A long time ago, Pink Floyd wrote a song about money that seems quite apropos to the world of the NFL today.
These lyrics, especially: “Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. New car, caviar, four star daydream, Think I’ll buy me a football team.”
NFL owners are only too happy to outbid their peers for talent, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
For the most part, these guys earn their paycheques, even if they seem so out of touch with what the average Joes who buy the tickets make in a year.
Yet, there are those, too, who have signed on the dotted line and aren’t living up to the big dollar figures on their pay stubs. The only recourse for some owners/team executives is to cut these players.
Whether through bad/indifferent play, suspensions, multiple injuries and a host of excuses, here are a number of candidates who haven’t given good value for the big bucks thrown their way (from lowest contract values to highest).
TE Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
When marquee players like Ezekiel Elliott aren’t available, it’s time for other big names to step up. Tight end Jason Witten would seem a likely candidate, but has yet to really bring the noise in three losses since Elliott has been suspended, much less the whole season. A 10-time Pro Bowler who is now in his 15th season, Witten is the NFL’s eighth best compensated at his position where average salary is concerned, at $7.4 million per season. However, he hasn’t scored a touchdown in five games and has three all year, while his total yardage is just 11th best at 429. Those numbers wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact he just signed a four-year contract extension worth $29 million. And, he’s been on a sliding scale now for five straight seasons.
RB Chris Ivory – Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Ivory isn’t even the best running back on his team, much less the league, but is paid like he’s a superstar. At an average of $6.4 million per season, Ivory is eighth best compensated, yet he’s a second stringer to Leonard Fournette. However, he is currently 42nd in rushing yards with just 280, along with one lone touchdown. He adds a little bit more value as a receiver, catching 20 passes for 172 yards and a TD in 11 games this season, but not near enough to warrant $6.4 million (or $400,000 per game). What is most telling about Ivory’s lack of return on investment are his stats from the last three games. He has one total yard on eight carries and -5 yards on one reception. In the season before signing a five-year, $32 million deal with Jacksonville, Ivory had 1,287 combined yards and eight TDs for the Jets. He hasn’t even eclipsed those numbers in 22 games for the Jags.
WR DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We think Father Time has caught up with 10th year veteran DeSean Jackson. At one time a big deal in Washington and Philadelphia, he regularly posted seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards (1,005 in 15 games with the Redskins in 2016, his fifth such output). The Bucs ponied up for Jackson, to the tune of three years and $33.5 million ($20 million of it guaranteed), with his $11.16 million average salary ranking him 10th in the NFL. So far, the results have been tepid at best. In 11 games he has 592 receiving yards, good only for 28th among all wide receivers. He’s not much of a red zone threat, either, with just three TDs. Little wonder Tampa Bay is struggling this season.
CB David Amerson – Oakland Raiders
Even before he was injured in Week 7, Oakland cornerback David Amerson was having a mediocre season. We think the Raiders read too much into his superb effort in 2014 — they picked him up off waivers from Washington — where he had 58 tackles, four interceptions and 25 total pass defences in 14 games. They rewarded him with a big four-year, $33.93 million contract ($17.5 million guaranteed), which puts him 20th among all corners in average salary at just under $8.5 million. He was decent enough in 2016 with 64 tackles and 16 pass defences in 15 games, however, in six contests for this season, Amerson had just 18 tackles and four passes broken up.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – New York Giants
Quite a few high priced Giants not named Eli Manning could qualify for bad return on investments this season, but none more than high-priced cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The 10-year vet, who signed a five-year, $35 million deal in 2014 with the Giants, has had a miserable season all the way around. He has played 10 games and was suspended for one after arguing with coach Ben McAdoo about being pulled from an early season game and then having an unexcused absence from the team. His tackles are right around par at 39, but for a guy with 144 successful pass defences in his career (30 for interceptions), he has zero interceptions and zero pass defences this year. He’ll probably be cut in the off-season.
RB Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We’re pretty sure the Bucs thought the windfall they gave running back Doug Martin after an oustanding 2015 season was worth it. He’d just enjoyed a bounce back season that saw him run for 1,402 yards and six TDs, while grabbing 33 catches for 271 yards and another score during his second Pro Bowl worthy campaign. So, the Buccaneers rewarded him with a massive five-year, $35.75 million contract, with $15 million guaranteed. And what, then, has the team received for their munificence? Well let’s just say diddly, really. He has played just 16 games in two seasons, with a suspension for an addiction to Adderall thrown in and some injury related problems this season. So far in 2017, Martin has but 436 combined yards in eight games, with two TDs. He has no games over 100 total yards and hasn’t scored a TD since Week 2.
