For various reasons, it’s quite difficult to accurately pay a player based on his performance and future expectations. Things such as leverage (which can go both ways), agent, past performance/experience, age, etc. have an effect on how much a player is going to be paid. Sometimes, players are overpaid basically because the team doesn’t have the money to spend on anyone else (see Nate Allen in Oakland).
With just under a month before Eagles training camp, I took a look at their roster and ranked the top five most overpaid and underpaid players. One thing I noticed was that Chip Kelly did a great job of unloading many of the overpaid players on the roster, so the list is a little thin on guys who legitimately way overpaid. Regardless, here’s what I came up with:
Note: all salary cap data thanks to Overthecap.com
Most overpaid players
5. OLB Marcus Smith
2015 cap hit: $1,772,523
Starting with the least overpaid of the five I picked out, I chose Marcus Smith, the Eagles first round pick in 2014. Obviously, at still under $2 million, his contract is not exactly screaming overpaid, but the fact that he barely touched the field last year shows that he may be earning more than he should. Compared to the other backups on the team, he’s making about twice as much as them. Smith is certainly not a bust, and is only on this list because there aren’t many overpaid players on the team, but when comparing Smith’s salary to his value, he’s being overpaid.
4. WR Miles Austin
2015 cap hit: $2,225,000
I still think the Austin signing is the most confusing free agent pickup of their wild offseason. Sure, they needed some more wide receivers after letting Jeremy Maclin go and not re-signing Brad Smith, but over $2 million ($1 million of which was guaranteed) for a guy who has essentially been hurt all the time these past couple years is an overpay. There was a weak free agent market at wide receiver, but they could’ve easily filled in their last WR slot with a rookie free agent or someone who steps up in camp. Now, it seems like they almost have to keep him because of the guaranteed money. He’ll make the team, but he won’t be anything more than a fifth string guy.
3. TE Brent Celek
2015 cap hit: $4,800,000
Celek is one of my favorite players on the team, no question. But, his career as an Eagle is likely coming to an end. He’s slated to make $5 million next year, all of which can be saved if they released him. Zach Ertz is slowly taking over the top tight end slot, leaving Celek in a reduced role. Nearly $5 million for a second string tight end is a lot, even for a career-long guy like Celek who’s a total team player. I personally don’t have a problem with paying him for what he’s done to help the team, but he won’t be helping it nearly as much as he used to. Thus, he is overpaid.
2. WR Riley Cooper
2015 cap hit: $4,800,000
Cooper is probably the worst contract that Kelly has ever given out since becoming the Eagles coach. Most people will probably agree that Cooper is one of the worst (if not the worst) starting wide receiver last year, and even without Maclin, I don’t expect him to do much else. Really, the only reason he’ll make the team this year is because of the dead money that they’d have to eat if they let him go this early in his new contract. He is set to make $5.3 million in 2016, $2.9 million of which can be saved if he’s released. Barring a completely unexpected great season, this will be Cooper’s last year with the team.
1. QB Sam Bradford
2015 cap hit: $12,985,000
Ah, the team’s starting quarterback. Trading for Bradford was a puzzling move, and I’m still surprised Kelly gave up as much as he did for him. Nick Foles probably wasn’t a long-term answer for the Eagles based on what Kelly looks for in a quarterback, and Bradford much better exemplifies those qualities. But, the strange thing is that Bradford is making almost $13 million while Foles was set to make under $2 million. In terms of finance, that’s a big investment for a guy who hasn’t done much but recover from blown out knees recently. He has a chance to prove that he deserves this much money, but until then, he is definitely getting overpaid.
Most underpaid players
5. ILB Mychal Kendricks
2015 cap hit: $1,414,141
While Kendricks had a bit of an off year last year, he had an excellent 2013 campaign and should continue to excel if he stays healthy. Still on his rookie deal (like the rest of the guys on this list), the Eagles are getting him for a steal. It’s yet to be determined who the starting inside linebackers will be for the Eagles come the regular season, but Kendricks is sure to get some good playing time either way.
4. TE Zach Ertz
2015 cap hit: $1,467,054
Ertz, a former second round pick like Kendricks, will earn a very similar amount to Ertz in 2015. Ertz has had some very strong seasons recently and should have his best season of his career in 2015. As I mentioned before, he’s slowly taking over Celek’s role as the top tight end. Look for this process to accelerate.
3. DE Vinny Curry
2015 cap hit: $1,076,038
Curry is one of the biggest steals on defense in the entire league. For what he brings to the table as a pass rusher in limited snaps, there really isn’t anyone better than him. Even with a slight increase in snaps next year, he should continue to put up stats that will make it difficult to retain him in the same role once his contract expires. For now, I’m loving the low cap hit.
2. WR Jordan Matthews
2015 cap hit: $1,124,834
Matthews had a very good rookie season and should have a great sophomore season as the team’s number one target. Even if he plays mostly in the slot, Matthews should see the ball a ton. For just over $1 million, Matthews is a great young talent, and a lot better of a deal than Maclin, who will be getting about 10 times that amount per season. Matthews truly has the potential to reach Maclin’s skill level, just in a shorter amount of time.
1. ILB Kiko Alonso
2015 cap hit: $795,946
While Curry is the biggest steal for a backup on defense in the league, Alonso is the best defensive steal as a starter. For under $800,000, Alonso is basically being robbed for how good he is. He did miss all of last year with an injury, but his rookie year was similar to Luke Kuechly‘s, who’s arguably the best inside linebacker in the NFL. Regardless of the fact that he’s a former Oregon Duck, he will hopefully be around for a while.
This is another one of those things that can be debated forever, but this is just what I decided on. One thing I noticed that I found interesting was that all of the players I put in the most underpaid list were second round picks. From 1999-2011, Andy Reid failed miserably to find good second round picks, but he got it right with Curry and Kendricks, and Kelly got it right with Ertz and Matthews. I can’t wait to see what all these guys do in 2015.