We’re in the midst of what is really the only quiet six-week period the NFL offers anymore. Things ramp up with the opening of training camp in late July, on-field news continues through the Super Bowl in early February, then free agency/draft speculation carries the next few months, followed by various OTAs and minicamp through the middle of June.
But mid-June to late July … that’s when everyone tries to catch their breath. And with a paucity of fresh news out there to feed the content machine, NFL writers at this time of year — if they’re not taking a much-deserved break — start churning out lists and think pieces. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this; in fact, some of the best writing comes from being able to step back and take a larger view of things.
That’s my two-paragraph windup to a recent item on ESPN.com on the 10 most overpaid NFL veterans this year. It’s labeled an Insider piece and it’s written by Nathan Jahnke — Pro Football Focus’ director of analytics — so this isn’t just someone coming up with 10 names off the top of his head. In this case, Jahnke determines the difference between a player’s projected value in dollars in 2016 and his cap hit in 2016 to determine who is overpaid.
That’s certainly a fair way to do it — at least in a vacuum. And the most interesting thing to note from this year’s list, at least as it pertains to this audience: Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil checks in at No. 5 on the list (with a cap hit of $11.1 million but just $800K in projected worth for a minus-$10.3 million net) while running back Adrian Peterson is No. 10 (minus-$9 million net).
Eli Manning is deemed the most overpriced veteran, while Packers linebacker Clay Matthews also notably makes the list.
A case can be built that the Vikings on the list are accurate. (It should be noted that Peterson also made last year’s list at No. 7, then went on to lead the league in rushing). Kalil is the beneficiary of being a high draft pick and having his fifth-year option picked up, largely because the Vikings had limited other options. Peterson is still a gifted athlete even at age 31, but he has shown limited versatility in a league that is increasingly pass-focused.
Within the context of the Vikings, though, both players are useful — and neither contract is really hurting the team because 1) neither of them are on the books for any guaranteed cap space beyond this season and 2) the Vikings have enough young players and otherwise modest contracts on their 2016 rosters to be able to comfortably absorb Peterson and Kalil under the cap this year. (One such player, versatile offensive lineman Joe Berger, made Jahnke’s list of the 10 most underpaid veterans).
So while in the greater comparison to all 32 NFL teams, taking into account projected value, we can deem Kalil and Peterson “overpaid,” their relative value to the Vikings is different. And neither player’s contract is keeping the Vikings from competing in 2016 and beyond.