Analyzing the Top Bargain Players for All 32 NFL Teams


Sep 9, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Eagles won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As much as NFL players get paid, it’s hard to believe any one player could be considered a ‘bargain’. That being said, there is a definite standard set in the NFL of what is a lot of money and what is not a lot of money, and there are plenty of great players right now in the league who are not getting paid a “lot” of money.

For the purposes of this research project, it’s important to note a couple of things.

Cash vs. Cap

Salaries in the NFL are broken down by “cash” and “cap”. The cap number refers to how much a player’s figure counts against the salary cap of his team, while cash is the number of actual dollars the player is scheduled to make in 2013. Total cash and cap numbers as well as practice squad players count against a team’s salary cap, as well as “dead money” which every team figures in.

That being said, let’s take a look at the top “bargains” right now in the NFL for all 32 teams in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals

The Bargain: Daryl Washington, Linebacker

The Price: Cap hit — $2,858,944  Cash — $1,940,194

Daryl Washington has established himself as one of the best 3-4 inside linebackers in the game today, playing on a vastly underrated defense. Obviously Arizona isn’t winning much these days, but you can’t really blame Washington for that (aside from his recent suspension). Washington has racked up 319 tackles and 15 sacks in his first three NFL seasons along with four interceptions and three forced fumbles, earning 2nd-Team All-Pro honors in 2012 and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Washington’s cap hit compared to other Cardinals’ players is relatively average, but his cash number is lower than the likes of Jerraud Powers, Lyle Sendlein, and…Drew Stanton? Huge bargain.

Atlanta Falcons

The Bargain: Julio Jones, Wide Receiver

The Price: Cap hit — $4,418,825  Cash — $1,851,325

Well it’s safe to say Julio Jones has taken the #1 wide receiver spot in Atlanta right out of Roddy White’s hands, and after a Pro Bowl appearance in 2012, it’s clear that the 24 year-old is a top five receiver in the league at this point.

Jones is making less money in 2013 than the following NFL receivers: Jacoby Jones, Steve Johnson, Miles Austin, Santonio Holmes, Greg Jennings, Sidney Rice–among others.

Baltimore Ravens

The Bargain: Marlon Brown, Wide Receiver

The Price: Cap hit — $406,666  Cash — $410,000

Through two games of the 2013 season, Brown (thanks to some crazy circumstances) has emerged as the #2 receiver for the Ravens, catching eight passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns (2 TDs leads the team). The 6’5″ undrafted player out of Georgia may very well have established himself as the #2 wideout for the Ravens permanently, and is a great bargain for the 2013 season.

Buffalo Bills

The Bargain: Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback

The Price: Cap hit — $2,751,998  Cash — $944,880

Stephon Gilmore wasted little time establishing himself as one of the best up-and-coming cornerbacks in the NFL, racking up 61 tackles, 16 passes broken up, three forced fumbles, and an interception in his first year in the league.

This guy has a really bright future, and he’s got the 23rd highest cap hit of anyone on the Bills this season. Not bad for being probably a top 3-5 player on the team.

Carolina Panthers

The Bargain: Luke Kuechly, Linebacker

The Price: Cap — $2,864,373  Cash — $967,355

The defensive rookie of the year in 2012 was as dominant as you could probably be for a rookie, racking up 164 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries,  and eight passes broken up, looking like one of the best young defensive players in the league.

Kuechly is getting paid less money this season than ELEVEN other Panthers defensive players.

Absolutely incredible.

Chicago Bears

The Bargain: Martellus Bennett, Tight End

The Price: Cap hit — $1,940,000  Cash — $5,315,000

Martellus Bennett got a nice contract from the Bears, but as for his cap hit, this guy is a pretty nice bargain for a team that doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of bargains. The 6’6″ 265 pound target already has 10 catches and three touchdowns this season, including a game-winning TD grab against the Minnesota Vikings in week two.

Bennett certainly isn’t hurting financially, but because of the way his contract was constructed, neither are the Bears, at least in 2013.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bargain: Andy Dalton, Quarterback

The Price: Cap hit — $1,422,054  Cash — $849,018

Andy Dalton isn’t an elite NFL quarterback, but he has helped the Bengals get to the playoffs in each of his first two years in the league, a stat that Joe Flacco would be proud of.

Dalton isn’t a dominant passer by any means, but he’s a solid starter in the NFL who doesn’t make many mistakes, and at that cap number you have to tip your cap to the Bengals for making the move on Dalton when they did. He’s a nice bargain at the most critical position in the NFL, though you have to wonder how long the Bengals will “get by” with him as their main guy.

