Early July is the time for new lists as we move toward the start of training camp and the return of somewhat meaningful football. One of those lists tries to pinpoint the NFL's most underpaid players, and ESPN's Nathan Jahnke pinpoints Lavonte David as one of those players.
Lavonte David is going to make it onto any list of underpaid players, simply because rookie contracts do not pay a lot of money. That should change next year, as the linebacker will be allowed to sign an extension after his third year in the league, and the Bucs are likely to jump at the chance to sign him to a long-term deal while they still hold leverage from his cheap rookie contract.
In fact, that entire list of overpaid and underpaid players is simply a collection of quality players still on their rookie contracts. Thus, it's not very insightful. More interesting is Over The Cap's collection of best and worst contracts for each team, where Jason Fitzgerald didn't look at players still on their rookie contracts for that precise reason.
The best contract, by Fitzgerald's estimation, is that awarded to Alterraun Verner. After years of paying huge contracts to premium free agents, the Bucs went value-hunting this offeason: quality players who didn't necessarily demand top-of-the-line contracts. That's exactly how they locked up Alterraun Verner to a four-year deal averaging just $6 million per year.
This is doubly astonishing because of the Bucs' approach to contracts, which includes the possibility of severing ties with a player after the first year with no money due, provided he's not being cut because of injury. Verner isn't quite an All-Pro talent at the position, but he's a productive player and a perfect fit for the Bucs' approach to cornerback play.
The worst contract would be that awarded to Dashon Goldson, who signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract last year, and that contract included fully-guaranteed salaries for the first two years of his contract. That means that the Bucs couldn't say goodbye to the former 49er no matter how poorly he played, because they'd be saving exactly no money.
Of course, all of this depends on how you view the former All-Pro. I happen to think Goldson is actually one of the team's most underrated players, and while his contract structure and value isn't really beneficial to the Bucs, he stil has a chance to live up to his salary. He certainly has the talent to do so, and Lovie Smith has a consistent history of getting the most out of his defensive players. Hopefully he can pull Goldson out of that "worst contract" category this year.