Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Oct 2005

The NFL's Most Overpaid Players

Okey doke, here's FO's take on the 10 most overpaid players. When I put this list together before the season, Mark Brunell and the Dolphins o-line were front and center, but for obvious reasons they didn't make the final cut. And I'm guessing if I'd waited a few more weeks, I would've probably had to include "Minnesota Vikings organization" as the new number one.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 19 Oct 2005

55 comments, Last at 21 Oct 2005, 10:54pm by budman


by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:38am

This would have to be the first time the 'new' Browns don't have a player on a list like this. Phil Saveage must be doing something right.

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:41am

How much more money does Daunte Culpepper have to make or how much more does he have to suck to make this list?

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:44am

Since this list is based on 2004 & 2005 performance, I'd say Dante has to suck for the rest of the year to make the list.

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:46am

Fair enough, I can wait.

by Ted (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:55am

I'm not sure that Charles Woodson belongs at number 2 on this list. Yeah he's overpaid but there are worse. I also don't think the Raiders secondary is the worst part of their defense. It all starts on the defensive line and as you mentioned they just get no pressure. I don't think any secondary in football could play behind that front seven although, to be positive for a second, Derek Burgess has been pretty good.

by Moses (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:05am

Stupid article. Showed a lot of cowardice in its choices. And a certain lack of analysis. Pick the easy ones and pile on the "convential meme" while running away from the difficult.

Just picking out some Football Outsiders underachievers from 2004 we have:

Clinton Portis 39th back who got $13.8 million in compensation for 5 tds and a lot of ineffective running.

Michael Vick who, in your stats, finished 2004 as the NFL's 37th ranked QB and made $12.5 million last year. Other QB bombs include: Steve McNair, Jay Fielder & Kerry Collins.

Anyway, that was the worst article I've ever seen come out of this place. If you're going to be outsiders, be outsiders. Not sheep following the rest of the herd. The article was just a follow-the-leader subjective pile of elephant dung and I'm embarrassed for you.

by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:17am

Wow, somebody needs their morning coffee.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:27am

Vick was not the 37th ranked QB last year.

He was the 37th ranked passer.

He was the 1st ranked rusher - higher than all the running backs, actually.

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:40am

I think we have a winner for the Unnecessarily Bolded Comment of the Week.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:43am

That's great if he played QB at Rice, Navy, or Air Force.

Or even in the old school NFL. But unless the Falcons go to a single wing, his passing ability will be what makes or breaks them, esp. in the playoffs.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:57am

Vick was not the 37th ranked QB last year. He was the 37th ranked passer.

He was ranked 37th overall by DPAR, and that includes both passing and rushing.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:59am

No, Vick's 37th Rank is passing only. If you add passing and rushing, he moves up to about 25th. Which puts him in Josh McCown territory, and he still qualifies as over-paid.

by astrotrain (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:15pm

[6] & [10]. So yards/first downs/and points count more when they result from the passing game versus the running game? Also, Vick provides additional financial benefits to the Falcons and league - he fills stadiums/he sells merchandise/people want to see him on TV. Of course Vick needs to get better (according to FO he just needs to return to his first season as a starter numbers), but it is a weak argument to make that he is one of the most overpaid players in the league.

Are you saying that Steve McNair was overpaid last year or over the course of his most recent contract or career?

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:16pm

I do agree that Vick is overpaid if he's paid based on his passing ability. But he's paid based on his rushing ability, on the hopes that his passing ability ends up being good as well.

I mean, I think it's pointless for the Falcons to have him as QB too, but there reasons for paying him aren't totally unfounded. I have to agree that Pennington's salary is a little unfounded on any logic.

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:26pm

I do not think that Woodson even covers the opposing teams #1 WR. I thought he was a rover-type now who just covers areas on the field-usually the middle of the field. The one game I saw the Raiders play this season-Asomugha was covering Deion Branch (or was in the vicinity of Branch) during most of the game.

by Jay B. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:34pm

Anyone else have a pop-up Flash ad without a "close" box blocking part of the article?

