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It happens every year: Players who used to be highly coveted see their play decline and are no longer worth what they're getting paid.
Last week, I looked at the NFL's most underpaid veterans, and now it's time to look at who qualifies as the most overpaid. To do that, I compared each player's 2016-17 cap hit (according to OverTheCap.com) to the Jahnke Value Model, which determines what a player is worth based on performance.
Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton bring in millions, but it's nowhere near what they're worth. Pro Football Focus ranks the 10 most underpaid veterans, comparing talent to salary-cap hits.
In some cases, a player hasn't lived up to his contract simply due to injury, and for the purposes of this list, those players were ignored; we're not having bad luck count against them. That leaves the players who aren't playing as well as their contracts suggest they should be.
Of the players on last season's list, two are retired, two were cut and two are back with their teams on pay cuts. In some cases, a player's reputation is so big that he will likely remain overpaid for multiple seasons. In other cases, it wouldn't be surprising if he is playing elsewhere at a lower salary in 2017-18.
1. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
2016-17 cap hit: $24.2 million
2016-17 JVM: $9.6 million
Value differential: $14.6 million
It's Manning's second straight year on this list. Since last season, his cap hit has increased, while his play continued to decline. He is still one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL and still worthy of starting quarterback money, but he is getting paid like a top-five player at his position, in average value per year. In recent years, Manning's passes have been getting shorter, from an average depth of target of 10.1 yards in 2013-14 to 9.2 in 2014-15 to 8.1 in 2015-16. You would expect his accuracy to go up with that decrease, but his completion percentage was lower in 2015-16 than in 2014-15. When under pressure, he completed only 49 percent of his passes, which ranked just 24th overall. His touchdown totals remain high, but that has more to do with Odell Beckham Jr. than with Manning. Although Manning isn't playing so poorly as to deserve being benched, he definitely is not living up to his salary.
2. Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2016-17 cap hit: $15.1 million
2016-17 JVM: $0.9 million
Value differential: $14.2 million
At his best, Timmons was worthy of being on All-Pro teams, but in 2015-16, his play quickly deteriorated. His 21 missed tackles tied for third-most among linebackers. He had a stop on just 6.7 percent of his run plays, 12th-worst among inside linebackers after he finished third-best the year before. In the passing game, Timmons allowed 596 receiving yards (fourth-worst among LBs). He is now 30 and among the 20 oldest linebackers on NFL rosters. Only four older players are assured three-down roles next season. Timmons is on the last year of his contract, and though he might have a bounce-back season in 2016-17, chances are he won't get paid nearly as much in 2017-18.
3. Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns
2016-17 cap hit: $13.4 million
2016-17 JVM: $0.8 million
Value differential: $12.6 million
In 2010-11, Haden was a top-five cornerback, which is very rare for a rookie, and he has been on a steady decline ever since. In 2014-15, he allowed 781 receiving yards (13th among CBs). He missed a lot of playing time in 2015-16, but in the five games he played, quarterbacks had a near-perfect 158.2 passer rating when throwing at the receiver he was covering. Unsurprisingly, that was the worst figure among all cornerbacks. Haden has been an above average cornerback the majority of his career, and it's certainly possible that he bounces back after missing most of the past season, but he is getting paid for how well he played six years ago. He's slated to make top dollar for the next four seasons.
CB Joe Haden rated as one of the NFL's worst cornerbacks when he played last season. AP Photo/Ron Schwane
4. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
2016-17 cap hit: $22.6 million
2016-17 JVM: $11.7 million
Value differential: $10.9 million
Whenever a quarterback gets a new contract, the value typically seems way too high. This was never more true than when Flacco received an extension this offseason that gave him a cap hit of at least $22 million in each of the next six seasons and practically forces Flacco to remain the Ravens' starter through 2018-19. If Flacco can consistently play as well as he did in his Super Bowl season, that's not a problem, but he has been very inconsistent since that point. His 83.1 NFL passer rating last season was the lowest among the 25 quarterbacks with at least 700 snaps. He had just 444 passing yards on deep passes in 2015-16, which ranked 27th among quarterbacks. Although the Ravens could certainly do worse at quarterback, they could have done just as well for a lot less.
5. Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings
2016-17 cap hit: $11.1 million
2016-17 JVM: $0.8 million
Value differential: $10.3 million
Similar to Joe Haden, Kalil lived up to being a high draft pick in his rookie season. But since then, his play hasn't been nearly as good. In 2015-16, he allowed twice as many sacks and twice as many hits as he allowed as a rookie, despite playing in fewer snaps. The past two seasons, Kalil has allowed 99 totals pressures, worst among all offensive tackles. The Vikings picked up Kalil's fifth-year option hoping he can return to his rookie-year form. If he doesn't, it's unlikely he will make as much in his second contract as he did in his first.
6. Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
2016-17 cap hit: $13.8 million
2016-17 JVM: $3.9 million
Value differential: $9.9 million
Matthews is the third-highest paid linebacker overall, but he hasn't played to that level in recent years, regardless of whether he lined up at OLB or ILB. After he ranked among the top pass-rushers in pressure rate throughout his rookie contract, his numbers have declined the past three seasons. Plus, after he missed seven or fewer tackles in each of his first six seasons, he missed 17 in 2015-16. While a move back to outside linebacker should help, the 30-year-old Matthews' best days are behind him. Only 12 other 3-4 outside linebackers are making half as much as Matthews per year, and there are at least that many who outperformed Matthews last season.
7. Bruce Irvin, OLB, Oakland Raiders
2016-17 cap hit: $12.5 million
2016-17 JVM: $2.8 million
Value differential: $9.7 million
The Raiders were one of the big spenders in free agency, and that included bringing Irvin in from Seattle on a four-year deal. Although his cap hits are lower in future seasons, his play still doesn't warrant the contract he received. He has been just an average pass-rusher in his career; he had five sacks, 12 hits and 21 hurries on 301 pass rushes last season. In the run game, his 3.7 run-stop percentage was the lowest among 4-3 outside linebackers with at least 200 snaps against the run game. Although superstar pass-rushers make a lot of money in the NFL, average ones don't typically earn what Irvin will.
The Raiders gave a big deal to Bruce Irvin this offseason. Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports
8. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
2016-17 cap hit: $15.2 million
2016-17 JVM: $5.7 million
Value differential: $9.5 million
As recently as 2014-15, Thomas was in the top tier of wide receivers. His 2.78 yards per route run that season ranked second among WRs. Last season, however, Thomas' play took a step back, as he gained only 2.2 yards per route run, which ranked outside the top 10. He dropped a career-high 12 passes and had only six touchdowns, his fewest since 2011-12. He disappeared in the Super Bowl, with just one 8-yard catch on six targets. He has the third-highest cap hit for a wide receiver in 2016-17, but last season, his play was not worthy of such distinction. Maybe a poor QB was to blame, but Denver's QB situation could be even worse this season.
9. Brandon Carr, CB, Dallas Cowboys
2016-17 cap hit: $10.2 million
2016-17 JVM: $0.9 million
Value differential: $9.3 million
Carr, who was on this list last year, took a pay cut in 2016-17 but still isn't worth the money the Cowboys are paying him. Although he cut down his penalties and missed tackles in 2015-16, he still graded out as a below average cornerback. For the second consecutive season, he struggled in two key areas: He didn't have an interception, and he allowed six touchdowns. Only two other cornerbacks in 2015-16 allowed that many touchdowns without an interception, and neither player is returning to his team. In 2017-18, Carr's salary will be a lot less, so this is his last season among the most overvalued players.
10. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
2016-17 cap hit: $12.0 million
2016-17 JVM: $3.0 million
Value differential: $9.0 million
Peterson is the third and final repeat player in the top 10. Only three other running backs have a cap hit within $6 million of his, and no RB comes within $2 million, which means Peterson should be by far the best player at his position in order to warrant his contract. In 2015-16, that simply wasn't the case. Peterson was taken off the field in third-and-long situations because he isn't an asset as a receiver or a blocker. Looking at just his running, he put up a respectable 4.5 yards per carry, but that was only 12th-best among RBs with at least 100 carries. His six fumbles were tied for the most among all running backs last season. Yes, he won the 2015-16 rushing title, but only because he had 39 more carries than Doug Martin, who greatly outplayed Peterson on a per play basis. Although Peterson remains among the better pure running backs in the league, he's only an above average starter when you factor in his receiving and blocking ability, and above average starting running backs aren't making much in today's NFL.