Cleveland Browns

The Bargain: Jordan Cameron, Tight End

The Price: Cap hit — $679,950  Cash — $560,600

Jordan Cameron was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and he’s finally starting to hit his groove as an NFL player. He’s been targeted in the passing game 20 times, racking up 14 catches for  203 yards and a touchdown in the first two games of the season, and he looks well on his way to emerging as one of the league’s best young tight ends.

The Browns traded their best offensive player in Trent Richardson, so perhaps Cameron fills that label now that Richardson is gone. Getting your best player offensively for under $700K is a pretty solid bargain.

Dallas Cowboys

The Bargain: Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver

The Price: Cap hit — $2,926,000  Cash — $1,807,500

Dez Bryant for under $3 million? Sign me up for that.

Bryant isn’t off to a great start in 2013, but has 13 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown which are okay numbers. He’ll pick it up, but the guy is a dynamic playmaker at the receiver position. He has a little diva in him, but Bryant is certainly a guy that most NFL GMs are kicking themselves for passing on in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Bryant has emerged since he was drafted in 2010 by the Cowboys as one of the top five or seven best receivers in the league.

Sep 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) carries the ball against New York Giants corner back Terrell Thomas (24) during the second quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos

The Bargain: Demaryius Thomas, Wide Receiver

The Price: Cap hit — $2,598,350  Cash — $842,100

Demaryius Thomas is a dynamic playmaker at the WR position and a Pro Bowl caliber player. With Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, his level of play has been seriously elevated and he has the look of a top receiver in this league.

In his first year with Peyton Manning, Thomas had 94 catches for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. It’s safe to say he’s one of the best baragains in the league, though it’s tough picking one on the Broncos’ roster. They have so many former undrafted players and late-round picks making an impact, and Von Miller is also still on a rookie contract.

Thomas is a high character player who looks like he’ll be a great one in the NFL for a long time.

Detroit Lions

The Bargain: Reggie Bush, Running Back

The Price: Cap hit — $2,003,325  Cash — $5,003,325

Reggie Bush was a big-name free agent this offseason but signed a very modest contract to be the featured back for the Detroit Lions. At the price he signed, which was four-years and $16 million, I was surprised more teams weren’t in on this guy.

The Lions are a good fit for Bush, an offense that likes to push the tempo a bit and can utilize his skills as a receiver out of the backfield, and his week one performance alone made the signing worth it for Detroit. This guy has a bright future with the Lions, and he’s only taking up a hair over $2 million in 2013.

Green Bay Packers

The Bargain: Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver/Return Specialist

The Price: Cap hit — $880,199  Cash — $671,666

You think Randall Cobb is going to get a new contract soon?

This is one of the best slot wide receiver/return specialist combination players in the NFL, and one of the most dynamic athletes at his position in the NFL. Cobb has racked up 121 catches and 1,565 yards along with 11 touchdowns as a receiver in his first two NFL seasons, as well as 2,518 return yards with another three scores in that category.

Cobb is arguably the biggest bargain of any player in the NFL.

Houston Texans

The Bargain: J.J. Watt, Defensive End

The Price: Cap hit — $3,070,897  Cash — $1,402,715

This is what a defensive player of the year costs, nowadays. No kidding.

All of J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, and Von Miller are making roughly this figure, give or take a million or two. Watt is an incredible value, taking up less of a cash number in 2013 than punter Shane Lechler and cornerback Brice McCain.

Count that an unbelievable bargain for the Houston Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

The Bargain: Andrew Luck, Quarterback

The Price: Cap hit — $5,030,145  Cash — $1,400,509

A top 10 quarterback for just over $5 million? Not a bad deal for the Colts, who are getting bargains all over the place in addition to some of their bad contracts.

Andrew Luck led the team to the playoffs in his rookie season, and is well on his way to being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Luck is 21st among quarterbacks in the NFL in terms of his 2013 cash figure, behind the likes of Matt Flynn and Mark Sanchez.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Bargain: Cecil Shorts, Wide Receiver

The Price: Cap hit — $734,192  Cash — $623,347

Cecil Shorts isn’t a household name in the NFL but the former fourth round pick out of Mount Union has turned into a draft gem and a great bargain for the Jaguars.

Jacksonville doesn’t have many bad cap figures on their roster, but shorts is making less money than fellow wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Ace Sanders this season. He had 979 yards and seven touchdowns just one year ago for Jacksonville, and whenever they get a quarterback down there, he could really bust out.

