over the next two years.