It is inevitable every year that some players get ‘overpaid’ on the open market. Technically speaking, any deal signed on the open market is an establishment of a pattern of value relative to performance and mode of service, so ‘overpaid’ is perhaps not the most appropriate term, but it is the common one to describe players whose compensation relative to his most comparable peers exceeds his performance.
From some people’s perspective, every football player in the league is overpaid, after all, so there is a point at which the term becomes meaningless. But there are certainly worse arguments than others to propose a player to be overpaid, and Gregg Rosenthal found a strong contender for including the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva on a list of players he expects will be overpaid next week. He writes for NFL.com:
Any starting tackle is going to get attention in a barren market, and Villanueva has hit 1,000 snaps in four of the last five seasons for a winning organization (missing the mark by four snaps in 2019). The Steelers usually know when to move on, and they need line help, so Villanueva’s availability is a red flag on its own.
That the Steelers are not doing a full-court press to re-sign Villanueva in no way should be interpreted as a reflection of his value. It is, rather, a reflection of their understanding of their financial limitations as imposed by the salary cap.
It is a foregone conclusion that Villanueva’s worth on the open market will substantially exceed what the team could reasonably pay him while maintaining the ability to re-sign other key players. At the same time, they have equally significant players heading to free agency in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bud Dupree. Are all of them red flags against the others?
One of the reasons that “they need line help” is because they can’t afford against the salary cap to retain Villanueva. If they had the cap to spare, they would re-sign him. One would be hard-pressed to find a more well-liked individual in that locker room.
Might he ultimately be compensated at a rate relative to his performance that many will conventionally characterize as being ‘overpaid’? It’s certainly possible, but it has nothing to do with the fact that the Steelers are unlikely to make much effort to re-sign him.
And given the fact that he just finished a four-year deal over the course of which he only earned $24 million while making two Pro Bowls and logging over 4000 snaps, entering his age-33 season, he’s due to get paid, whether ‘overly’ so or otherwise.