Tuesday, June 18, 2024

NFL’s All-Underpaid Team 2024: Best contracts, including steals by Steelers, 49ers, & Cowboys | Sporting News Australia

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With stars at marquee positions making astronomical salaries that consume much of the salary cap, NFL teams are always looking to find some roster steals — and that’s more true than ever heading into 2024.

These players, often young and lower draft picks, provide terrific return on investment for little cost, and they can help offset the cost of big-money quarterbacks, superstar wide receivers, or game-changing pass-rushers.

Based on average annual salaries ahead of the 2024 season, here are this year’s best bargain contracts.

MORE: Every NFL team’s … Best move | Worst move | Biggest remaining need

NFL’s best contracts: All-Underpaid Team 2024

Quarterback

Russell Wilson, Steelers ($1,21 million)

Between Wilson and Justin Fields, two starters on different teams last season, the Steelers are investing less than $3 million for their top two quarterbacks. The combined desperation of the Broncos and Bears played right into Pittsburgh’s favor. If Wilson is even slightly above-average to complement the defense and running game, the Steelers would have a massive advantage for a season

MORE NFL: Who will improve the most in 2024? | Who will disappoint the most?

Running backs

Jaylen Warren, Steelers ($857,333)

The Steelers have upgraded their offensive line for new coordinator Arthur Smith, meaning they are hoping for bigger things from Najee Harris and Warren as their 1-2 punch. Warren is a critical change of pace for a run-heavy plan.

Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs ($934,777)

Pacheco is the Chiefs’ clutch lead back, who always produces with his power, hard-running, and burst. He also has developed to help Patrick Mahomes as a better outlet receiver. The seventh-rounder is vital now to Kansas City’s Super Bowl offense.

Biggest offseason upgrades: Offenses | Defenses | Coaching staff

Isiah Pacheco

Wide receivers

Rashid Shaheed, Saints ($985,000)

Shaheed showed good chemistry with new starting QB Derek Carr last season and for a receiving corps in transition, he’s a nice big-play No. 2 to have playing off Chris Olave. 

Puka Nacua, Rams ($1.021 million)

Nacua is already one of the league’s best receivers after winning Sporting News NFL Rookie of the Year with a record-setting 105 catches for 1,486 yards with six TDs. The fifth-rounder will cost the Rams a lot more soon.

Tank Dell, Texans ($1.422 million)

Dell was recommended as a fellow rookie to take in third round by his QB C.J. Stroud, and the pair worked well together right away as a big-play combination. Dell should be fully healthy to make a bigger impact playing off Stefon Diggs and Nico Collins now.

Biggest hot seats: Coaches | Quarterbacks

Tight end

Trey McBride, Cardinals ($1.574 million)

McBride broke out in his second season out of necessity for the Cardinals’ passing game, becoming Kyler Murray’s new top target with 81 catches for 825 yards and three TDs. He will remain a key short-to-intermediate route runner working off dominant rookie wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

Offensive tackles

Rasheed Walker, Packers ($935,219)

Walker will get a battle from rookie Jordan Morgan, but he has the athleticism and developing blocking skills to keep the first-rounder on the bench to be a swing tackle.

Zach Tom, Packers ($1.04 million)

The Packers could afford to move on from David Bakhtiari and kick Elgton Jenkins inside because of two rising tackles, not one. Tom was exceptional all-around on the front side of Jordan Love last season.

Guards

Will Fries, Colts ($891,344)

Not just part of that viral picture with teammate and center Wesley French, Fries has become an accomplished interior run blocker who deserves a raise soon.

Quinn Meinerz, Broncos ($1,179 million)

The Broncos’ offense disappointed last season, but don’t blame the fine run blocking of the line, led by Meinerz, who was helped well by new left guard Ben Powers.

Center

Drew Dalman, Falcons ($1.064 million)

The Falcons are pretty solid with their first-round investments up front, and Dalman has become an anchor as a 2021 fourth-rounder.

Byron Young

Edge rushers

Baron Browning, Broncos ($1.168 million)

The 2021 third-round pick has found his niche as a well-rounded pass rusher and active upfield playmaker.

Byron Young, Rams ($1.388 million)

The 2023 third-rounder goes into his second season trying to build on eight rookie sacks, now working opposite rookie first-rounder Jared Verse.

Defensive tackles

Osa Odighizuwa, Cowboys ($1.271 million)

The Cowboys found a strong, inside, run-stopping presence with their 2021 third-rounder, but Odighizuwa now has a higher upside as a pass rusher after three sacks last season.

Kobie Turner, Rams ($1.347 million)

Turner has been the other Rams’ second-year third-round steal for the defense. He ripped off nine sacks inside and makes for a comfortable transition from retired Aaron Donald.

Linebackers

Ivan Pace Jr., Vikings ($905,000)

Pace is the fresh-faced foundation of a stacked defense for DC Brian Flores thanks to his exceptional natural skills vs. the pass in coverage and pressure.

Leo Chenal, Chiefs ($1.261 million)

Chenal is more of an upfield-first linebacker in relation to Pace, but his presence vs. the run and in the pass rush made it fine for the team to move on from Willie Gay Jr.

Cornerbacks

Deommodore Lenoir, 49ers ($941,217)

Lenoir has developed steadily into a solid cover man. The 2021 fifth-rounder was more active as a ballhawk with three interceptions 

Michael Carter II, Jets ($952, 232)

Carter is the only Jet of this name left on the roster as an ace nickel back between the elite outside combination of Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed.

Safeties

Jordan Battle, Bengals ($1.331 million)

Battle was once a first-round prospect at Alabama before falling to the third round in 2023. The Bengals took advantage to fill their big void, and he blossomed into a starting-caliber defender late as a rookie.

Ji’Ayir Brown, 49ers ($1.348 million)

Brown joined Battle, going in the third round last year and landing in a great defense to keep up his college success. He also came on as a covering playmaker in the back half of last season

Brandon Aubrey

Kicker

Brandon Aubrey, Cowboys ($898,333)

The Cowboys have the best bargain of them all, given Aubrey was the first-team All-Pro kicker as a rookie last season.

Punter

Ryan Stonehouse, Titans ($856, 667)

Stonehouse had a monster 2022 punting. He stayed at 53.1 yards per punt with a 74-yard long in Year 2, too.

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