NFL's All-Overpaid, All-Underpaid teams


Here’s some more bad news for Al Davis:

The Oakland Raiders aren’t eligible for a government bailout.
At 3-10, Davis’ franchise is out of playoff contention despite a wild off-season spending spree. Three Oakland players — wide receiver Javon Walker, safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly — as well as ex-Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall are All-Overpaid team for 2008.

Conversely, Tampa Bay is tied with New England for the most players (three) on our All-Underpaid squad. Not only are both clubs still in the playoff hunt, the Buccaneers and Patriots are among the NFL’s most frugal franchises.

According to USA Today, the 2008 payrolls for Tampa Bay ($104.3 million) and New England ($92.7 million) rank 23rd and 30th respectively. Oakland leads the league at $152.4 million — providing further proof that no team can buy a Super Bowl title.

NFL’s All-Overpaid team (Offense)

Running back: Larry Johnson, Chiefs

Before signing a six-year contract worth a potential $45 million in August 2007, Johnson had posted consecutive 1,700-yard rushing seasons. He has rushed for just 1,252 yards since, the result of injuries and off-field issues that led to a three-game benching this season. Johnson, who was given a $12.5 million signing bonus, probably won’t be around to receive his scheduled $4.6 million salary for 2009.

Running back: Edgerrin James, Cardinals

“Edge” has lost his edge, averaging a pedestrian 3.4 yards per carry and losing his starting spot to rookie Tim Hightower. The 30-year-old James is slated to earn the same $5 million base salary in 2009 that he’s collecting this season. Expect the Cardinals to part ways with James long before then.

Wide receiver: Javon Walker, Raiders

Jaws dropped around the NFL this off-season when Walker was signed to a six-year, $55 million contract that included an $11 million signing bonus. The injury-prone Walker did nothing to disprove his critics before having a 15-catch season end with ankle surgery. Compounding Oakland’s mistake: The Raiders also are likely on the hook for a $5 million roster bonus Walker is owed this off-season while he recovers.

Wide receiver: Jerry Porter, Jaguars

With an anemic pass offense considered Jacksonville’s biggest weakness in 2007, Porter was signed to a six-year, $30.4 million free-agent contract that included a $7.5 million payout for this season. Porter, though, required offseason hamstring surgery and has just 11 catches for 181 yards in 10 games.

Tight end: Vernon Davis, 49ers

Davis’ most memorable moment in two-plus NFL seasons came in October when he was kicked off the sideline during Mike Singletary’s interim head coaching debut. Davis has developed into a quality blocker, but that isn’t the reason San Francisco gave him a five-year, $23 million contract ($15.2 million guaranteed) as the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft.

Tackle: Levi Jones, Bengals

Injuries have robbed Jones of the mobility that helped him land a six-year, $40 million contract extension in 2006 that included $16.3 million in guaranteed money. With a likely top five pick in April’s draft, the lowly Bengals (1-11-1) could very well target a new left tackle and show Jones the door.

Tackle: Jonas Jennings, 49ers

In 2005, the 49ers signed Jennings to a seven-year, $36 million contract ($12 million guaranteed) expecting him to anchor their offensive line. Jennings, though, has played in just 23 of San Francisco’s past 61 games and returned to injured reserve this season after two starts. His base salary for 2008: $4.2 million.

Guard: Mike Goff, Chargers

The decline in Goff’s play and San Diego’s running game go hand-in-hand. In retrospect, the Chargers stuck one season too long with the 32-year-old Goff in the starting lineup (playing Jeromey Clary at right tackle didn’t help matters either). Goff, who is earning $2.5 million in base salary this season, will be allowed to leave San Diego via free agency in the offseason.

Guard: Jeremy Bridges, Panthers

A journeyman backup, Bridges should be grateful for his $1.73 million salary for 2008. Bridges, though, placed his future with Carolina in jeopardy by getting arrested Saturday for the second time in 14 months after a nightclub incident. An NFL suspension also seems likely.

