The 2011 season saw huge contract extensions, big trades of high-priced veterans, and lots of street free agent signings for the Buffalo Bills. For small-market teams, overpaying for an under-performing player is crippling to their bottom line. As such, this list particularly hurts the Bills.
For a refresher, this is the fourth incarnation of this list. In 2010, Shawne Merriman topped the list, as his $3.2M total salary for last season allowed the pass rusher to grace the practice field for less than fifteen minutes. For consistency, we'll use the salary cap hit of each player, as opposed to yearly salary. It gives a true figure of what the Bills paid for him that season. All figures courtesy of Spotrac.com. Before the Top 10, here are a few (dis)honorable mentions.
HM: Torell Troup ($856k), Marcus Easley ($535k), Drayton Florence ($3.92M) When you're making under $1M, it's hard to include you on this type of list. Much was expected from Troup and Easley in their second season, but injuries hampered both. Hopefully they can add their names to the best values on the roster in 2012. Florence's performance didn't meet the value of his big free agent contract this year. He gave up several big plays and was flagged for multiple pass interference calls in 2011. Still, he also made some big plays during the season which earns his exclusion from the list.
10. Leodis McKelvin ($2.17M) The former first-round pick started six games for the Bills in 2011, but saw his starting spot and playing time dwindle as ineffectiveness plagued his game. After injuries hit the cornerback position, he saw his playing time increase and contributed well on special teams. He had an interception, defended eight passes, and made 27 tackles while adding an 80-yard punt return touchdown.
9. Reggie Corner ($1.32M) The coaching staff thought so highly of Corner's skills that they cut him before the regular season. When he was re-signed after injuries hit Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee, Corner was a steady yet unspectacular veteran presence in the cornerback ranks. He accumulated four tackles, an interception, and three passes defended in 10 games, with one start.
8. Kirk Morrison ($1.1M) Morrison was a veteran inside linebacker added during training camp to replace the injured Reggie Torbor. Like fellow vets Torbor and Andra Davis, Morrison failed to make an impact, registering just six tackles in limited playing time. He did manage a sack and defended one pass, which is more than the people ahead of him on the list.
7. Andra Davis ($1.75M) Davis started the first three games of 2011, but was supplanted by rookie Kelvin Sheppard for Week 4 and beyond. He made just six tackles in limited work. He was released by the Denver Broncos two years ago when his replacement came of age. It looks like deja vu for the veteran.
6. Roscoe Parrish ($1.89M) Parrish has been a regular on this list since its inception. Most fans blamed his poor value on the inability of the various playcallers to get him the ball. That hasn't been the case the last two seasons, as Parrish has been targeted frequently. The issue has been his health. Parrish played in just two games in 2011, catching just one pass. His contract is up, and we shouldn't expect him back in a Bills uniform next season.
5. Reggie Torbor ($1.95M) After injuring his shoulder during training camp, Torbor was placed on injured reserve. The Bills were still on the hook for his $950k salary and his $1M bonus.
4. Tyler Thigpen ($2.5M) The highlight of Thigpen's season was being hit in the side of his helmet by a ball while he was warming up. He appeared in three games and threw just eight passes, completing only three to go with one interception. At least he wasn't sacked, I guess.
3. Kyle Williams ($3.95M) Normally, Buffalo's steady defensive line presence is on the Best Bang For The Dollar Bills list. In 2011, Williams had surgery on a lingering ankle problem that cost him all but four games. He made just four tackles and batted down a pass before going under the knife.
2. Terrence McGee ($5.9M) McGee's age has caught up to him, and the injuries he was once able to play through have decimated his last two seasons. The cornerback played just six games for Buffalo in 2011, with 26 tackles and two passes defended. The writing may be on the wall for this career Bill.
1. Shawne Merriman ($4.25M) Merriman was once again limited by an injury during the 2011 season. After playing at less than full strength, he was put on the shelf after just five games. He had one sack (on a play he didn't even hit the quarterback) and seven tackles. Despite his history, both GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey expect the once-dynamic pass rusher back in 2012. Merriman earns this dubious distinction for the second year in a row.
For those of you expecting to see Ryan Fitzpatrick's name on this list, you're probably disappointed. He had the second highest cap hit on the team at $5.59M, but among NFL starting quarterbacks, his financial numbers and statistics were right in the middle. In other words, he's the rare NFL player that plays almost exactly to his contract.