Football, not baseball, is America’s real pastime, if Nielsen ratings mean anything. We love knowing that our favorite NFL players risk career-threating injuries for our viewing pleasure. It’s a lucrative sport—nearly 200 players make over $3 million in overall salary and even the poorest NFLer’s income ($400k minimum) puts them in a higher tax bracket than most of us. Still, some of these salaries don’t match the performance; a high cap number tends to limit what the team can do as far as signing other players. Hopefully these guys are giving to others this holiday season!
The Chicago Bears quarterback has a big arm and decent numbers. But for all his talent, he isn’t a winner (61-57 in his career) and has possibly the worst body language in a position that demands leadership. Cutler has also gained a reputation for accumulating stats only during garbage time. He signed a 7-year, $126.7 million deal in January. Cutler has appeared in one Pro Bowl in his career.
Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback, led them to a title in 2012. He signed a gargantuan contract in 2013, which hampered the team’s ability to sign other players. The Ravens have found replacements for key losses this year, but Flacco ($20,100,000 in 2014) makes more than Drew Brees or Peyton Manning. At that price, the not-as-good-on-defense Ravens will rely on his big arm to carry them to the Super Bowl.
We’re big fans of the probable Hall of Famer wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. He’s been the ultimate competitor an ambassador for the game and has suffered through bad quarterback play after Kurt Warner retired. But Fitzgerald is due to make $16.1 million this year, second to only Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Problem is, Fitzgerald’s play has declined to where he is more of a possession receiver than gamebreaker.
The Carolina Panthers running back, also known as the “Daily Show” has one 1,000-yard rushing season to his credit, way back in 2009. Since then he’s suffered through various ailments and general ineffectiveness. That hasn’t stopped his forward progress to the bank, where’s he owed $7.3 million in 2014, the seventh most among all NFL running backs. He makes more than San Francisco’s Frank Gore, who has far more production and talent.
The plodding Kansas City receiver has really underachieved this year, as he is on pace to catch 58 passes for zero touchdowns in 2014. Bowe always has lacks top speed and has droped passes, but made up for it with his size and great route-running. Not enough production (13 scores in last 57 games) for the fourth-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, with a contract amount of $11.2 million.
As much as the 49ers tight end, Vernon Davis, has threatened the San Francisco front office with contract holdouts over the years, one would think they’d see more on the field. Or maybe a gift under the tree. An outstanding talent at the position, Davis hasn’t had a game with four receptions since Week 1. His 2014 contract number is $7.35 million, the fourth-highest for a tight end. Shameful.
Michael Johnson, not the Olympic sprinter, is a defensive end for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is the NFL’s 11th highest paid defensive end, with a 2014 contract number of $8.75 million, significantly more than fellow end Carlos Dunlap or future Hall of Famer end Jared Allen. For their money, Johnson has three puny sacks, 23 tackles and one forced fumble. A terrible offseason signing by the hapless Bucs.
Dallas’s Brandon Carr, at one point was considered a good, not great, NFL cornerback. He is the league’s fifth highest-paid at that position with a $10 million 2014 contract number. Carr has repeatedly been burnt or out of position the last two seasons, giving up numerous big plays. He makes more than Denver’s Aqib Talib or Indianapolis’s Vontae Davis, two players at the position that are far better players.
Another free agent signing gone awry for the last-place Bucs. Dashon Goldson had a reputation as an enforcing ball-hawk in San Francisco, but the referees do most of the enforcing on this overpaid safety. He has been fined repeatedly for helmet-to-helmet hits. He makes more ($8.25 million) than Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, San Diego’s Eric Weddle or even Seattle’s Kam Chancellor. Since joining Tampa, Goldson has one interception in 25 games.
An Oakland Raider! Finally. Of course a Raider would make this list as that franchise has become synonymous with, how do you say, curious resource management. Tyvon Branch is a size/speed freak at safety, but makes few actual plays and is increasingly injury-prone. As football’s 11th highest paid safety ($6.65 million) he’s managed to pick off four passes and force three fumbles in 75 games.
As pretty much the opposite of the Oakland Raiders, the Pittsburgh Steelers always seem to know the precise amount of a player’s value. For a Steeler linebacker making a shade under $10 million this year, we’d expect some more splash plays from the Virginia Tech product. As the league’s seventh highest paid linebacker, he has 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in 2014. Not exactly Kevin Greene.
Another Tampa Bay Buccaneer! A key cog at guard of the Bill Belichick Patriots ground game, Belichick shipped former All-Pro Guard Logan Mankins to Tampa at the beginning of the year for a middling future draft pick. With a contract number of $8.5 million, Mankins is the NFL’s highest paid guard in 2014. The Bucs running game has been abysmal and Mankins hasn’t played particularly well in pass protection, either.
Working on his third team in three years, wide receiver Percy Harvin has agility and top-end speed in spades. He won a Super Bowl last year with the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, in addition to being ultra-talented and incredibly fragile, he is a locker room malcontent. He’s NFL sixth highest-paid wideout ($10,757,500)–a whole lot for a player who has never even broken the 1,000 yard mark once in his career.
Gone from the days of winning and catching beautiful spirals from Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Minnesota wide receiver Greg Jennings should be a cautionary tale to free agent wide receivers to be. Since joining the aerially challenged Vikings, Jennings has underperformed (under 50 yards average per game) and hasn’t sniffed the postseason. Jennings is the league’s tenth highest paid wide receiver ($9 million) for 2014.
Although a beast in college, Richardson has been a huge bust so far in the NFL. He lacks anything resembling acceleration through the hole and doesn’t have great vision or tackle-breaking ability. On an offensive juggernaut like the Colts, Richardson is in danger of being released after the 2014 season. He is currently the NFL’s 10th highest paid running back ($5,122,449) with a career average of 3.3 yards per carry.