TE Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
For a well-compensated tight end who gets passes flung to him by superstar QB Drew Brees, Coby Fleener should have a lot more yards piled up. For whatever reason, his targets and by extension his receptions and yards are way, way down from the average he had in four full previous seasons (one with New Orleans, three with Indianapolis). Between 2013 and 2016, Fleener played in all 64 games, averaging just under 52 catches, 86 targets and 626 yards. This season, the NFL’s 11th highest paid TE has just 22 catches on 30 targets for 295 yards in 11 games. He started off with a fluorish with touchdowns in each of his first two contests (his only two of the campaign), but has been pretty much a non-factor since.
CB Sean Smith – Oakland Raiders
The Raiders sure are shelling out a lot of money for two cornerbacks not to play very well. And Sean Smith is making $1 million more per season ($9.5 million average, 14th among all NFL corners) to do even less than his confrere David Amerson. Through nine games this season, Smith has just 22 tackles and one lone pass broken up. Pretty lousy, considering he averaged nearly 12 pass defences per year (and had 12 interceptions) in eight seasons previous. And, on top of having a terrible season, Smith and the Raiders are facing a lawsuit for an alleged vicious assault on his sister’s boyfriend during the summer.
WR Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
Yes, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been out since the middle of October, making life difficult for his receivers, tight ends and running backs. Boo-freakin’ hoo. Even before Rodgers went down and was replaced by Brett Hundley, high-priced wideout Jordy Nelson had mixed results. Yes, he accumulated all six of his touchdowns under Rodgers, but his yards and receptions have been way down under both QBs. In 11 games so far, he has just 38 receptions for 393 yards. This, in comparison to his three previous full seasons (with 2015 a washout due to injury), where Nelson averaged 93 catches, 1,363 yards and nine TDs per season. At just under $10 million per season, average, the Pack should be getting more from Nelson.
WR Allen Hurns – Jacksonville Jaguars
For a contending team, the Jags certainly have more than their fair share of big money passengers. WR Allen Hurns, who signed a fat, four-year, $40 million extension prior to the 2016 season, has ridden shotgun with Chris Ivory in the passenger department. In 2015, Hurns broke out in a big way in his second season, catching 64 passes for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. The financial reward was necessary to keep him, but he was largely a disappointment in 11 games in 2016, catching just 35 passes for 477 yards and three TDs. This season, he has 36 receptions in nine games, for 446 yards and two TDs. Sure, teammate and star WR Allen Robinson has been MIA with an injury, but there are few excuses for Hurns’ lack of production on a potential playoff team.
QB Mike Glennon – Chicago Bears
This was supposed to be Mike Glennon’s coming out party. Instead, it’s been a college kegger without too few kegs. Mostly a career back-up until he signed with Chicago for three years and $45 million, it was expected he would assume the starter’s role in the Windy City after the departure of Jay Cutler. However, the NFL’s 21st best compensated (on average) quarterback laid an egg and was replaced by rookie Mitch Trubisky, who makes less than half Glennon’s $15 million annually. In five games, Glennon passed for just 833 yards and four TDs, against five interceptions giving him a rating of 76.9 (his lowest in four seasons).
WR Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
It seems that on most nights this season, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is doing it all by himself for the 7-4 Seahawks. He sure could use some help, but little of it is coming from 2016 Pro Bowl wideout Doug Baldwin. For $11.5 million a season (eighth best average salary among receivers), the ‘Hawks ought to be getting more than a fairly pedestrian 698 yards receiving and four TDs in 11 games from Baldwin. Yah, he might yet exceed the career totals he put up in 2016 (1,128 yards, seven TD), but the point is that he isn’t far from Julio Jones money, but trails the Falcons’ star by 442 yards. If Seattle has designs on another title, they need Baldwin to be the “go-to guy” in the red zone.
WR Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
The dumpster fire that has been San Francisco 49ers football the last two seasons shows no signs of going out. What makes things worse for the 1-10 Niners (they were 2-14 last year) is the fact they signed big money free agent wide receiver Pierre Garcon to a huge five-year, $47.5 million contract, for which he gave little in return before being put on the IR indefinitely after eight games. Yes, he did accumulate a team high 500 yards in receiving, but none of his 40 receptions resulted in a touchdown. He had 37 career TDs before joining the 49ers so his lack of point production is a bit galling considering his hefty salary ($9.5 million per season). Oh well, they have four more years of Garcon in the Bay Area.
LB Brian Cushing – Houston Texans
The Texans should have learned that past practice is an indicator of future behavior when they signed linebacker Brian Cushing to a big six-year, $58.6 million contract in 2013. He had already served a four-game ban for using human growth hormones in 2010 and wouldn’t he be slapped with another suspension this season, 10 games for PED abuse. Otherwise, injuries and inconsistent play have plagued him since signing that whopper of a deal. The Texans, thus far, have gotten one good year for that contract, it being 2015 when Cushing bounced back with 110 tacklesand three pass defences. He slipped considerably in 2016 and in his lone contest this season in Week 1, he made three tackles before sustaining a concussion.
