The word “overrated” is one no player wants associated with his name. It means he’s failed to meet expectations, or is perceived to be better than he actually is. Sometimes fans peg a player as such, and other times, the team does by way of a large, lucrative contract. Either way, being dubbed overrated is something no one wants to hear. These are the 10 most overrated defensive players in the league as we head into the 2016 season.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
Mario Williams, DE, Miami Dolphins
Mario Williams had rejuvenated his career with the Bills after going through a few disappointing seasons to close out his time with the Houston Texans. However, he still has never posted a season with at least 15 sacks. He has been a fairly consistent player throughout his career, but 2015 was a complete disaster for the former No. 1 overall pick. He had just five sacks and 19 tackles -- numbers that were on par with his 2011 season … when he played five games. He made his displeasure with Rex Ryan’s scheme known and showed an unwillingness to drop back into coverage, which had an impact on his morale and attitude. Williams won’t eclipse that 15-sack mark with the Dolphins this season, either.
Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have an outstanding defense with guys like Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and George Iloka headlining the group. Michael Johnson typically gets lumped in with those stars, but it’s not exactly warranted. At 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, Johnson has elite size and jumps off the tape due to his stature, but his impact isn’t what it’s perceived to be. He’s had just 12 1/2 sacks in the past three seasons and has just one campaign with 10-plus sacks. Outside of 2012 when he had 11 1/2, the most he’s had in a single season is six. Johnson does get his hands on the football often -- seven forced fumbles since 2013 -- but he needs to have a bigger impact on the game.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Brian Orakpo, OLB, Tennessee Titans
Brian Orakpo was outstanding as a rookie in Washington, recording a career-high 11 sacks. Since then, he’s had one double-digit-sack season. In his first with the Titans, Orakpo had seven sacks and 51 tackles, but he’s not your prototypical pass rusher like some believe him to be. Injuries have limited him throughout his career, but now that he’s finally healthy, we get to see what he can do for a complete season. Orakpo fits well in Tennessee’s scheme so he should produce better than he did in 2015; it’s just hard to state that he will. Orakpo is the 13th-highest-paid outside linebacker in the league, making just over $7.7 million a year.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAChristopher Hanewinckel
Vinny Curry, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Vinny Curry was the beneficiary of the Eagles’ spending spree among their own players this offseason, inking a five-year, $47.25 million deal. That’s for a player with zero career starts in four seasons. What’s more alarming is that he had 12 tackles last season and just 3 1/2 sacks. And in 2014, he had 19 tackles -- nine of which were sacks, proving that he’s essentially a pass-rush specialist. Even still, he’s not a guy who will rack up 15 sacks in a season despite making more than $9 million per season -- 10th among defensive ends.
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Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
There was a time when Joe Haden was rising toward becoming one of the best pure cover corners in football. He pulled down six interceptions as a rookie, knocked down 19 passes in his second season and had three picks in just 11 games the following season. In 2015, he was terrible even before injuring his ankle. He was targeted 31 times in five games, allowing a passer rating of 158.2 while recording just two passes defensed. Some of his struggles can be attributed to injuries, but there’s no question he hasn’t been the same player in recent years.
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY SportsScott Galvin
Jairus Byrd, FS, New Orleans Saints
Just two years ago, Jairus Byrd signed a massive six-year, $56 million contract with the Saints after spending five seasons with the Bills. In those five years, Byrd was a turnover machine, picking off 22 passes. Since joining the Saints, Byrd has just one interception and two forced fumbles. Granted, he’s only played 17 games, but he’s nowhere near the player New Orleans thought it was getting. Byrd was once considered one of the best free safeties in the league, but his game has fallen off completely in recent years. He’s not a likely candidate to be cut, but he’ll have to hold off rookie Vonn Bell at free safety.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportDerick E. Hingle
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
Vontaze Burfict is known around the NFL as a dirty player, which he is. Burfict constantly hits players late and around he head area, as he did to Antonio Brown. That doesn’t make him overrated, though. He’s a liability in coverage and can’t stay on the field to help his team, having missed 17 games in the past two years. Burfict is a big hitter when filling the hole against the run, but he’s far from being a well-rounded linebacker. Not to mention his bad attitude and lack of control on the field often hurt the Bengals in crucial situations.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Miami Dolphins
After playing under Richard Sherman’s shadow in Seattle, Byron Maxwell was paid like a top corner, signing a six-year, $63 million deal last offseason. Maxwell, like DeMarco Murray, lasted just one season in Philly before being shipped to Miami with Kiko Alonso. Maxwell struggled mightily last year, getting burned consistently early in the season. He improved as the year went on, but by no means did he play up to the standards of his contract. Maxwell allowed a passer rating of 100.7 in 2015 and missed 15 tackles, proving to be weak against the run, too.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher
Eric Weddle, FS, Baltimore Ravens
The Chargers’ reluctance to keep Eric Weddle around upset the safety greatly, and he voiced his opinion on the situation. By no means was the separation clean between the two sides and Weddle has since landed with the Ravens. Part of the reason why the Chargers didn’t keep Weddle around despite being a Pro Bowler is because his play has regressed significantly in recent years. His interception numbers have decreased in each of the past four seasons with Weddle having zero for the first time in his career last year. He’s no longer the ballhawk he once was and even his tackling ability has tapered off.
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Janoris Jenkins, CB, New York Giants
The Giants made Janoris Jenkins the seventh-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL this offseason, signing him to a five-year, $62.5 million contract with $28.8 million guaranteed. The deal pays him slightly less than that of Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Patrick Peterson, though he’s nowhere near the player they are. Jenkins is a huge risk-taker in the secondary, gambling often on throws sent his way. It’s a big reason why he has five pick-sixes in his career despite allowing the third-most touchdowns by a cornerback since he came into the league. Jenkins’ game is solid, but he’s far too inconsistent to be a top corner.