NFL’s All-Underpaid team (Offense)

Quarterback: Matt Cassel, Patriots

Don’t blame the Patriots for paying Cassel the NFL-minimum salary of $455,000 in 2008. Because he hadn’t started since high school, Cassel didn’t have the chance to prove he was worth more after three NFL seasons. But Cassel is set for a major free-agent bonanza — think at least $20 million guaranteed — since doing a fine job replacing the injured Tom Brady and keeping New England (8-5) in the playoff hunt

Running back: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars

At 5-foot-7 and 208 pounds, Jones-Drew may not have the size to serve as an every-down feature back. But he continues to flourish in tandem with starter Fred Taylor, having scored a team-high 11 rushing touchdowns and already catching a career-best 50 passes at an NFL-minimum salary of $445,000. Jones-Drew received a $1.2 million signing bonus in 2006 with a rookie contract set to expire after next season.

Running back: Brandon Jacobs, Giants

The Giants are getting the services of “Earth, Wind and Fire” — i.e. Jacobs and fellow running backs Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw — for a song. The trio is earning a combined base salary of $1.95 million, with the bruising Jacobs leading the way at $927,000. The Giants will have to pay a lot more than that to keep Jacobs, who has 1,002 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, from leaving in 2009 as an unrestricted free agent

Wide receiver: Roddy White, Falcons

With 59 catches in his first two NFL seasons, White was considered overpaid after signing a five-year, $7.3 million rookie contract with $4.8 million guaranteed. But the 2005 first-round pick has matured into one of the NFL’s best wideouts. White already has posted his second consecutive 1,200-yard season in 2008 at a base salary of $805,000. His base salary in 2009 actually drops to $780,000, which will likely spur Atlanta to negotiate a new deal in the off-season.

Wide receiver: Antonio Bryant, Bucs

The Bucs have gotten criticized for giving troubled players a second — and sometimes third or fourth — chance after off-field problems. But give Bryant credit for taking advantage of his opportunity after being shunned by NFL teams in 2007. Bryant’s nine-catch 200-yard performance in Monday night’s 38-23 loss to Carolina will garner him consideration for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. It also should make Bryant — who is earning $605,000 in a 66-catch, 936-yard campaign so far this season — a hot free-agent commodity in 2009.

Tight end: Owen Daniels, Texans

Had he played tight end from the start of his college career at Wisconsin rather than quarterback and wide receiver, Daniels wouldn’t have lasted until the fourth round of the 2006 draft. He also would have landed a more lucrative rookie contract than his current four-year, $2 million deal. Daniels has 56 catches for 673 yards and two touchdowns this season, which is nice production for a player with a $445,000 base salary.

Tackle: Donald Penn, Bucs

Left tackles are usually among a franchise’s highest-paid players. Not in Tampa Bay, where Penn is making just $445,000. He didn’t even receive a signing bonus when signing with the franchise as an undrafted rookie in 2006. If the Bucs don’t ink him to a contract extension, Penn should draw heavy interest in 2009 as a restricted free agent.

Tackle: Tyson Clabo, Falcons

Three teams with a recent history of quality offensive lines — Denver, San Diego and the New York Giants — all released Clabo before the former college free agent found a home with Atlanta. Clabo has started 34 games the past three seasons at NFL minimum salaries, including a $445,000 wage in 2008, and never received a signing bonus. He will be a restricted free agent in 2009.

Guard: Logan Mankins, Patriots

Patriots Hall of Fame guard John Hannah raves about Mankins, who is expected to reach his second consecutive Pro Bowl. Mankins can’t plead poverty, having received a $4 million signing bonus as a 2006 first-round draft choice. But considering the free-agent market for guards, Mankins has far outplayed a rookie deal with base salaries of $600,000 for 2008 and $700,000 for 2009.

Guard: Keydrick Vincent, Panthers

Vincent has started for three other teams (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Arizona) but may have found a permanent home as Carolina’s starting right guard after signing a modest two-year, $1.95 million contract during the off-season. The strength of Carolina’s running game is to the right behind Vincent and rookie tackle Jeff Otah, who has benefited from the former’s tutelage. Vincent received a $400,000 signing bonus from the Panthers and has a $785,000 base salary.