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:03pm

Re #16: That happens to me sometimes on Foxsports.com If you refresh it usually goes away.

by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:04pm

i obviously agree that vick isnt too great of a passer...hes obviously by far the best rushing QB..but what he does for a football team in a football game is unmeasured...hes the reason they beat green bay IN green bay a couple years ago in the snow...he has taken them to the playoffs consistantly and is going to again this year..yes their defense is solid, their running game is solid..hes a big part of his offenses success as well cuz teams gameplan the hell out of him..his passing skills need to improve obviously i know..when they do though him and the falcons will be just scary to play..all im saying is he is a very effective player in the league...what other QB has as low of throwing stats as him and still manages his team into the playoffs every year..? he does enough to win thats the bottom line..and i understand why people bash him because so many people look at him as the God of the NFL and think his passing is part of it...well its not..maybe someday it will though..now hes just the most exciting player in the league who can win football games

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:24pm

"hes the reason they beat green bay IN green bay a couple years ago in the snow"

Mike Vick stats from that game;
181 yards combined rushing/passing
52% completion percentage

Falcons defensive/special teams from that game;
2 interceptions
2 sacks
3 recovered fumbles
1 blocked punt for a touchdown

Oh yeah, Duckett and Dunn had 109 yards rushing between them as well.

But Mike Vick won that game.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:26pm

Vick looked like a lot better value when Doug Johnson was the backup QB rather than Schaub.

FWIW, I enjoyed the article.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:29pm

And just for reference, Trent Dilfer's Super Bowl stats;

12/25 passing
153 yards passing
1 passing TD

I guess Dilfer won the Super Bowl by himself too.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:31pm

I haven't seen many Eagles games this year, but I'm curious about the (admittedly subjective) opinion of Eagles fans regarding Javon Kearse. Is he worth the $$ he's getting?

by Whatever0 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:50pm

A big reason Vick got the contract he did was the "P" word: Potential. I think it's a bit too early to determine if he'll live up to that potential, or not. Given how good a passer he was in 2002, I wouldn't write him off. If he could get back to that level passing, with his ridiculous athleticism, he could be the greatest player ever to play the game.

Also, DVOA for a QB is really DVOA for the QB behind that O-Line throwing to those recievers. You can make a solid argument that the Falcons recieving corps, well, sucks.

I'd say that he's overpaid enough to make the list, but not so much that it's ridiculous to leave him off. The real idiocy of the contract is the risk of him suffering some kind of career-ending injury, which isn't unheard of given how he plays. The Falcons would be crippled for years.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:52pm

Kearse? No, not really. He's playing like a good starting end, and getting a good pass rush, but in terms of output, eh, not so much.

That being said, he is honestly being double-teamed quite often, and so eh, I usually don't mind. Kearse is one of the bigger gambles that the Eagles took, but he's started all the games with the Eagles that they wanted him to, which is more than you can say for any of the other defensive ends on the Eagles roster.

So they're probably overpaying him a bit, but it depends on how long they hold onto him.

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:07pm

I think Vick has an immeasurable psychologic impact on the game. It affects his team and his opponents. When he was hurt in 2003 the team sucked. I have to think part of that was the rest of the team thinking they couldn't win without him, so they fulfilled their own prophecy. When he's playing, the rest of his team thinks anything is possible.

Same goes for the opponents. When Vick is playing, the defense has an extra amount of fear.

I also think this partly explains Miami's struggles on defense last year. After losing Ricky, and the rest of the offense's struggles, the defense just felt like every game was hopeless, and it affects their play.

by Rob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:13pm

I wonder how many total pages of text have been written worldwide debating Vick's abilities/value at QB. I'm guessing in the last two years, more than on any other subject...

by bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:18pm

Vanderjagt at #3? I dunno. Are percentages what kickers are paid for? (he does have the highest ever, but as you say, it's a bit streaky) Or is it the clutch, game-winning kicks? (see MNF game in Denver two years ago)

He clearly thinks he's "money" as he likes to gesture to the kickers across the field (rubbing his fingertips together) when he comes out to seal a win, and generally he's done that. You want a guy to be confident, and it seems a shame to downgrade him because of an inflated ego--hey, the list is only ten slots long after all and this is the NFL!

I can think of three times Vandy's failed at the last-second game-winner/tier (and one time he got an insane "mulligan" at Tampa and barely made good on the 2nd chance), the 1 point loss to the Dolphins in a playoff game about 5 years ago and the opening 3-pt loss of last season against the Pats. But a 48-yarder outdoors on grass is no gimme, even for the best.

