Call it a cheap rip-off idea but I wanted to find some way to highlight the Arizona Cardinals who were either greatly over-performed their salary (Deal) or under-performed based on their salary (No Deal). First before we get started it's worth noting that understanding NFL contracts is a notch below rocket science because of the incentives and bonuses that are structured into contracts to circumvent the salary cap. With that in mind, we used the salary data available at USA Today. They provide a simplistic look at each and every players salary for the season and their 'cap hit.' Since nearly everything in the is driven by how it effects the salary cap, we'll focus on that number for this exercise. Here are the Deals:
Player: (Cap Hit)
- Tim Hightower: ($340,166) - His cap hit was in the bottom six and his salary was in the bottom 10 on the team. Not bad for a guy who was tied for the league lead in touchdowns among rookies and led his team in touchdowns and receptions out of the backfield. To put his production in a 'per dollars' scenerio, he got paid $640 bucks per yard and $26,166 per touchdown (rushing and receiving combined) for this regular season and post season production. For comparison purposes, Darren McFadden was paid $5,2560 per yard and $656,250 per TD.
- Lyle Sendlein: ($382,010) - Sendlein stepped into the starting line up when Al Johnson never fully recovered from a knee injury and he never looked back. Sendlien started all sixteen games as the pivot man on the Cardinals offensive line despite being an undrafted rookie in just his second season.
- Steve Breaston: ($422,843) - Breaston's is the poster boy for Deal or No Deal. He surpassed our wildest expectations with over 1,000 receiving yards and he ended up as the team leader in total yards with almost 2,000. He played in every game this season and officially started six games during the regular season and post season. Breaston made $420 per receiving yard during the regular season and that numbers drops to $366 when you add in his post season production.
- Neil Rackers: ($804,320) - Rackers doesn't get much love in Arizona but he had a great season in 2008. He was 9th in the league in field goal percentage and only missed three kicks all season (and one was a 68 yard attempt). Kickers don't generally make a boatload of money but 42 kickers/punters made more money than Rackers during 2008.
- Bryan Robinson: ($1,200,480) - We didn't talk much about Robinson when he was signed and frankly didn't expect a great deal of production from him. What we got though was a 15 game starter and solid veteran presence in the center of the defensive line. Nose tackles don't finish the season with an impressive stat sheet, but Robinson's effect on the defense was obvious. Even after Watson was healthy, Robinson retained the starting job throughout the playoffs.
- Gerald Hayes: ($1,503,120) - Hayes is often the forgotten linebacker but he shouldn't be. He's only missed two games in the past three seasons and only Dansby has more tackles for the Cardinals over that span. He'll never get a Pro Bowl mention but he's a solid player and the kind of dependable role player that every successful team needs.
Other honorable mentions: Ralph Brown ($448,000); Gabe Watson ($563,954); J.J. Arrington ($754,607); Deuce Lutui ($946,530); Bertrand Berry ($2,005,760)
This list is the unpleasant list, but it's also not very easy because the Cardinals don't have many high priced players. The Cardinals only have 10 players above the $4 million dollar mark, but there are some names on the higher end that jump out at you.
- Edgerrin James: ($6,750,840) - Edge had nice rebirth in the post season but overall his season was discouraging. Whether that was his fault, the offensive lines fault or the coaching staff probably depends on who you ask. Only three players on the roster had a higher cap figure in 2008 and only LaDainian Tomilson had higher cap hit among running backs around the league. All in all he was handsomely rewarded with $9,001 per rushing yard if you combine his regular and post season stats.
Chike Okeafor: ($5,404,440) - The second highest paid player on the defense finished fifth on the team in tackles and had his lowest sack total since 2001. He's never been a high tackle defender but he's always had the label as a pass rush specialist and 4.5 sacks was much less than
expected. He added another sack in the post season but with other options making less than half of his salary (Berry and LaBoy) and similar production, disappointment is the only way to classify his play in 2008.
- Roderick Hood: ($5,002,520) - Hood is the third highest paid defender but he went from the Cardinals #1 corner to the guy that teams picked on by season's end. He wasn't terrible in 2008 but he didn't improve in his second season as a starter and if anything he regressed. His stats were down across the board from 2007, his first season in Arizona, including tackles, passes defended and interceptions. He added a second pick during post season but three other Cardinals picked off more passes than Hood, including Ralph Brown.
- Al Johnson: ($3,505,280) - It might be a bit unfair to put Johnson on this list considering that an injury prevented him from playing a single down for the Cardinals this season, but it still stings that he counted 3.5 million against the cap this season and they got zero production from him.
Dis-honorable mentions: Mike Gandy ($6,803,960); Levi Brown ($6,687,500); Eric Green ($2,020,240)
For some quick explanations, I went back and forth between Gandy and Brown but ultimately decided against listing them with the main group because they were part of a line that held it's own in the passing game. The running game, or lack thereof, may be the black eye of the offense, but it's hard to tell who is at fault. So who else would you include in your 'Deal or No Deal' list? Is there anyone who shouldn't be on this list?