NFL’s All-Overpaid team (Defense)

Defensive line: Cory Redding, Lions

The signing of Redding to a seven-year, $49 million deal in July 2007 is another reason why Matt Millen no longer runs the Lions. After an eight-sack campaign in 2006, Redding has generated just four sacks in Detroit’s past 29 games (including three this season). He also is the highest-paid player on the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense. Redding clearly misses playing alongside fellow defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who was traded to Cleveland in the off-season. Redding is earning $2.9 million in base salary this year

Defensive line: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, cut by Packers

Green Bay considered trading with Miami for fellow defensive end Jason Taylor during the off-season but decided to stick with Gbaja-Biamila. That was a costly mistake on several fronts. Having lost the quickness that made him one of the NFL’s better pass rushers, the 31-year-old Gbaja-Biamila was released after registering just one sack in Green Bay’s first seven games. Gbaja-Biamila hasn’t signed elsewhere but will still collect his $6.1 million salary from Green Bay for 2008. “KGB” finished his Packers career second on the team’s all-time sack list with 74.5.

Defensive line: Antwan Odom, Bengals

Desperate for veteran help at defensive end after losing Justin Smith to San Francisco in free agency, Cincinnati made a rare big-money foray into free agency and signed Odom to a five-year, $29.5 million contract that included $11.5 million guaranteed. Foot and shoulder injuries have prevented Odom from living up to his end of the bargain. After notching a career-high eight sacks for Tennessee in 2007, Odom has gotten to the quarterback only twice in nine games this season. For the 15th time in 16 seasons, no Cincinnati player will finish the season with double-digit sacks.

Linebacker: Jyles Tucker, Chargers

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has thrived signing players to long-term contracts long before their rookie deals expire. Smith, though, has never taken as big a gamble as this preseason when signing Tucker a five-year, $14.7 million deal that includes $6.5 million guaranteed. Tucker had played as a backup in just six games as an undrafted rookie in 2007. But Smith thought Tucker had potential to become the heir apparent to the injured Shawne Merriman, who is set to leave via free agency after next season, and wanted him signed long-term. The jury is still out on Smith’s assessment. Slowed by an early season hamstring injury, Tucker has a pedestrian 4.5 sacks and hasn’t come close to filling Merriman’s shoes.

Linebacker: Napoleon Harris, Vikings

In 2007, Harris signed a six-year, $24.5 million contract that included $7.5 million guaranteed. Just one year later, Harris had fallen so out of favor with Chiefs brass that he didn’t play through the first five games this season before being released. Harris still collected his 2008 base salary of $950,000 from Kansas City, which has the NFL’s lowest-ranked defense. Harris has since re-signed with Minnesota, where he has started three games and played in four others.

Linebacker: Vernon Gholston, Jets

So far, Gholston is proving another reason why NFL team owners want a rookie salary cap. As the No. 6 overall pick in April’s draft, Gholston received $21 million guaranteed as part of a five-year, $32 million deal. Gholston, though, has struggled badly while trying to make the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker in New York’s 3-4 scheme and isn’t even a decent special-teams contributor.

Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall, Redskins

Of all the mistakes Oakland made during its offseason spending spree, Hall is considered the worst. The Raiders acquired Hall from Atlanta for second- and fifth-round picks and subsequently signed him to a seven-year contract that would have made him the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. Hall, though, didn’t stick around long enough to collect all of that $67 million. Regularly beaten while struggling in press coverage, Hall was released after just eight games so the Raiders wouldn’t be on the hook for $16 million in guaranteed salary in 2009. Hall still collected $8 million from Oakland and could be in line for another big-money deal from Washington, where he signed a one-year deal after clearing waivers.

Cornerback: Drayton Florence, Jaguars

Teams don’t sign nickel cornerbacks to six-year, $36 million contracts with a $9 million first-year payout. But that’s what Florence had become before he was forced back into the starting lineup because of injuries in Jacksonville’s secondary.

Safety: Michael Huff, Raiders

After five games this season, the Raiders had enough of Huff with the first-team defense. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Huff was replaced at free safety by the undrafted Hiram Eugene. The underachieving Huff was given $15 million guaranteed as part of his rookie contract.

