Right now is time of the NFL calendar when teams make cuts and restructure contracts to create salary cap space. Currently, the Green Bay Packers are in a good salary cap situation. According to overthecap.com, they are estimated to have $28,347,930 in cap space, which is the sixth most in the NFL.
However, that cap space can get used up quickly. The Packers have 20 free agents this offseason and might want to think about extensions for Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Also, Ted Thompson might want to change his ways and sign a veteran free agent to fill a need.
So, there is always a need to create as much cap space as possible. The Packers have fewer bad contracts on their cap than most teams because they so rarely sign free agents from other teams. Also, they rarely cut a player if it means that there will be significant money in dead cap space as a result.
However, Thompson has made some mistakes recently with his own players, and it has resulted in some of them being overpaid. These are my top 5 most overpaid players on the Green Bay roster.
1. Brad Jones
Cap hit: $3.9 million
Thompson signed Jones to a three-year, $11.75 million contract last offseason. The signing was very puzzling then, and it looks even worse now. The Packers needed to upgrade at inside linebacker last offseason, and instead they added another overpaid inside linebacker to the one that they already had.
Jones only played in 12 games due to injury and often times the Packers defense looked better with Jamari Lattimore than with him. Lattimore may have not always known what he was doing, but he was always attacking the ball and hit with authority.
Jones’ strength is supposed to be his pass coverage, but the middle of the field seemed as wide open as ever against the Packers defense this year. According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jones allowed five passes of over 20 yards or more.
Jones is not any better against the run, as he gets swallowed up and doesn’t get off blocks. Also, he never laid any big hits on running backs.
One thing that Jones did well was blitz, as he had three sacks on the year. The Packers paid Jones like a top 20 inside linebacker in the NFL and was far from worth it in 2013.
2. A.J. Hawk
Cap hit: $5.1 million
Hawk has been at the center of criticism his whole career mostly due to his draft status. Even though Hawk had a better season in 2o13 his contract is still one of the worst on the team even after his pay cut last offseason.
The Packers rarely make the kind of mistake that they did with Hawk because his deal is not very cap friendly. He led the Packers in tackles (155) and tackles for losses (5.5), but he still did not make enough plays to justify his salary.
Coverage has always been an issue for Hawk, and it was again even though he lost weight to improve his speed. According to McGinn, he allowed six passes of 20 yards or more.
The fact that Hawk knows the defense inside and out and makes all the calls is great, but his athletic limitations are still a problem. He did create three turnovers in 2013 after none in the previous two seasons, but still not enough for a player being paid at his rate. Hawk has the 14th biggest cap hit among NFL inside linebackers.
The Packers have so much money tied into the inside linebacker position and it’s a huge weakness. Green Bay will never be an elite defense with Hawk and Jones starting in the middle, and they need to remedy that situation this offseason.
3. Morgan Burnett
Cap hit: $4.9 million
Thompson signed Burnett to a four-year, $24.75 million extension last offseason with the hope that he would develop into the next Nick Collins, Darren Sharper or LeRoy Butler.
That certainly did not happen, as Burnett might have been the most disappointing player on the Packers in 2013. He was not an impact player, missed tackles and had problems with communication again.
Burnett always seemed to be a step away from making the big interception. That was never more evident than in the NFC Wild Card game against San Francisco. Burnett should have picked off a 33-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis that put San Francisco up 20-17. He was in the perfect spot to make the play, but he was a step slow in reacting.
Burnett will certainly get another chance since the Packers do not have another starting caliber safety on the roster. The hope is that if he is paired with a better safety he will perform to his capabilities.
4. Mason Crosby
Cap hit: $3.4 million
Crosby had a terrific season last year, so his inclusion on this list might be surprising. This is more about his contract being way too high than his performance last year, although his performance in recent years has been up and down.
There is no reason to pay a kicker the amount that the Packers are paying Crosby. There are so many good kickers out there that they could find one who could do as good as him for much cheaper.
The Packers are paying Crosby as a top 5 kicker, and he was not one even last season when he made 89.2% of his field goals. That percentage was only good for 13th in the NFL, which speaks to how accurate kickers are these days.
5. Tramon Williams
Cap hit: $9.5 million
Williams was headed for a disappointing season until he turned it around in the second half of the year. He had huge interceptions in the win at Dallas and in the San Francisco playoff game.
Tackling was always Williams’ biggest issue, and he completely turned that around in the 2013 season. He was a very willing and efficient tackler. Also, he showed his versatility by playing the slot when he had been strictly an outside corner for his career.
Still, his cap hit that is 10th among corners in the NFL is a little high for him. The Packers could try to approach him about an extension that would give him more years but lower his cap number.
Releasing Williams outright would be a problem for a defense that does not have a ton of veterans and talent. Cover corners are so huge in today’s NFL, and if the Packers were to cut Williams they would be subtracting from one of the strengths of their defense. Also, if they don’t re-sign Sam Shields than keeping Williams becomes a necessity.