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Who are the Bengals’ most overpaid and most underpaid players?

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The Bengals have managed to avoid rostering many overpaid players.

Cincinnati Bengals v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have managed the salary cap well, never having issues when it comes to going over the cap. The front office has done this by signing players to manageable contracts and not overpaying for star players. Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict, Carlos Dunlap and George Iloka are all players who are on very manageable contracts, even trending toward being underpaid. That has helped keep the Bengals in the middle of the NFL when it comes to salary cap used and rollover amounts each year.

But, that’s not to say there aren’t players on the roster who are overpaid. The best example of that is likely Michael Johnson, who the Bengals worked hard to get back after a year long hiatus from the team in 2014, spent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In trying to get Johnson back and ensuring he didn’t sign with a different team, like the Minnesota Vikings, (who were very interested in his services) the Bengals paid highly for Johnson back in 2015 and he has not lived up the expectations and salary set that offseason.

Johnson signed a four-year, $20 million with the Bengals in 2015, which included a $4.5 million signing bonus (fully guaranteed) and an annual average salary of $5 million. In 2017, Johnson will earn a base salary of $3,550,000, a roster bonus of $200,000 and a workout bonus of $250,000, while carrying a cap hit of $5,125,000 and a dead cap value of $2,250,000, per Spotrac. Does that make him the Bengals’ most overpaid player on the roster? Bleacher Report thinks so. B/R did a list of every team’s most overpaid and underpaid player and Johnson earned the honor of the Bengals’ most overpaid player.

Most Overpaid: Michael Johnson ($3.6 million)

Michael Johnson had a one-year pit stop with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 before the Cincinnati Bengals brought the defensive end back to where his career began. Only they understand why that decision was made and why they continue to dump money onto Johnson.

He's recorded just one double-digit sack season in his career, and it came way back in 2012. And now after returning to the Bengals, he's totaled only 8.5 sacks over the past two years.

Johnson is the NFL's 30th highest paid defensive end, per Spotrac. So with that said, it’s not like he’s getting paid like a top defensive end. The thing to mention here, is the Bengals don’t have many players with bad contracts, so Johnson’s is the worst in a solid group of players getting paid an accurate amount for the value they provide. Johnson’s play unfortunately hasn’t matched up to that from his first stint in Cincinnati. You can’t plan for something like that, and it does happen in the NFL.

Johnson has the 10th biggest contract on the team in terms of total value and makes the 11th most per year, on average. One player who he makes more than, but certainly isn’t a better player than, is linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict is entering the final year of his deal in 2017, and may receive a contract extension this offseason.

Speaking of Burfict, the Bengals linebacker is the player B/R feels is the most underpaid on the team’s roster.

Most Underpaid: Vontaze Burfict ($3.8 million)

Vontaze Burfict has struggled to stay on the field because of injuries and a suspension. But when he's healthy and even sort of behaving, Burfict is one of the NFL's most versatile 4-3 linebackers. His rise started in 2013 when he led the league with 171 tackles. And he's averaged 8.3 tackles per game over the past two seasons while also hauling in four interceptions.

The Bengals are getting all that production at an affordable price because they took a risk on a promising young prospect with character concerns. Sound familiar? It probably does because the Bengals do it nearly every year.

That sounds about right and it will change very soon, once Burfict receives his next contract. Soon, Burfict will be paid like one of the NFL’s top linebackers. But for now, the Bengals are getting a steal paying Burfict $3.8 million. Burfict is currently signed to a four-year, $19,004,000 contract, including a $3,100,000 signing bonus, $6,904,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $4,751,000. In 2017, Burfict will earn a base salary of $3,750,000 and a workout bonus of $200,000, while carrying a cap hit of $4,725,000 and a dead cap value of $775,000.

That’s until he signs a contract extension (or, leaves in free agency in 2018), at least.

Here’s a list of the Bengals’ top contracts, via Spotrac. Who do you think are the most overpaid and underpaid players?

Bengals Top Contracts 2017

Player Position Age Contract Terms Average Salary Guaranteed Expires
Player Position Age Contract Terms Average Salary Guaranteed Expires
Andy Dalton QB 29 6 yr, $96,000,000 $16,000,000 $17,000,000 2021
A.J. Green WR 28 4 yr, $60,000,000 $15,000,000 $32,750,000 2020
Geno Atkins DT 29 5 yr, $53,327,000 $10,665,400 $15,000,000 2019
Dre Kirkpatrick CB 27 5 yr, $52,500,000 $10,500,000 $12,000,000 2022
Carlos Dunlap DE 28 5 yr, $39,370,000 $7,874,000 $11,700,000 2019
George Iloka SS 27 5 yr, $30,000,000 $6,000,000 $5,000,000 2021
Clint Boling G 28 5 yr, $26,000,000 $5,200,000 $5,000,000 2020
Adam-Pacman Jones CB 33 3 yr, $22,000,000 $7,333,333 $6,000,000 2019
Shawn Williams FS 26 4 yr, $20,185,000 $5,046,250 $4,000,000 2021
Michael Johnson DE 30 4 yr, $20,000,000 $5,000,000 $4,500,000 2019
Vontaze Burfict OLB 26 4 yr, $19,004,000 $4,751,000 $6,904,000 2018
John Ross WR 22 4 yr, $17,115,863 $4,278,966 $17,115,863 2022
Giovani Bernard RB 25 3 yr, $15,500,000 $5,166,667 $5,000,000 2020
Kevin Huber P 31 5 yr, $14,000,000 $2,800,000 $3,200,000 2018
Vincent Rey ILB 29 3 yr, $10,500,000 $3,500,000 $3,000,000 2019
William Jackson CB 24 4 yr, $9,705,644 $2,426,411 $7,482,147 2021