NFL’s All-Underpaid team (Defense)

Defensive line: Tony Brown, Titans

After failing to stick with three other teams, Brown was grateful for the three-year, $5 million contract extension he received from Tennessee in September 2007. In retrospect, the Titans got a bargain. Brown, who has a $1.3 million base salary for 2008, has teamed with Albert Haynesworth to become one of the NFL’s top defensive tackle tandems. Brown also was the league’s only defensive tackle to appear in more than 80 percent of his unit’s snaps in 2007

Defensive line: Tank Johnson, Cowboys

After off-field problems led to his 2007 release by Chicago, the Cowboys were able to get this Tank at a discount. Johnson has gotten his life in order while also developing into an outstanding nose tackle, a position he had never played in Chicago’s 4-3 defensive scheme. Johnson is heading for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent in 2009.

Defensive line: Elvis Dumervil, Broncos

Dumervil’s size (5-foot-11, 260 pounds) caused him to slip into the fourth round of the 2006 draft. But of all the players selected that year, only the top overall pick (Houston’s Mario Williams) has more sacks in the past two-plus seasons than Dumervil’s 26. Williams was given $26.5 million in guaranteed money and is earning $1.6 in base salary for 2008. Dumervil scored a $400,000 signing bonus and is stuck at the NFL-minimum of $445,000 for third-year players.

Linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys

Don’t feel sorry for a player who has already earned roughly $10 million off his rookie contract. But Ware has clearly outplayed the deal he signed four years ago with 49.5 sacks, including 16 in 2008. Ware will be entering the final year of his Cowboys contract next season, but don’t expect Dallas owner Jerry Jones to let him leave.

Linebacker: James Harrison, Steelers

If Dan Rooney has any money left after buying out his brothers for majority team ownership, he should give Harrison a well-deserved raise. The 30-year-old Harrison is getting better with age, already having registered a career-best 15 sacks along with 89 tackles in 2008. Harrison is being paid $1.8 million this season as part of a four-year, $5.5 million extension he signed in April 2006 while still a backup.

Linebacker: Parys Haralson, 49ers

Despite all the draft disasters under Mike Nolan, the former 49ers head coach could spot linebacker talent. He hit pay dirt with Patrick Willis and Haralson, a 2006 fifth-round pick who is blossoming as a 3-4 outside linebacker with a career-high seven sacks. Haralson received a $176,000 rookie signing bonus and is currently playing for the $455,000 league-minimum base salary for third-year players. In comparison, 49ers backup linebacker Tully Banta-Cain — who lost his starting spot to Haralson during the preseason — has a $1 million base salary and received a $2.9 million signing bonus when signing with San Francisco as a free agent in 2007.

Linebacker: Barrett Ruud, Bucs

With all due respect to future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, Ruud has become Tampa Bay’s best linebacker. He also should be a player the Bucs target for a contract extension. Ruud is earning $520,000 in base salary this season as part of a 2005 rookie contract that included $2 million in signing bonus.

Cornerback: Ellis Hobbs, Patriots

The Patriots made a shrewd business move by signing Hobbs to a five-year contract as a 2005 third-round pick rather than the standard four-year deal for the slot. Having started since his rookie campaign, Hobbs would have been a hot commodity as a free agent during the off-season. Instead, Hobbs is locked into an NFL-minimum salary of $545,000 for 2009 and is making $1.46 million this season

Cornerback: Ron Bartell, Rams

With his four-year, $2.9 million contract expiring at season’s end, Bartell is set for a big payday in 2009. He is the best cornerback in St. Louis, which may try to keep his services with a franchise tag. That would guarantee Bartell a one-year salary in excess of $10 million. Not bad for a player earning $520,000 in 2008.

Safety: Nick Collins, Packers

With five interceptions — including three returned for touchdowns — Collins has hit his stride in his fourth NFL season. The Packers are known for rewarding young talent with contract extensions, so Collins could be in line for a significant raise from his $520,000 base salary this season. Collins is set to earn $545,000 in 2009, the final year of a rookie contract that included a $600,000 signing bonus.