How does one truly measure whether an NFL player lived up to his contract? That's a tough call, considering each position is weighted differently in terms of importance and paid differently. Pro Football Focus took a stab at this by placing a dollar value on each player's performance (based on their PFF season grade) and comparing it to their actual hit against the salary cap in 2012. It's by no means an exact science, but in general it does a good job of describing whether a player was over- or under-paid.
A while back we took a look at the team overall, but every team will have players who don't live up to their contracts and others who outperform them. What's more interesting is to look at whether the team has players who rank among the top of the league at their position in relative value or lack thereof to see how the team is actually doing at paying players appropriately relative to other organizations around the league. Therefore, we took a look at PFF's breakdown of each position's most overpaid players to see which Packers made the lists.
John Kuhn - 3rd-worst value (-$1.6M net)
Kuhn didn't have a good year in run blocking, and PFF sums it up well: "He was the fourth-highest paid fullback in 2012, which is far too much for someone who is only an average run blocker." A good performance blocking for Aaron Rodgers couldn't outweigh that.
Greg Jennings - 5th-worst value (-$5.6M net)
You can correctly assume that a lot of Jennings' lack of value is due to his injury, but that's not all:
However, the fact remains that his production has declined across the board over the past three seasons. He hit new lows with 10.2 Yards Per Reception and 1.28 Yards Per Route Run
Jermichael Finley - 2nd-worst value (-$4.2M net)
Oh good. I know I tend to give Finley the benefit of the doubt a lot, but I do acknowledge that PFF is probably right here. And he's getting a raise this year too.
For a player that offers little in terms of blocking, he has to do better as a receiver to avoid making this list next season, as continued unreliability will have Aaron Rodgers, and maybe the Packers this offseason, looking elsewhere.
No argument here.
Jeff Saturday - 6th-worst value (-$2.1M net)
In something that should surprise absolutely nobody, Saturday actually had a value of less than $1 million. And with three of the centers above him injured for much of the season, Saturday actually looks even worse.
Tramon Williams - 7th worst value (-$5.1M net value)
This one comes with a caveat: Williams was the 4th-worst value of players who were active for most of the season, as three other corners were injured early in the season and missed several games. The biggest contributor to Williams' negative grade was his run support, as PFF explains:
Williams actually had a decent 2012 season in coverage, allowing just 54 percent of targets to be completed, while defending 14 passes – only two players had more in the regular season. He didn’t fare well in run defense, though, finishing with a grade of -4.9, largely due to his Week 17 performance against the Vikings
That jives with what I remember: Williams was very good in coverage in a few games, mediocre in others, and was bad against the run across the board.
Charles Woodson - #1 worst value (-$10M net)
Ouch, that's a scary number. Part of it was Woodson's hefty contract, part of it was just his skills declining, and part of it was his injury. Combine all three factors and you have the worst value at the safety position across the league.
Ryan Pickett - #10 worst value (-$4.2M net)
This one probably was the biggest surprise of all to me. We all know that Pickett doesn't provide much help in the pass rush, and it appears that is why he appears here. I would argue that he's more valuable in general than this evaluation makes it seem, but PFF explains part of why he's here:
Ryan Pickett’s salary doesn’t quite match up with his job description in Green Bay. He is a run stuffer first and foremost ... To get $5.8m in value out of a one-dimensional player like that he would have to stop the run at an elite level and play a whole lot of snaps. Pickett does neither and that’s why his value is so low.
In general, I'm disappointed to see so many Packers on these lists. However, Ted Thompson definitely seems to recognize when a player isn't living up to his contract, and three of these players will not be with the team next season. It also seems to suggest that not giving Greg Jennings a new, big contract may be the right move - even though his cap hit drops for 2013, it seems impossible for him to live up to the numbers in the final three years of his deal in Minnesota.