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Some proof that first round picks, as a group, are not overpaid

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 24, 2009

I could go into a long dissertation on why first round picks, even the top ones, are actually underpaid relative to their average performance over the life of the contract, trot out charts and graphs, and post a study of the cap numbers for teams to see which players actually underperform their cap figures.

I could point out that, despite the public posturing from [gasp] the teams that have a financial incentive to complain that rookies are paid too much[/gasp], no team has actually intentionally passed on a pick or traded it for a later draft pick straight up.

Or I could just say this:

Meet your 2008 Franchise Players.

Fourteen players were franchised by NFL teams this season—okay, well, a kicker, a punter, and 12 football players. Those fourteen guys have combined to start 53 seasons and have played in eight Pro Bowls. Of course, seven of those pro bowl appearances belong to actual franchise-type players, Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs. The other appearance belongs to Shayne Graham. So what we have is a group of guys who have started for at least a few seasons, for the most part, are decent starters, but not elite players at their position at this point. In order to avoid letting these guys get to the open market without draft compensation, these teams are willing to pay and take a cap hit equal to the average of the top 5 salaries at the same position.

A running back who has started fewer than five games (Darren Sproles) and another who has yet to play a full, healthy season as a starter (Brandon Jacobs) will make over 6.5 million for next season, which is almost as much as Adrian Peterson's base salary + prorated bonus, for both the 2007 and 2008 seasons combined. An offensive lineman (Max Starks), who plays right tackle, has never been selected to a pro bowl, missed most of the 2007 season, and started 2008 as a reserve, will make about 8.5 million in 2009, almost as much as “overpaid” Joe Thomas and Jake Long will average over their initial contracts. Unless he gets traded and signs a large long-term deal, a quarterback may get paid a huge amount to be a backup. I don’t want to hear about how Matt Ryan and his 34.5 million in guaranteed money over 6 seasons is overpaid, when Matt Cassel is worth 14.65 million as an insurance policy.