I don't know where $1.8M stacks up for kickers--at one point I know he was the highest paid kicker--but add in the $300K or so they are paying the kickoff man, and call them a package at $2.1M. Now, together, do they accomplish what they are supposed to? Yes. Are they, together, the best in the league? Um... no. Are they the most clutch? Maybe (if you exclude Vinatieri and the injured Akers). Are they the worst? Not by a long shot.

One thing that warrants mentioning is that together, Vandy and Raymer at $2.1M, they are a redundant system--if one goes down mid-game, you are not relying on a TE or LB to do your kicking! The fall-off is not so great. That's gotta be worth some insurance $$, right Andy Reid? But calculating it depends on one's personal risk tolerance. Some coaches carry 3 QBs, some only 2. If you expect to win a lot of games on field position and by 3-point margins, then the backup might be worth it. Indy has traditionally NOT been this type of team, but this year....

Finally, $2.1M is chump change--what could they save, in reality, by hiring another better kicker (if he's out there)? $1M a year or less? COuld that get them a better return man (which they could use)? Doubtful. Would it be better spend on Edge's long-term contract signing bonus? Not really (as much as I like him, he's probably got no more than 3 years left in the tank and $1M won't do much). It's a little like complaining that you spent $8 to see a movie that was only "okay." Well, would you have spent $5 for it? Maybe. Yes, overpaying by 60% sounds like a lot, but don't whine about the $3--the best alternative use for that is a coffee, and you probably don't need any more of that anyway. Come to me when you overpay for a house by $75k because of a hot sellers market and bidding wars.

Together, they are probably overpaid, but it doesn't seem to rank anywhere near where they are placed on the list.

by johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:27pm

I always thought Superman kicked the ball hard enough that it actually would carry the guy who tried to block the kick with it.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:29pm

With regard to Kearse, #24 is right. He has not put up great numbers so far, but he's also the focus of every blocking scheme since (1)Corey Simon is gone (2) McDougal is out with injury (3) Derrick Burgess signed with the Raiders. The rookie DT, Mike Patterson has done a nice job inside but the rest of the D-linemen are ham-and-eggers and Kearse is shouldering the load. Most people, myself included, think he'll come around.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:38pm

One thing that warrants mentioning is that together, Vandy and Raymer at $2.1M, they are a redundant system–if one goes down mid-game, you are not relying on a TE or LB to do your kicking!

However, they are taking up 2 roster spots - 2 active roster spots. Which means you're going to be shallower at some other position than you normally would be.

Which is why most teams do not carry a spare kicker on their roster.

And, incidentally, if you've saw Vanderjagt's kickoffs last year - a TE or LB kicking off would've almost done better. They were awful.

by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:55pm

If I were on the punt return team and Superman was the opposing punter, I don't think I would make much of an attempt to block his kick. That dude is, like, really strong.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 4:43pm

Come to think of it if you had Superman... wouldn't you be tempted to go for it on 4th down.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 4:44pm

If Superman is on your team, he hell no is the punter.

If Superman is on your team and he is the punter, than you go to your coach and say "hey coach... that guy there - with a big red 'S' instead of a number on his chest - that's Superman. Wouldn't you check if he can handle a little more playing time?"

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 4:55pm

If the other team had Superman, I'd hide kryptonite in the football.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:07pm

Because of the salary cap, Superman would be franchised by the team that drafted him (Cardinals) and they would win every game for the rest of the league's history.

He nevertheless would grow to realize that he was grossly underpaid.

In a holdout before camp, MMQB and TMQ would lead a witch hunt saying he wasn't a team player; didn't understand that he had no right to invalidate a contract his team had a right to nullify; and wouldn't know a good latte/Klingon dictionary/coal car from kryptonite.

Superman would then bring his unique skill to the game of baseball, wherein he would be amply rewarded with a guaranteed contract that actually fit his contribution to the team.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:15pm

Superman, being a good guy, wouldn't use his powers just to win a football game, though. He only uses his powers to fight evil. So, maybe he'd use them against the Raiders and Cowboys, but no one else.

by JonL (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:15pm

I don't have a problem with Superman as a punter/kicker, as long as he did other things as well...sort of a Super Tom Tupa.

