Last week, ESPN (through a PFF writer) compiled an article of the 10 most underpaid veteran players in the NFL. The basis of the rankings looks at the player's 2016 cap hit or their maximum upcoming cap hit, compared to an adjusted valuation derived from performance rankings at Pro Football Focus.
Bills QB Tyrod Taylor comes in at No. 1 on the list with a cap hit of $3.1 million in 2016 but a valuation of $18.2 million. At No. 2, ILB Jerrell Freeman of the Bears has a 2016 cap hit of $4 million compared to a valuation of $10.9 million. Next up at No. 3 is Steelers OLB James Harrison, who has a cap hit of $1.5 million but a valuation of $7.7 million. Will age ever catch up to him?
At No. 4 on the list is Cleveland Browns LT Joe Thomas, who is under contract through 2018. His cap hit is $9.5 million this year and $10 million in each of his next two years, but his valuation is at $16 million. While that was a lucrative deal for Thomas back when it was signed, tackles who have just recently signed new contracts are making more money. That's the upside to overpaying a highly-coveted player for a long duration of time, though: if it works out, then once the market adjusts mid-way through he contract, you're actually getting the player at better value.
Here is what ESPN/PFF's Nathan Jahnke had to say about Thomas:
Highest cap hit: $10 million
2016 JVM: $16 million
Value differential: $6 million
For the second straight year Thomas is among the most undervalued players, and the gap between his play and his contract is getting larger. Six different left tackles will have a higher cap hit than Thomas in 2016, yet Thomas remains unquestionably the NFL's best pass-blocking tackle. He allowed a pressure on just 3.4 percent of his pass blocks, the lowest rate for tackles. On top of his pass blocking, he was a top-five run-blocking tackle by PFF rating as well. At a time when pass-rushers have been getting better and tackles worse, having solid offensive tackles is even more valuable. The Browns get Thomas at around the same value for each of these next three seasons. As long as Thomas doesn't decline, he should continue to be one of the most undervalued players in the league.