Sep 19, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) is pursued by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks (95) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chiefs defeated the Eagles 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

The Bargain: Jamaal Charles, Running Back

The Price: Cap hit — $4,333,333  Cash — $3,000,000

Jamaal Charles–when healthy–is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He missed the majority of the 2011 season with a knee injury, but aside from that, he’s rushed for over 1,100 yards in three straight seasons and is well on his way to doing so again in 2013.

Charles is making some decent money in bonuses, but in 2010, he signed a very team-friendly six-year, $27.97 million contract. He has less of a cash hit this year than Chase Daniel, Mike Devito, Anthony Fasano, and Dunta Robinson.

Not a bad deal for KC.

Miami Dolphins

The Bargain: Cameron Wake, Quarterback Eater

The Price: Cap hit — $5,015,000  Cash — $3,615,000

This is a really modest price for an elite pass rusher. Cameron Wake has been one of the best at getting to the quarterback in the NFL since he came into the league after some success in the CFL, racking up 45.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles since he came into the league in 2009, including 2.5 so far this season.

Cameron Wake’s cash number in 2013 is less than WR Brandon Gibson, CB Dimitri Patterson, and eight other players on the Miami defensive unit.

Minnesota Vikings

The Bargain: Harrison Smith, Safety

The Price: Cap hit — $1,627,647  Cash — $719,729

Harrison Smith had about as good a rookie season as you could have ever asked for out of a safety who was expected to be a second or third round pick (Vikings took him in the 1st).

Smith racked up 104 total tackles, three interceptions–two of which went for TDs–11 passes broken up, a sack, a forced fumble, and a partridge in a pear tree. Smith is also among the lowest paid Vikings players this season, and is a huge bargain for this team.

He’s making less this season than cornerback A.J. Jefferson. Who?

New England Patriots

The Bargain: Rob Gronkowski, Tight End

The Price: Cap hit — $2,755,600  Cash — $665,600

Gronkowski’s cash number is astounding to me. Gronk won’t be a bargain for much longer with the language of his contract changing after 2013, but for this season, he’s a huge bargain.

Up to this point in his career, Gronk has proven to be one of the most dominant players in the NFL, catching 38 touchdown passes in three seasons on his rookie salary after being a second round pick in 2010 out of Arizona.

Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) reacts during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints

The Bargain: Jimmy Graham, Tight End

The Price: Cap hit — $1,494,885  Cash — $1,328,600

Jimmy Graham is one of the best bargains in the entire NFL. He is a free agent after this season, which has to worry the Saints a bit, but the 6’7″ beast has been nothing but a machine for the Saints since 2011, racking up 25 touchdowns in his career prior to the 2013 season.

Graham is such a mismatch in the passing game and has established himself as the top target in one of the most potent passing attacks in the NFL. He is currently paid less than Garrett Hartley.

New York Giants

The Bargain: Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End

The Price: Cap hit — $2,825,000  Cash — $1,175,000

Pierre-Paul took a step back in 2012 compared to the dominance he showed in 2011, but the guy has been a key piece to a Super Bowl run and has the makings of a dominant pass rusher in the league for years to come.

Obviously there are some things to work on with JPP, but getting him at this price is an incredible value for the Giants. He has racked up 27.5 sacks and five forced fumbles since being drafted in 2010, and is getting paid less this year than Steve Weatherford (punter) and rookie defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

New York Jets

The Bargain: Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive Lineman

The Price: Cap hit — $1,880,600  Cash — $1,005,600

Well, the Jets are getting a huge bargain for Muhammad Wilkerson, who has developed into one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league today. He is making less money this year than backup tight end Jeff Cumberland, as well as third string running back Mike Goodson.

Wikerson is just 23 years old, and has a great future ahead of him if he can stay healthy.

Oakland Raiders

The Bargain: LaMarr Houston, Defensive End

The Price: Cap hit — $1,078,750  Cash — $660,000

LaMarr Houston is one of the most underrated players in the NFL today because he plays on the Raiders, but I can tell you that this guy is a load to block up front and is quite possiblythe Raiders’ best player defensively.

The former second round pick out of Texas has great size and energy, and finds ways to get pressure on the quarterback. He is not even in the top half of the Oakland Raiders’ roster, which doesn’t have a cap hit of over $5 million outside of running back Darren McFadden.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Bargain: Fletcher Cox, Defensive Lineman

The Price: Cap hit — $2,331,570  Cash — $859,534

Fletcher Cox is a future Pro Bowl regular who already has two sacks through three games in 2013 as a defensive end in the Eagles’ 3-4 defensive front. He is quick, high energy, and has great size for the position and is an absolute perfect fit for the Eagles’ defensive scheme. Not to mention, the 2012 first rounder has a lower cap number than Jason Avant, Patrick Chung, and Bradley Fletcher.