The Flash would make a GREAT punt/kick returner.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:18pm

B pointed out the obvious, so I'll repost this.

Charting the metrics for Pass in the offseason, I couldn’t help but think he would be a great receiving or running fullback, and that Coach B would benefit greatly from using him especially if Dillon had issues.

He also was cheap!

I wrote that in here, and was villified. I also suggested that the Jets let the wrong free agent go at RB, and would have been better served with Lamont Jordan than the lotta-miles-on-his-legs NFL yardage champ. You can imagine the reception that got.

I think I can rest my case.

Pass will get votes for Pro Bowl, and unlike Alston, et al, will deserve it for his blocking, too, which has helped keep a beleagured Pats’ o-line in place.

My only kvetch, Aaron, is that I think it’s kind of unfair to single a player out for not performing well after he suffers a very serious injury.

That’s why I make a distinction between Pennington and Brooks. I agree the Jets should have been more circumspect about signing him to that kind of money, but I credit them for bringing in a sort of decent backup in case (when) that shoulder conked out.

Unfortunately, he suffered a catastrophic injury, too, which is actually unheard of with the league’s relatively low injury rate at QB.

Brooks, on the other hand, has never been worth that money. He would have been exactly what he was designed to be – an outstanding replacement QB, making, say, $1.9 million per annum, backing up Favre, et al.

Before the salary cap, he would have been a Bono (the QB, not the signer).

One of the unspoken points I have tried to make is that it’s ludicrous to pay large, upfront money to players manning positions that carry a very high injury rate. It’s not that I believe dominant players at their positions don’t deserve to get paid, but I think it’s kind of inane to pay out $3.7 million in cap hit to a defensive back, no matter how great he is.

Even with Sapp’s bonus, you have to remember that he’s making about the median for a DT. He’s probably a little long in the tooth to get those duckets, IMHO, but it’s not breaking Al Davis’ piggybank.

“Charles Rogers� is Millenspeak for “dead money.�

I agree completely about Vanderjagt. I admire his field goal accuracy, but it’s a pretty fungible position, and he doesn’t kick off. The only saving grace is that he’s not really making more than the median salary for a second- or third-receiver.

Is he worth that to a team? No. But on the Colts, he might be. It’s not as if they need another WR.

As for Houston, what really adds insult to injury is that almost every starter is a high draft pick retread from another, more successful, team. If these teams did NOT want to keep a player on what is one of the most important positions in modern professional football, then why should you pay that kind of veteran free-agent money for them?

Ironically, Houston has OLs they’ve drafted pretty highly sitting on the bench. At this point, I would be more than tempted to start working these guys in A LOT.

They couldn’t do any worse.

“Domanick Davis, Vernand Morency, or even Clark Kent won’t make much of a difference in the running game as long as there is no one to block for them.�

That kind of bugged me because I would lay at least six or seven sacks on Davis. It’s his responsibility to pick up the safety blitz, and he has proven particularly inept at even going through the motions of falling in the pathway of a blitzer.

If Pass is one of the better blocking backs in football, then Davis is one of (if not the) worst blockers at his position I’ve seen in a long, long time.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:24pm

Or, in another scenario, the evil Lex Luthor buys the Cardinals and names Mike Tice as coach.

Despite Superman's unique and dominant skills, the Cards manage to underperform on the field, and the super hero and Aqua Man (plays for the Dolphins) are later found to have chartered a drunken booty cruise.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:25pm

Psst, Carl:

Ryan wrote this, not Aaron. Tch tch, should be reading the byline.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:27pm

Pat, no one reads bylines.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:27pm

I always thought Aqua Man would play for Tampa BAY, since that's the only team with an underwater stadium.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:29pm

Dangit! I'm no one now!

by The Byline Formerly Known as Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:41pm

The union representing dead end posters with too much time on their hands -- The FO Guild -- has begun a byline strike.

We refuse to kowtow to the demands of FO until our demands are met. We've got to feed our families, ya know?


1. The removal of the letter "Q" from the English language.

2. The originator of all learned wisdom and witticisms originating from The Byline Formerly Known as Carl shall be paid $1 per post. For TMQ days, that will mean at least $100.

