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The Most Overpaid Player in the NFL Is Dwight Freeney

Posted By Jesse Reed On July 20, 2012 @ 2:52 am In Colts News | No Comments

The Indianapolis Colts [1] are insane to be paying Dwight Freeney [2] the amount he’s getting from them in 2012.

According to Spotrac.com [3], Freeney’s cap hit in 2012 is just a hair over $19 million—the largest single cap hit of any player at any position in the NFL [4].

Freeney is a good pass-rusher, of that there’s no doubt, but he isn’t worth that kind of scrilla, and here’s why.


Freeney Is Playing Like a Washed-Up Star

Before you rip me about how Freeney is only 32 and has a ton of gas left in the tank, let’s take a look at his production over the course of the last three years.

Year Games Total Tackles Solo Assisted Sacks  Forced Fumbles
2011 16 19 13 6 8.5 2
2010 16 25 21 4 10 5
2009 14 24 19 5 13.5 1

It’s important to note that Freeney was plagued by a nagging quad injury and an abdomen injury during the 2009 season—the best of the three years. He only played in 14 games, and out of those, Freeney only started nine.

Since then, his numbers have slowly been declining. The worst part is that it’s not just Freeney’s sack numbers that are going down, but his overall production is in decline, too. He’s not impacting the game like an elite defensive end, and he shouldn’t be getting paid like he is.

Freeney may only be 32 years old, but he’s playing like he’s nearing the end of his career. 


Freeney Doesn’t Match Up with the NFL’s Best Pass-Rushers

Freeney hasn’t been a truly elite pass-rusher since the 2005 season. He tallied 16 sacks in 2004, and then in 2005 he hauled in 11 sacks in 13 starts, according to NFL.com [5].

Freeney’s production over the last two years doesn’t come close to the best pass-rushers in the league. His 10 sacks in 2010 tied him for 17th place [6], and his 8.5 sacks in 2011 didn’t even get him into the top 25 [7]

To demonstrate further just how overpaid Freeney is compared to his actual worth, let’s take a look at how he stacks up against the top 10 pass-rushers from 2011 in both total sacks and how much of a cap hit each player will be in 2012.

Rank Player Sacks Cap Hit in 2012
T26 Dwight Freeney 8.5 $19.04 million
1 Jared Allen 22 $14.2 million
DeMarcus Ware 19.5 $10.3 million
3 Jason Babin 18 $5.78 million
4 Jason Pierre-Paul  16.5 $3.15 million
T5 Terrell Suggs 14 $11.18 million
T5  Aldon Smith 14 $3.27 million
7 Chris Long 13 $12.71 million
8 Tamba Hali 12 $14.25 million
T9 Connor Baldwin 11.5  $917,500
T9 Von Miller 11.5  $4.75 million


It’s clear that Freeney is getting paid at least double what he’s worth. In fact, as I already mentioned at the top, he’s getting paid more in 2012 than anyone—that means Tom Brady [8], Peyton Manning [9], Drew Brees [10] and Aaron Rodgers [11].

If Freeney was doing what Allen is doing for the Minnesota Vikings [12] on a regular basis, I’d have to say he might be worth $19 million. However, he isn’t coming anywhere close to producing like Allen has over the last five years—77.5 sacks for an average of 15.5 sacks a year.

Heck, Freeney’s only totalled more than 15.5 sacks once in his career. He isn’t in the same league as Allen, and Allen’s bringing in $5 million less this year. That doesn’t jive with me. 

Not. At. All.


Freeney Is Learning a New Position

The Colts, who’ve had a 4-3 base defense since Freeney joined the team in 2002, are now switching to a 3-4 base—a move that doesn’t bode well for an old dog.

On June 14, Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star wrote a story about Freeney’s adjustment [13] to this new system, and Freeney’s response to the change was mostly positive. He said:

Listen, when you’ve been doing the same thing every single day, you get real good at it, but this is exciting, something fresh and new, and possibilities are endless. It’s a proven defense. San Francisco [14], the Steelers [15], the Ravens [16], they’re always in the top five in defense. The proof is there.

I dropped back in coverage a bit my first couple of years, so it’s not completely unfamiliar. The last six, seven years I haven’t dropped back at all, so it’s just a matter of remembering what I used to do.

It’s nice to know Freeney is embracing the change, rather than fuss about it, but I agree with Kravitz, who wrote:

Most of us think Mathis, who is smaller and quicker, will have the easier transition. Clearly, the Colts thought so, too, or they wouldn’t have signed him to a new contract this summer.

Freeney is going to struggle to adapt to this system, and I’d be stunned to see him break the 10-sack barrier in 2012.

Even if he does, Freeney just doesn’t impact the game enough to warrant his outrageously high salary in 2012, and as such, he’s the most overpaid player in the NFL.


Follow @JesseReed78 [17]

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URLs in this post:

[1] Indianapolis Colts: http://bleacherreport.com/indianapolis-colts

[2] Dwight Freeney: http://bleacherreport.com/dwight-freeney

[3] Spotrac.com: http://www.spotrac.com/top-salaries/nfl/cap-hit/

[4] NFL: http://bleacherreport.com/nfl

[5] NFL.com: http://www.nfl.com/player/dwightfreeney/2505016/profile

[6] tied him for 17th place: http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/player/_/stat/defense/sort/sacks/year/2010

[7] into the top 25: http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics/player/_/stat/defense/sort/sacks/year/2011/seasontype/2

[8] Tom Brady: http://bleacherreport.com/tom-brady

[9] Peyton Manning: http://bleacherreport.com/peyton-manning

[10] Drew Brees: http://bleacherreport.com/drew-brees

[11] Aaron Rodgers: http://bleacherreport.com/aaron-rodgers

[12] Minnesota Vikings: http://bleacherreport.com/minnesota-vikings

[13]  wrote a story about Freeney’s adjustment: http://www.indystar.com/article/20120615/SPORTS15/206150344/Bob-Kravitz-Indianapolis-Colts-LB-Dwight-Freeney-shows-he-can-change

[14] San Francisco: http://bleacherreport.com/san-francisco-49ers

[15] Steelers: http://bleacherreport.com/pittsburgh-steelers

[16] Ravens: http://bleacherreport.com/baltimore-ravens

[17] Follow @JesseReed78: https://twitter.com/JesseReed78

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