CB Aqib Talib – Denver Broncos
Ever the combative (some say “dirty”) sort, Denver Broncos corner Aqib Talib was suspended one game this week for a bitter fight with Oakland Raiders WR Michael Crabtree. The four-time Pro Bowler, who makes an average $9.5 million per season, could probably use the rest. He’s had a mediocre season so far, with just 19 tackles in 11 games, along with an interception and six total pass defences. Those numbers pale in comparison to his production from the first three seasons of his current six-year, $57 million contract signed in March of 2014. He averaged 50 tackles between 2014 and 2016, with 10 total interceptions and 42 pass defences. The Broncos have many holes on a 3-8 team, but Talib’s currently vacant one shouldn’t be one of them.
CB Patrick Peterson – Arizona Cardinals
Like his peer in Denver, Aqib Talib, Patrick Peterson was rewarded for solid play in his first three seasons with a ginormous five-year, $70 million contract in the summer of 2014. To that point, the now six-time Pro Bowler had 161 tackles in his first three campaigns, along with a sack, 12 interceptions and 42 successful pass defences. Since signing that deal, though, Peterson has slid considerably. He was a Pro Bowler every year until 2016, but his numbers weren’t nearly as good. This season, it looks as if he is off. Peterson has just 20 tackles in 11 games, one interception and seven pass defences. These are not the numbers a guy making $14 million a year should be proud of.
CB Josh Norman – Washington Redskins
The $15 million per season threshold is where we figure players should really be earning it, gunning for defensive and offensive player of the year awards, individual stats leaders and even MVP. Sadly for the 5-6 Redskins, Josh Norman isn’t in the running for anything this season. He did mostly earn that $15 million paycheque in his first season with Washington in 2016, which signed him to a five-year, $75 million pact, the highest among corners then. Norman played all 16 games, recording 67 tackles, three interceptions and a career high 19 successful pass defences. So far in 2017, he hasn’t been a bust, but neither has he played like the second best paid corner in the NFL. He has played in nine of 11 contests (he was injured in early October), registering 41 tackles, no interceptions and just six passes broken up.
DE Muhammad Wilkerson – New York Jets
Wilkerson is a homegrown edge rusher who is expected to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and sack them at regular intervals. In 2015, the big man out of New Jersey had a monster season, registering a career high 12 sacks in 16 games, along with 64 tackles and seven pass defences. The Jets obliged his contract demands, signing him to a massive five-year, $86 million deal, the average of which ($17.2 million per year) is 20th highest in the league. So far, the returns on the Jets investment border on bust. In 15 games last year, Wilkerson had just 4.5 sacks, along with 58 tackles. This season, the numbers are even more bleak, as the two-time All-Pro has managed just two sacks in 11 games, as well as 34 tackles. The Jets, at 4-7 are going nowhere and Wilkerson just seems to be going along for the ride.
DT Marcell Dareus – Buffalo Bills/Jacksonville Jaguars
Everyone in the football literati scratched their collective heads when the Buffalo Bills traded two-time Pro Bowl and one-time All-Pro defensive lineman Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville on Oct. 27, for just a conditional sixth-round pick in 2018. However, a look at the numbers he was putting up, for just over $16 million per year, revealed a very good reason. Dareus, who signed a bloated six-year, $95.1 million contract with Buffalo in 2015, was not living up to his 2014 All-Pro status. He had just two sacks in 2015 after recording a career high 10 in 2014. In 2016, he played just eight games, with 3.5 sacks, missing four of 16 games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Then in five contests for Buffalo early this season, he had eight tackles and one lone sack, before Buffalo had seen enough and shipped him for virtually nothing to the Jaguars. The Jags have gotten all of eight tackles and no sacks so far in his tenure there (four games).
DT Ndamukong Suh – Miami Dolphins
Ndamukong Suh is currently the highest average earner not playing quarterback in the NFL. The surly Dolphins defensive tackle rakes in just over $19 million per season, based on the six-year, $114 million contract he signed in 2015. That puts him 17th overall in the league behind 16 pivots. For that kind of dough, he should be leading in some category, right? Well, no. He is tied for 260th overall in tackles with 31, which projected over a full season will come in at about 45, which would be 27 less than his career high 72 last year. He also has 3.5 sacks, which are good for a tie for 66th in the NFL. His personal high in that category was 10, which he achieved in his rookie campaign of 2010. So, we’re not quite sure how much or just what Suh actually does for all that money. With the Fish sporting a 4-7 record and their defence ranked 21st, we’re not wrong in second guessing him.