Typically in the NFL, players are rewarded based on their ability to perform when the games are most important. For half of the league, the most important games of the year fall in the postseason. Often enough players are evaluated based on how they perform during the playoffs. This is when the spotlight is turned on to focus on those who make it through the grind and find themselves at the Super Bowl. An easy example is Joe Flacco, who after winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens earned a staggering $120.6 million contract with an average yearly salary of $20.1 million. A player's entire career can be turned around with a strong performance in the postseason.
But where would players like Flacco be had they not won football's most prestigious trophy? If money follows the players who achieve postseason success, then what about the players who never make it past the regular season? Certainly, something needs to be said about the NFL's most talented players who find themselves on losing teams. Although, at times it can get difficult to justify their mega-salaries when they have never even experienced the playoffs.
This list will compile the top ten average yearly salaries of NFL players who have never played a playoff game in their career. There will be a heavy dose of Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams players, as these teams have had high draft picks, but have never been able to surround them with quality players.
10 Reshad Jones, S, Miami Dolphins - $7.34 Million
The list begins with Rashad Jones, a young safety who is still a bit of an unknown, playing on a team that is under the radar. However, the fifth round pick in 2010 has been playing at a high level for the Dolphins and was rewarded with a $29.36 million contract after finishing his rookie year. He has responded by playing extremely well, leading Pete Prisco of CBS Sports to claim that he was even better than Ed Reed in 2012. If Miami can finally get into the playoffs this year, Jones will be a main reason.
9 Paul Posluszny, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars - $7.5 Million
A former Buffalo Bills linebacker, Paul Posluszny is the only player on this list who is not still on the team he was drafted by. Typically, we will see players who are still enjoying their huge rookie contracts or are with organizations that paid a premium to keep top players on their bottom-level team. In this case, Posluszny went from one mediocre team to another. He was drafted in the second round by the Buffalo Bills in 2007 and was immediately slotted into a starting role at middle linebacker. He proved to be a decent player in his time in Buffalo and was then scooped up by the Jaguars for a whopping $42 million deal. He has been an average player in his time there and is a decent starter.
8 James Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams - $8.3 Million
The son of Animal from the Road Warriors in the WWE, James Laurinaitis was drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Rams in 2009 with hopes that he’d be as aggressive on the field as his father was in the ring. He has turned into a solid starter for the Rams over the last few years and is in the second year of a huge $41.5 million deal he received from the team. He has proven to be extremely durable as he has only missed 3 snaps in his career, which is incredibly impressive in the modern NFL.
7 D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Cleveland Browns - $8.5 Million
D'Qwell Jackson is another solid player who has been attached to a week team and has never been able to taste the playoffs. The second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2006 has become a useful starter in Cleveland, even after losing nearly two full seasons to injury in 2009 and 2010. After Cleveland realigned to a 3-4 defense, they brought back Jackson who responded by playing some of the best football of his career, earning him a large raise with a $42.5 million dollar contract extension in 2012.
6 Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns - $8.5 Million
Joe Haden is likely the best player on this list and is only here because of how inept the Cleveland offense has been. He was a first-round pick of Cleveland’s in 2010 and has transformed into one of the best cover corners in football along with Richard Sherman of the Seahawks and Patrick Petersen of the Cardinals. Haden has raced past stalwarts like Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha. It is likely that Haden is worth even more than the contract he currently receives, as he is already a premier player. Problems with suspensions for substance abuse have not seen him receive the accolades he deserves, but Haden is as difficult to pass on as Revis was in his prime.
5 Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders - $10 Million
This product of Arkansas was the fourth player taken in the 2008 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders and they envisioned a glorious offense starring him, JaMarcus Russell and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Unfortunately, for the most part, all three have flopped and cost the Raiders a ton of money in the process. McFadden has been the best of the three, flashing superstar ability whenever he is on the field for Oakland. The catch is that he rarely can be found behind the quarterback, as he is typically on the trainer’s table. Over the course of his six seasons, he has passed 1,000 rushing yards only once and has never played more than 13 games. This leaves Oakland in a tough position, as the talented but oft-injured running back is a free agent at the end of the season. If we were to remake this list next year, it is likely that he will no longer be on it. This isn’t because Oakland will make the playoffs, but rather because he is unlikely to be paid as much as he was before.
4 Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns - $10 Million
The only reason Joe Thomas is on this list is because of where he resides, similar to his Pro-Bowl teammate Joe Haden. The third overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns is worth every penny he is given, as he is a six-time Pro-Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro, making him the most decorated player on this list. He is definitely not the reason for the Browns' inept passing game over the last few years, as the quarterbacks have had plenty of time to throw, but have been unable to do so. Players like Brandon Wheeden, Colt McCoy and Brady Quinn have wasted their valuable protection, literally and monetarily, squandering the blindside that Joe Thomas has provided.
3 Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams - $12 Million
Another St. Louis Ram makes the list, as Chris Long checks in at number three. The son of Hall of Famer Howie Long was drafted second overall by St. Louis in 2008, with hopes that he might one day become as great a player as his father. He received a large, six-year, $56.5 million contract and was made an immediate starter on the defensive line. Long has been a solid and dependable player for St. Louis from day one, though he never truly became the great player his father was. He has not won any accolades, but over the last three seasons, he has led the NFL in quarterback hurries. Paired up with Long is number eight on this list, James Laurinaitis, giving the Rams a young, promising and expensive core to build their defense around.
2 Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - $12.6 Million
Gerald McCoy was the third player drafted in the 2010 NFL entry draft, one pick after notorious defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was then handed a monstrous five-year, $63 million deal from the Buccaneers and was touted as the next Warren Sapp in the middle of what was to become a ferocious Tampa Bay defense. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, things have not gone as planned, although it is not really McCoy’s fault. The revolving door of coaches and quarterbacks has made the entire team a bottom feeder while McCoy has been in the league. McCoy did make the Pro Bowl in 2012, showing that he has the signs of a dominant player, as long as he can get some support around him. This year, McCoy continues to be an effective player, but the unrest around him has led the Buccaneers to only one measly win.
1 1.Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams - $13 Million
Sam Bradford was drafted first overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL entry draft and is the third player from the top 10 of that draft to make this list. Hopes in St. Louis were incredibly high at the time, and the team gave the young QB a lucrative six-year, $78 million deal with $50 million in guaranteed dollars. His rookie year was hugely successful with his team going from 1-15 to 7-9. Bradford earned the NFL offensive rookie of the year award and set the record for most completions as a rookie. The next two years told a far different story, as Bradford went 8-17-1 and dealt with numerous injuries. To make matters worse for Bradford, St. Louis traded away the pick that was used on Robert Griffin III, who then went on to win the offensive rookie of the year award that Bradford had once enjoyed. This year has been much of the same, as Bradford was 3-4 before going down to a season-ending injury. St. Louis still remains hopeful that Bradford will fully prove he is deserving of the big contract he received and finally lead St. Louis back to the postseason.