NFL's most overpaid players

BY Alex Marvez • December 15, 2009

Bargains can be found, but there are some purchases that cause buyer's remorse down the road.

The NFL's version of Black Friday began last February on the first day of free agency and stretched through the offseason. Here's a look at some of the league's most overpaid players as we enter the season's home stretch.

 

1 and 1a: Carolina QB Jake Delhomme and DE Julius Peppers

You can't mention one without the other.

Delhomme and Peppers have damaged this struggling franchise from both a performance and financial standpoint for this season and maybe years to come. And the ones who may pay the ultimate price are Panthers coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney.

Delhomme has failed to rebound from his dreadful performance in last year's playoffs. He also may have lost his starting spot to Matt Moore starting with Sunday's game at New England (Fox isn't saying). Peppers is the NFL's highest-paid defensive end but hasn't played at that level on anything close to a consistent basis.

This isn't what the Panthers were expecting during the offseason. Carolina was so determined to keep Peppers from free agency that he was given the highest franchise player tender ($16.7 million) in NFL history. He consumed more than 10 percent of the team's salary cap, essentially crippling Carolina from upgrading its roster with veteran signings. The Panthers then couldn't lessen Peppers' cap hit by negotiating a new deal. Peppers also was essentially untradeable because of his massive 2009 salary and high-end contract demands for an extension.

Enter Delhomme. Wanting to create cap space before the NFL draft, the Panthers re-worked his contract to clear $3 million. In exchange, Delhomme scored a sweetheart of an extension that made it seem like last season's playoff fiasco against Arizona never happened.

The Panthers agreed to pay Delhomme at least $19 million in guaranteed cash over the next three seasons (an excellent story detailing the contract by former NFL executive Andrew Brandt can be found here). After guiding the Panthers to a 12-4 mark in his first season back from major elbow surgery, Carolina management was convinced the 34-year-old Delhomme had sufficient gas left in the tank.

But Delhomme and a mediocre receiving corps outside of Steve Smith have run on empty throughout 2009. Delhomme had eight touchdowns and 18 interceptions before being sidelined last Sunday with a finger injury.

Peppers, too, has underachieved in an 8.5-sack season. Moments of greatness like the ones he displayed in a dominating performance last month against Arizona are too few and far between. Peppers also has struggled with a broken hand suffered five games ago.

The trickle-down effect on Carolina's playoff hopes: The Panthers (5-7) have to sweep the remaining games against New England, Minnesota, the New York Giants and New Orleans and hope for losses from other wild-card contenders.

Just as discouraging, the Panthers have no easy answers with Peppers and Delhomme in the 2010 offseason. According to nationalfootballpost.com, Delhomme is guaranteed $10.7 million if he's cut in March and $12.7 million should the Panthers extend his contact through 2013. Damned if you do . . .

Using the franchise tender on Peppers again would cost Carolina in the $20-million range. Although the NFL is on track for a cap-free season in 2010, that's a steep price for a 30-year old who would probably benefit from a change of scenery.

So what will the Panthers do? That's impossible to guess until we learn whether Fox and Hurney are back in 2010.

 

3. San Francisco WR Brandon Jones

From what I was told by a 49ers beat writer, Jones' offseason signing represents a disconnect between the team's front office and its coaches. Coming off a career-high 41 catches with Tennessee in 2008, Jones was inked to a five-year, $16.5 million contract that included $5.4 million guaranteed. The investment has yielded one catch for 18 yards and nine punt returns for 26 yards. Jones can't get on the field and is buried on the depth chart.

 

4. Tampa Bay RB Derrick Ward

A 1,000-yard rusher for the New York Giants in 2008, Ward is one of the few players the tight-fisted Bucs signed to a big free-agent contract (four years for $17 million with $6 million guaranteed) in the offseason. Ward, though, was beaten out for a starting role by Cadillac Williams and is clearly second fiddle in the backfield. Ward has 84 rushes for 304 yards and one touchdown.

 

5. Oakland WR Javon Walker

The injury-plagued Walker became one of the most overpaid free agents in NFL history after signing a six-year, $55 million contract with an $11 million signing bonus in 2008. Walker reworked the deal in 2009 to stay with the Raiders after a poor 2008 campaign, but it's still wasted money. Walker, who is collecting $4.6 million guaranteed through the end of next season, has played in three games and doesn't have a catch.

 

6. Chicago LT Orlando Pace

Age and injuries have taken a toll on one of the best linemen of his generation. Signed as a stopgap starter at left tackle following the unexpected retirement of John Tait, Pace is earning $5.85 million this season as part of a three-year, $15 million contract. 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams did a nice job starting last Sunday against St. Louis and may keep the gig even when Pace is healthy enough to return from a groin injury.

 

7. Washington DT Albert Haynesworth

Haynesworth is a dominating defensive lineman when healthy. But is he good enough to justify one of the largest free-agent contracts in league history? So far, no. That's why he makes this list. The Redskins have surrendered 118.6 rushing yards in the 10 games Haynesworth has played. He also has three sacks after notching a career-best 8.5 in 2008 with Tennessee. Haynesworth is a double-team magnet and may ultimately prove worth what is essentially a four-year, $48 million contract (it's widely reported as $100 million over seven years). But one has to wonder whether Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's money would have been better spent upgrading other areas, especially along a crumbling offensive line.

 

8. Minnesota QB Sage Rosenfels

Green Bay isn't the only party hurt by the NFL return of Brett Favre. When the Vikings signed No. 4 in mid-August, Rosenfels' chances of starting were 86'ed. He then slid to third string during the preseason behind Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings initially thought enough of Rosenfels to give him a three-year, $9 million contract extension after acquiring him from Houston for a 2009 fourth-round pick. Rosenfels could very well be on the move again in 2010 and would be a great trade pickup for any team with quarterback questions.

 

9. Houston QB Dan Orlovsky

The Texans signed Orlovsky to a three-year, $9.15 million contract with $2.4 million guaranteed believing he could replace Rosenfels as Matt Schaub's backup. Orlovsky, though, is mired in the same third-string role as Rosenfels is in Minnesota. Orlovsky lost his second-string spot in the preseason to Rex Grossman (?!?) and hasn't won it back. We may now never know whether Orlovsky has learned where the back of the end zone is.

 

10. Tampa Bay QB Byron Leftwich

Leftwich squandered what may be his final chance at being a full-time NFL starter. He was benched after Tampa Bay's first three games and is now on injured reserve (elbow). Leftwich earned $2 million in base salary. He won't be around to collect a $3.5 million roster bonus due in March.

Now, not everyone in the NFL is stealing money though. Check out the biggest bargains in the league.



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