It’s been a decent start for third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez(notes), the former first round pick who’s completed 63 percent of his passes and thrown for four touchdowns in leading the New York Jets to victories in their first two games.
Sanchez, though, has also thrown three interceptions. He enters Week 3 with a middle-of-the-road passer rating of 87.7. That’s an improvement over the low 70s Sanchez averaged in his first two seasons after signing a rookie contract worth up to $60 million over five years. This season happen to be the balloon year of Sanchez’s five-year deal: he’s owed $14.75 million. Like any QB drafted high, Sanchez is being paid for the potential the club figures he has to develop into a star. But while he’s progressing, there’s no way to avoid viewing his salary as anything but excessive until that big year actually comes.
Hence, Sanchez is our choice to top the 2011 list of the NFL’s most overpaid players. Measuring pay vs. performance is trickier for football than for other sports. Quarterback ratings and yardage numbers are useful, but statistics in the NFL trend toward systems and game plans more so than in other sports. A top cornerback may lack big stats because opposing offenses avoid throwing to his side of the field (the Jets’ Darrelle Revis(notes), known as a top corner, picked off zero passes last season because he rarely saw the ball).
So picking the most overpaid requires a touch of subjectivity and some common sense. Going down the list of the NFL’s highest 100 salaries for 2011, we focused on those whose career history is lacking not only statistically (QB passer ratings, etc.) but on those who haven’t consistently earned starting berths or who haven’t made All Pro despite collecting one of the top salaries in the game at his position. Base 2011 salaries were used, according to data kept by spotrac.com – not annual averages or one-time bonus payments.
Quarterbacks joining Sanchez on the all-overpaid list: San Francisco’s Alex Smith, who’s started just 50 games while putting up mediocre stats over six seasons, and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel(notes), who is coming off a Pro Bowl season for the first time but whose $12.25 salary still dwarfs his status among top QBs.
Others fitting the bill: Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback Dunta Robinson(notes), whose $5.5 million salary places him in the top ten at his position despite the fact that he’s never made All Pro and who is ranked by ESPN as the NFL’s 19th best corner, and Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai(notes), who will collect over $12 million this season after the Dolphins tagged him as their franchise player, despite starting just 20 games in his first four years.
The top five:
1. www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45ejhi/mark-sanchez-2?partner=yahoosports">Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
2. www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45ejhi/roy-williams-dunta-robinson?partner=yahoosports">Dunta Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
3. www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45ejhi/alex-smith?partner=yahoosports">Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
4. www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45ejhi/paul-soliai-2?partner=yahoosports">Paul Soliai, Miami Dolphins
5. www.forbes.com/pictures/eddf45ejhi/owen-daniels?partner=yahoosports">Owen Daniels, Houston Texans