Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Green Bay Packers - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid

MLB and NBA franchises can turnaround in the blink of an eye with one big free agent acquisition, but that rarely works in the NFL.  Thus Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson rarely signs free agents unless they are undrafted rookie free agents so the Packers thankfully do not have too many horrible contracts on the books.

As of today, the Packers are $11.6 million below the $128.5 million salary cap for the 2012 season but that only accounts for the 51 most expensive players on the current roster.  That cap number will go down a fair amount when you add in everyone on the 53-man roster, injured reserve, the practice squad, injury settlements, and other dead cap charges.

Let's deal with the worst contracts before we move onto the best contracts:

#5) Charles Woodson (CB, $11.56 million) - Since Woodson carries the highest cap number of any Packer in 2012, he made the list.  Don't get me wrong, Woodson is a very versatile defensive player but he accounts for 9% of the salary cap so since Woodson doesn't play quarterback there is almost no way that accounting for such a big percentage of the team salary cap is ever going to be good business.  Trust me, it was hard to put Woodson on this list, especially since I wear a kid's XL Woodson jersey for every Packer game.

#4) James Jones (WR, $3.1 million) - If Jones had slightly better hands he would be making twice as much from another NFL franchise but since he has shaky hands, Jones signed what looked like a club friendly three-year, $9.4 million contract that is not looking so club friendly right now.  In 2013 the Packers are going to have to decide between Jones and Driver if they want to have enough left in the bank to resign impending free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings.

#3) Mason Crosby (K, $2.4 million) - This has more to do with being a place kicker in general than Crosby's actual performance.  There have been a number of studies that show field goal kicking performance is not consistent on a year-to-year basis, so paying a guy a couple million dollars for an inherently volatile rate of return doesn't feel right (sorry Sug and Sug's neighbor).

#2) John Kuhn (FB, $2.4 million) - Speaking of not feeling right, Kuhn is overpaid mostly because of positional value.  Although Kuhn occasionally lines up as a running back, he is really a fullback.  For a team that is pass happy, paying a running back a couple million dollars a year seems foolish so paying that much money to a fullback seems asinine.

#1) A.J. Hawk (MLB, $6.55 million) - Truth be told, Business HJ is the only truly ridiculous contract on the roster.  I am sure that the Business HJ is a nice guy but that doesn't mean he deserves to get paid almost $7 million to play the easiest position to fill in a 3-4 defense.  If the Packers did not lose middle linebacker Desmond Bishop for the season earlier in training camp, Business HJ would have either taken a drastic pay-cut to stay in Green Bay or would be looking for a new employer right now.

The hardest part of this post was winnowing down the list to just five for the best contracts.  There are almost a dozen contracts that I could characterize as honorable mention so let's just get to the five best contracts:

#5) Jordy Nelson (WR, $3.8 million) - When the Packers signed Nelson to a four-year, $14 million contract it looked like a fair deal.  Just a year later this contract looks like such a steal so the Packers might want to re-up Nelson before he prices himself out of Green Bay.

#4) Randall Cobb (WR, $729,414) - Usually including rookie contract is a cop-out but drafting a guy like Cobb at the end of the second round in the 2011 NFL Draft is another luxury pick in a long line of luxury picks (think Aaron Rodgers in 2005) made by Thompson that will pay huge dividends long-term for the Packers.  Although Cobb had some fumbling issues as a rookie, he still returned two kicks for touchdowns and gives the Packers a diverse weapon on offense that could soften the blow of losing Greg Jennings next year.

#3) D.J. Smith (MLB, $490,788) - Again I only include this rookie contract to illustrate a point.  In this instance it is to show that the Packers should not overpay for certain positions.  The Packers are paying Hawk more than 10 times what they are paying Smith.  There is a chance that Smith will be a flop in 2012 but that is softened by the fact that they are only paying him $500,000 while they are forced paying Hawk $6.55 million in 2012 because he is now a vested veteran on the roster.

#2) Clay Matthews (OLB, $1.98 million) - What a difference being the 9th pick (Raji) v. the 26th pick (Claymaker) in the 2009 NFL Draft.  This year Raji is scheduled to make $5.5 million while Matthews will earn a little less than $2 million that comparison is purely academic now though because those contracts are a thing of the past because they were signed under the old CBA.  Matthews will sign a much bigger second contract with the Packers than Raji so the Packers might as well enjoy underpaying Claymaker now since they are going to sign him to one of the largest contracts in NFL history in the next 18 months.

#1) Aaron Rodgers (QB, $9 million) - Before Rodgers completed a full season as a starter the Packers signed him to a six-year, $65 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.  Despite being one of the richest contracts ever signed in franchise history, it is also going to go down as one of the most cost effective of all-time because his next contract will probably be for the same length but twice the dollar amounts.

A special thanks to Spotrac, which helped me put together my most accurate "overpaid/underpaid" post yet.

Check back Sunday for my initial rankings of the entire 53-man roster for the 2012 Green Bay Packers.

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