3. Kryptonite will now be a schedule I substance to be subject to urinalysis testing, per agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. Victor Conte's "This Isn't Really Kryptonite Ball" will not be tested until such time as an enterprising reporter actually determines that the Kryptonite Ball really, really contains Kryptonite.

by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:44pm

"since that’s the only team with an underwater stadium."

See also, New Orleans.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 6:01pm

Re #44: Should't your second demand read "...For TM days....?"

by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 7:05pm

The commenting of Lamont Jordan being the RB the Jets should have kept, reminded me of two postseason moments that resulted in coaching changes that in one case has proved to be at best futile, and another that may prove to be a mistake.

The first was the argument between the head coach of the Jets and the offensive coordinator in the wild-card game against San Diego. I heard the argument was about giving carries to Jordan instead of Martin. I wonder if that argument during the game was the last straw that got the OC fired and Jordan traded to Oakland.

The second was "4th and 26," which resulted in the firing of the Green Bay defensive coordinator. The defense has not improved significantly since then, and I wonder if Sherman made a knee-jerk mistake.

by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 10:45pm

#47: Your larger point still stands, but the argument on the Jets' sideline was between Herm Edwards and running back coach Bishop Harris, not Edwards and offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. Both Harris and Hackett left the Jets this offseason (supposedly) on their own volition. Jordan wasn't traded; he was a free agent.

by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:39pm

re nf
Ya think??!!

by masocc (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:28am

You people are all freaking ridiculous. Superman would *obviously* make a lousy NFL player. Here's how it would all go down:

Superman, after going undrafted in 2006 (Clark who?!), is picked up by America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys (thanks to their new executive, Scott Pioli). Bill Parcells figures he will *finally* return to glory, and show Belichick who is REALLY the man.

After the preseason, BB figures out what's going on, but keeps mum. The Cowboys win their first couple of games, before the rest of the league catches on. Teams begin sprinkling their fields with green kryptonite 'fertilizer', or installing kryptonite-laced artificial turf. Superman is benched until a week 9 MNF game on ESPN, when the Cowboys play the Pats.

During pre-game warmups, Bill Parcells is amazed that Superman is suffering NO ill effects, so he starts Superman at QB. After NE takes a 7-0 lead on their opening drive, the Big S lines up under center. Just as the center starts to hike the ball, NE's 46th CB (some guy named Wally West) of the season, fresh out of the free agent pool, sprints from 20 yards deep, and around the line to scoop up and return the fumble as Superman inexplicably crumples to the ground at the instant the snap leaves the center's hands. NE is up 14-0. It is only then that West's green tinged Nike's are noticed.

Following the kickoff, Drew Bledsoe takes the field, and immediately drops dead. Joe Theismann, in what may be the first bit of useful information to leave his mouth since he screamed "Oh #$#&, my leg!" says: "Wow Al, it looks like he's wearing White Kryptonite too!"

NE cruises, 48-3, but loses their new CB to a torn ACL.

Superman retires later that week, but the Cowboys go on to defeat the Viking in week 10, after the entire team is suspended for substance violations. Mike Tice, during his resignation speech, had this to say: "I told the boys to load up on the Kryptonite for the game this week. I just didn't realize what Kryptonite means to these guys. And I *definitely* didn't say anything about *another* freaking cruise."

by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 6:45am


'Joe Theismann, in what may be the first bit of useful information to leave his mouth since he screamed “Oh #$#&, my leg!...�'

Brilliant. Comedy genius.

by Carl (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:16pm

Actually, I could see a game wherein Superman and his Cardinals outplay New England the entire game, until the intervention of the Evil Dr. Tuck in a blizzard leads to their demise.

by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:02pm

That’s why I make a distinction between Pennington and Brooks. I agree the Jets should have been more circumspect about signing him to that kind of money, but I credit them for bringing in a sort of decent backup in case (when) that shoulder conked out.

Unfortunately, he suffered a catastrophic injury, too, which is actually unheard of with the league’s relatively low injury rate at QB.

Mcnabb, Detmer, Feeley...

by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:18pm

You know what would be funny? If Nicolas Cage's kid grew up and became a football player.

by budman (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 10:54pm

Will there be double the amount of anti-vick posts and support posts once his mirror image brother enters the NFL.

I can guarantee he gets a bg contract as well eventually and they play like twins. So I guess we will...