An NFL franchise is a business. Like all businesses, not every decision made is a good one. In fact, some are downright stupid. Teams see potential and want to pay lots of money to ensure they can keep a player around for a long time. Most of the time, this strategy plays out well for the team. Unfortunately, sometimes it ends up biting them. Players will sometimes fail to live up to the hype and the team will end up paying way more than the going rate for someone of that caliber.
One would think that the best player at a specific position would be the highest-paid player at that position. This is rarely the case. Players who have gained a reputation as one of the best at that position have usually done so over time. Teams rarely want to pay veteran players a great deal of money because they never know how long that player is going to continue to be productive. Instead, they would rather throw stacks of cash at a younger, less proven player, who they believe will be the next great. The thought process is that if the team can sign the young guy for a long time, eventually they will be paying the league average for that player’s position. Teams would much rather pay a great deal of money now than later.
This list shows the ten most overpaid players in the NFL for the 2014 season. In order to make this list, a player first must be paid a great deal of money in comparison to other players of the same position. The next criteria would be whether or not they are worth it. Think of it this way: if they are the highest-paid player at their position, they should be the best player. If they are paid more than their value based on other players at the same position, then they are overpaid. Many players are overpaid, but these guys are grossly overpaid.
10. Joique Bell — RB, Detroit Lions — $4.3 million in 2014
Joique Bell is going to get the eighth largest paycheck of any running back for the 2014 season. Bell is definitely a great asset to the Detroit Lions’ backfield, but he is nowhere near the eighth-best back in the league. In fact, he is not even the best running back on the Lions’ roster. That title belongs to Reggie Bush. Bell entered the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted free agent. He spent his rookie season with five different teams before being signed by the Lions in 2011. During his first year with the Lions, the young running back averaged five yards a carry. This was enough to gain him a new contract with the team which ran its course at the end of last season. In March, the two sides reached a new deal which would give Bell $4.3 million for the 2014 season. Here’s to hoping he can live up to those lofty expectations.
9. Sammy Watkins — WR, Buffalo Bills — $13.238 million in 2014
No matter how good they are, rookies are always overpaid. This is especially true for first round draft picks. The Buffalo Bills traded up in the draft in order to snag the Clemson wide receiver, Sammy Watkins. Watkins was definitely the best offensive talent in the draft and is being paid as if he were the first overall pick. He is due $13.238 million for his rookie season. Though he has never played a single down in the NFL, Watkins is going to be the third highest-paid wide receiver for the 2014 season.
8. Golden Tate — WR, Detroit Lions — $9.5 million in 2014
The name Golden Tate definitely meant something at the beginning of the last season. He was the focal point of a very controversial call in the first week of the season. His disputable touchdown allowed the Seahawks to win their first game. It also caused the Packers to lose theirs. Now Tate has joined the Detroit Lions and will be playing the Packers twice a year. The Lions brought in Tate in order to take some defensive pressure off star wide out Calvin Johnson. In order to do this, the Lions are making Tate the ninth highest-paid wide receiver for the 2014 season. His $9.5 million is more than the team will be paying Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver in the NFL, this season.
7. Dennis Pitta — TE, Baltimore Ravens — $12 million in 2014
Dennis Pitta definitely proves that it pays to come up big in big time games. The Ravens’ tight end is going to receive a $12 million paycheck for the 2014 season. He will be the highest-paid player at his position by a long shot. The rookie, Eric Ebron, is due $7.648 million. The best tight end in the NFL, Jimmy Graham, will only make $7.035 million. That should make clear how nicely compensated Pitta is. However, Pitta has never actually been to a Pro Bowl. In fact, he is a fourth round draft pick who only has had four good games in his career. Those four games were during the playoffs of the 2012 season. Pitta played a huge role in helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl; but is four games enough to make him the highest-paid player at his position?