This is a great bargain for the Eagles to get an anchor for their D-line at such a low price.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bargain: David DeCastro, Guard

The Price: Cap hit — $1,781,661  Cash — $750,992

DeCastro was a steal for Pittsburgh in the draft, and after an up-and-down rookie season, I have no doubt in my mind that he is on his way to being one of the best guards in the league.

The Steelers got him at a great spot in the draft, thus lowering his value. Any time you can get a guy like this for your offensive line at such a low price, you’re doing something right. The Steelers were opportunistic here and I think they have a future great on their hands.

St. Louis Rams

The Bargain: Robert Quinn, Defensive End

The Price: Cap hit — $2,577,319  Cash — $1,236,673

Robert Quinn is the third-highest paid defensive end on the Rams’ roster, and the fourth highest paid defensive lineman overall. He has been phenomenal since last season when he racked up 10.5 sacks, and looks well on his way to demolishing that total in 2013.

So far this season (2 games) Quinn has four sacks and two forced fumble, already a career high in that category. He is emerging as one of the top edge rushers in the NFL along with Chris Long for the Rams’ defensive line.

San Diego Chargers

The Bargain: Corey Liuget, Defensive End

The Price: Cap hit — $2,273,530  Cash — $1,136,576

Liuget has eight sacks since coming into the league as a first round pick in 2011, and he’s a big piece of the Chargers’ defensive front.

He’s a freakish athlete for his size and has the look of a future Pro Bowler along the defensive front. The former first round pick is in the middle of the pack as far as cap hit and cash number for the Chargers this season.

San Francisco 49ers

Sep 15, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated San Francisco 29-3. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Bargain: Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback

The Price: Cap hit — $1,397,535  Cash — $840,844

Colin Kaepernick has a lower cap number than some shocking names, including Jonathan Baldwin, C.J. Spillman, Ray Ventrone, Corey Lemonier, Tramaine Brock, and Dan Skuta. How about throwing punter Andy Lee into the mix there?

It won’t be long before Kaepernick has a new contract, but for the time being, the value the 49ers are getting from him is unreal. He led the team to a Super Bowl appearance last season with a scintillating second-half performance last season, and a dominant playoff run.

Kaepernick is one of the best up-and-coming QBs in the NFL, and his cap number is an absolute steal, no matter which way you swing it. The highest cap hit on the 49ers is Vernon Davis, making a reasonable $8.74 million. Their financial responsibility is astounding.

Seattle Seahawks

The Bargain: Russell Wilson, Quarterback

The Price: Cap — $686,685  Cash — $531,817

When you go through the Seattle roster, you’ll find these players higher on the payroll than Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson:

OL Lemuel Jeanpierre
DB Jeron Johnson
LB Mike Morgan
OL Mike Person
CB Byron Maxwell
LB Malcolm Smith

This was a tough call because right above Wilson on this list is CB Richard Sherman, who is making $560,075 this season compared to Wilson’s $532K. This is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL right now, and he’s getting paid less than 31 other starting QBs in the NFL this season. That’s a remarkable stat, and so Wilson gets the nod here over Sherman, but you could really go either way.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bargain: Doug Martin, Running Back

The Price: Cap — $1,548,220  Cash — $704,124

Doug Martin exploded onto the scene as a rookie rushing for 1,454 yards and catching another 49 passes. His production was absolutely unreal and had it not been for the stellar class of rookie quarterbacks, he would have been the rookie of the year. He is getting paid less than fellow running backs Peyton Hillis and Brian Leonard, as well as fullback Erik Lorig.

His price tag is enviable for 31 other NFL general managers considering the way he’s produced so early on for the Bucs.

Tennessee Titans

The Bargain: Zach Brown, Linebacker

The Price: Cap — $880,911  Cash — $569,402

Brown was one of the most underrated rookies in the NFL last season, racking up 93 tackles, 5.5 sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble, and two defensive touchdowns. His cash value this season for the Titans is the 13th lowest on the Titans’ roster, making him one of the most productive bargains in the entire NFL.

If you quadrupled his cap number, he’d still be getting paid less than backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Washington Redskins

The Bargain: Alfred Morris, Running Back

The Price: Cap — $516,200  Cash — $485,425

The last player on this list is also the lowest paid player on this list.

Alfred Morris was a sixth round pick for the Redskins last season, and all he did was put up 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, trailing only Adrian Peterson for rushing yardage.

He is making the same amount of money this season as Pat White. Talk about getting bang for your buck.

**Cash and cap numbers courtesy of USA Today