By Nick Richardson @NickSonofDave on July 23, 2014
It seems that NFL teams are more willing than ever to shell out huge sums of money to players who very rarely play at a level worthy of such a contract. The players listed here, however, are ones who are giving their teams exceptional performances for a fraction of their market value. It should be noted that several of these players aren’t due for new contracts for a few seasons. Nonetheless, each one of these 10 guys deserves a raise.
In a draft class that included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Tannehill has flown under the radar. His first two seasons have been pretty good ones, though. Despite playing behind a terrible offensive line, Tannehill has played quite well for Miami. Still under his rookie contract with a cap hit of around $3 million, Tannehill gives the Dolphins above-average QB play at a bargain price for a starter.
Houston is entering a contact year, so he should expect the big payday he deserves next season. The former third-round pick has racked up double-digit sacks each of the last two seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors in both. And Houston has done all that while costing the Chiefs roughly $700,000 a year. With another strong season, Houston’s next contract should be somewhere north of $10 million a year.
When you can get a guy who wins Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in his first two seasons for just over $3 million a year, you’re doing pretty well for yourself. Kuechly has emerged as one of the best defensive players in the game and the leader of an excellent Panthers defense. On the open market, Kuechly could easily get $15 million a year.
Of all the players on this list, Green has the highest annual salary at just under $5 million a year. That said, Green is worth much more. Outside of Calvin Johnson, you could argue that Green is the best wideout in the game. He gives the Bengals production that is comparable to Megatron’s for roughly one-third of the price. While Green’s salary will increase in 2015 due to the Bengals picking up his fifth-year option, he remains a great value.
The Legion of Boom makes headlines in the NFC West, but Peterson is as good as any of the Seahawks. With Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas getting big new contracts, he is certainly a better value. Peterson became a star due to his exploits as a returner, but he’s emerged as an All-Pro as one of the league’s best cover corners. Even with a cap hit of roughly $6 million this year, Peterson should look forward to a Sherman-like extension soon.
Foles shocked the NFL in 2013 when he replaced Michael Vick and promptly began torching opposing defenses to the tune of 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 10 starts. Foles did all of this for less than $700,000, an absurdly low number for an above-average starting QB. It remains to be seen if Foles can duplicate his success, but even if his play slips just a little bit, he will have earned a big raise.
Quinn had perhaps the biggest breakout season in the NFL last year, recording a whopping 19.5 sacks and making his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams. This was accomplished by Quinn even though he wasn’t even one of the 10 highest-paid players on his own team. Under contract for two more seasons, Quinn should expect a monster payday when he becomes a free agent in 2016.
David is perhaps best known for his “out-of-bounds” hit on Geno Smith last year that led to a Tampa Bay loss. This is unfortunate, because David is possibly the best player in the NFL that nobody knows about. David put up a ridiculous stat line, amassing 145 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions, all for the low price of $800,000. The heir apparent to Derrick Brooks in Tampa Bay, David will soon receive a more appropriate contract.
Since joining the league, Watt has emerged as the NFL’s premier defender and quite possibly the single-most dominant player in the game. Even when his stats took a predictable drop last year, Watt was still the best player on the field whenever he suited up. Watt is scheduled to make just over $3 million this year. The Texans should be thanking their lucky stars they have one of the best players in the league for a fraction of his actual value.
The situation the Seahawks find themselves in with Wilson is one that GMs dream about. This franchise quarterback taken in the third round won a Super Bowl in his second season all while costing the team less than $800,000. Like the rest of the famous QB class of 2012, Wilson will receive a monstrous new contract in a couple of years. Until then, he is the holder of the most ironic title in pro football: The most underpaid player in the league.
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