6. Joe Haden — CB, Cleveland Browns — $22.878 million in 2014
Is Joe Haden one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL? Absolutely. So why is there a problem with him being the highest-paid player at the position? There really is not a problem with that. The problem is with how much higher he is paid than others. Haden is going to make $22.878 million for the 2014 season. The next highest-paid cornerback is Sam Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs who will make $15 million. That is over a $7 million difference! The third highest-paid corner back is Richard Sherman, who is arguably even more valuable than Haden. Sherman will only make $12 million this season. There is absolutely no way Haden is worth almost double the amount of money Richard Sherman is.
5. Jadeveon Clowney — LB, Houston Texans — $14.938 million in 2014
Once again, Jadeveon Clowney simply has the benefit of being a rookie. Clowney was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. The Texans are going to pay him $14.938 million for his rookie season. This amount will make him the highest-paid 3-4 linebacker in the NFL. This is amazing considering Clowney played defensive end in college. Not only has he never played a snap in the NFL, but the Texans do not even know if he can play the linebacker position.
4. Joe Flacco — QB, Baltimore Ravens — $21 million in 2014
You probably could have guessed Joe Flacco would be somewhere on this list. The Ravens quarterback turned his MVP performance in Super Bowl XLVII into a $120.6 million contract over a six-year period. Though giving Flacco a new contract definitely made sense, the dollar amount never did. Flacco has never been to a Pro Bowl. He has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season. He has never even thrown for more than 25 touchdowns in a season. He did however hold a very important record. Flacco is the only quarterback in NFL history to have won a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. During the first five years of his career, the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Prior to the start of last season, the Ravens lost a lot of their key defensive players. The result was that the Ravens failed to make the playoffs. Not only did Flacco not lead his team to the playoffs, but he also threw more interceptions than he did touchdowns. Now the Ravens are forced to give their completely average quarterback $21 million this season, making him the third highest-paid player at his position for 2014.
3. Jay Cutler — QB, Chicago Bears — $22.5 million in 2014
Jay Cutler is a lot like Joe Flacco. He is a completely average quarterback who landed a massive contract. The only difference between the two is that Flacco has a ring and a good number of playoff wins to at least make his contract not seem so sickening. Cutler was the first round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2006 draft. He was decent during his first two years and then exploded in 2008. He made his only Pro Bowl that season. He then lobbied for a trade. The Bears saw the potential and made a deal with the Broncos in 2009. The 2009 season is the only season Cutler has been able to play a full sixteen game schedule for the Bears. He has never surpassed 4,000 yards for them either. Now Cutler will receive a $22.5 million paycheck for this season. He is going to be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL for 2014.
2. Mike Wallace — WR, Miami Dolphins — $17.25 million in 2014
Mike Wallace is going to receive the biggest paycheck of any wide receiver in the NFL this season. Yes, Mike Wallace; not Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or Demaryius Thomas. Mike Wallace is the wide receiver for the Dolphins in case you did not know. No one would blame you if you did not. Wallace was a third round draft pick in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is generally regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. He led the NFL in 100 receiving yard games in 2010 and made the Pro Bowl in 2011. He held out prior to the 2012 season and became a free agent at the end of the year. The Dolphins signed him to a huge deal. Since becoming a Dolphin, Wallace has not had 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. Last year he caught 73 passes for 930 yard and five touchdowns. Those may be decent numbers, but they definitely are not worth $17.25 million.
1. Jonathan Stewart — RB, Carolina Panthers — $8.285 million in 2014
There is a reason why Riverboat Ron took over as the head coach and the greatest Panther of all time is no longer with the team. The reason can be summed up in two words: Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was the team’s first round pick in 2008. He set the franchise’s record for most rushing yards by a rookie and followed up that season with over 1,100 rushing yards. The Panthers’ front office quickly wanted to lock down the young running back for a long time. Since then, Stewart has never had another 1,000-yard season. He has never made a Pro Bowl and is now mainly the team’s backup to DeAngelo Williams. Despite not even being a starter, Jonathan Stewart is the second highest-paid running back in the NFL. He is going to make $8.285 million this season.
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