Photo Credit: Chris Faytok/THE STAR-LEDGER/USA TODAY Sports Images
Events such as the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency, player workouts and the NFL Draft make the idea that there is truly no offseason in football a reality. While that is the case, there is only so much one can say or write about players who won't be doing any meaningful football activity outside of signing contracts for several months.
I, in my search to fill the void that comes from not having any football to watch, have found myself examining salary cap situations from the 2013 season, specifically which players were bargains and which were busts. Hindsight is, as the saying goes, 20/20, but the hope held by general managers, head coaches and fans is that lessons will be learned from contract miscues that were made in the past.
While not every tight end proved to be worth his contract last season, I did not, in my research, find that any of them belonged in this list. The first name mentioned may surprise you, but it shouldn't if you consider how other players at his position are paid and how poor he was in 2013.
10 Sebastian Janikowski - Oakland Raiders: $4.96 million in 2013
Janikowski sits atop the list of placekicker cap numbers, and second on that list, Robbie Gould, had a cap hit that was roughly $1.4 million under that of Janikowski's. The Oakland kicker was also performing in his first season with a new contract.
He did not live up to expectations.
Janikowski made just 21 of 30 field goal attempts. That 70-percent conversion rate was good for dead last in the league. Only three kickers who played in all 16 games – David Akers of the Detroit Lions, Billy Cundiff of the Cleveland Browns and Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars – contributed fewer points in 2013 than did Janikowski (100 points).
9 Sidney Rice - Seattle Seahawks: $9.7 million in 2013
Rice's section of this piece can and will be kept brief. The often-injured Rice was averaging under two catches per game when he tore his ACL in October. He never came close to producing the numbers for Seattle that he did while playing with Brett Favre in 2009. As a result he was cut by the Seahawks.
8 Matt Schaub - Houston Texans: $10.750 million in 2013
It doesn't seem like four seasons ago that Schaub tossed 29 touchdowns and threw for 4,770 passing yards. That it was, though, and he has never again put up those kinds of numbers again. Schaub did manage to set a record in 2013, although it's one he'll probably want to ignore.
At the risk of being proven foolish, I am confident in predicting that Schaub will not be playing for Houston next season. The Texans posses the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and Houston could also trade for a quarterback. Schaub will struggle finding work as a starting quarterback.
7 Trent Richardson - Indianapolis Colts: $1,165,901 in 2013
Richardson is the only player on a rookie deal to make this list, but any discussions about NFL busts from the past season have to include the running back. Richardson was deemed to be so surplus to requirements that the 0-2 Cleveland Browns wanted to move him before the end of September, and the Indianapolis Colts stepped in and gave Cleveland a first round pick for the RB.
It's still very early into Richardson's career, but the move as of right now looks like one of the worst trades in NFL history.
Richardson averaged 2.9 yards per carry for the Colts, and he found the end zone four times in 14 games. He very likely won't be starting for Indianapolis next fall. Add in that his cap hit goes up in each of the next two years, and the trade looks even worse.
6 Santonio Holmes - New York Jets: $9.0 million in 2013
Holmes was paid to be one of the top wide receivers in all of the NFL. He never put up numbers for Gang Green that he did in Pittsburgh, however, participating in all 16 games in only one of four seasons. He never caught more than 52 passes in a campaign for the Jets, and he had only 23 grabs in 11 contests in 2013.
The Jets would save $8.25 million by cutting Holmes. That is exactly what is expected to occur.
5 Michael Vick - Philadelphia Eagles: $12.2 million in 2013
In what was a shock and surprise to absolutely nobody who follows the NFL, Vick went down to an injury early on in the fall. While he was nursing his hamstring, Nick Foles put up historic stats in relief. Foles never relinquished the role of starter even after Vick got back to 100 percent, and Vick could be set to join a new team and soon.
Vick recently stated that he wants to start next season. I cannot envision that happening unless somebody higher up on the depth chart on some team either suffers an injury or plays terribly in September. Vick hasn't made it through an entire season since 2006. He'll be 34 years old in the summer. Staying in Philadelphia and behind Foles may be what's best for all involved.
4 Darren McFadden - Oakland Raiders: $9,685,084 in 2013
Physical ability and football talent have never been the issue regarding McFadden. He just cannot stay healthy. McFadden has never, in six years, made it through a full 16-game season. He played in seven games in 2011, in 12 games in 2012, and in 10 games last year.
Some NFL team will take a flier on McFadden hoping that he will be able to avoid injuries and also play as well as did Reggie Bush, who has battled plenty of fitness issues throughout his career, for the Detroit Lions in 2013. Any way you slice it, the franchise that pays McFadden any amount of money will be taking a risk.
3 Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys: $11,818,835 in 2013
I often defend Romo to analysts and fans. He is not, as some believe him to be, a bad quarterback. The thing with Romo is that he isn't paid to be “not bad.” He's paid to be great, and great he is not.
Of the quarterbacks who had higher cap hits in 2013, only five have, like Romo, never won a Super Bowl. His cap situation only gets worse over the next two seasons. Romo's cap number rises to over $21 million for 2014, and it then goes up to over $25 million for 2015.
Unless Romo wins a championship over the next two seasons, his contract could go down as one of the most baffling deals in the history of the NFL.
2 Mark Sanchez - New York Jets: $12,853,125 in 2013
You didn't need to be a NFL insider to see the writing on the wall last spring. The Sanchize Era of the Jets was coming to an end. Sanchez was then sent to the slaughterhouse in the team's preseason game against the Giants, forced to play behind a second-rate offensive line in a meaningless exhibition game.
He hurt his shoulder in that contest, had surgery in October, and never played a regular-season snap in 2013.
The Jets would have saved roughly one-third of Sanchez's cap hit had they cut him in early 2013. They didn't, and thus $4 million that could have gone toward a free agent signing was essentially burned. Sanchez, if healthy, should get a chance to start in 2014.
Just maybe not in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
1 Eli Manning - New York Giants: $20.850 million in 2013
Remember, Giants fans who may want to reach through the computer toward my neck, that this piece is just about 2013. Manning has two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVP trophies, and he is paid handsomely for it. Neither of those title runs take away from just how awful Manning was at times last season.
Manning had the worst year of his pro career since at least 2005 if not his worst ever. He was picked off 27 times, easily the most interceptions throw by a quarterback in 2013, his rating (69.4) was the lowest it's ever been since becoming a full-time starter of the Giants, and he completed under 58 percent of his passes.
Well, his completion percentage goes up a bit if you count balls caught by opposing players.
The New York front office will take steps in the offseason to help Manning, such as bolstering the team's offensive line and fixing a broken rushing attack. One more terrible season from Manning, though, and the Giants may seriously have to consider making a switch.