Ever since Tyrod Taylor won the competition for starting quarterback, it has been apparent he's saving the Bills a large chunk of change, thanks to his prove-it contract. That disparity between his value and the rest of the league's is high enough that ESPN writer Nathan Jahnke considers him to be the most underpaid veteran, in an article published last Thursday.
It's easy to agree that Taylor is underpaid, but more than anyone else in the league? That needs some justification. Jahnke's system was to evaluate a player's salary against the other salaries for the position and recent grades from Pro Football Focus to find the differential between his value model and the actual value. By playing like a top-ten quarterback in the eyes of PFF, especially when throwing deep or off play action, Taylor earned a value of $18.2 million in the eyes of Jahnke, which easily created a large enough differential against his $3.1 million cap hit to place him on top of the list.
But then, that's the nature of quarterbacking in the NFL, isn't it? If you have any form of pedigree or veteran experience at that position, the market is going to open its wallet. 22 quarterbacks have a cap hit above $11 million. 22 total players from the entire defensive side of the ball are being paid at least that much. Among all offensive linemen, only 2 are earning that much.
Currently, Taylor's 2016 cap hit ranks him 35th among NFL quarterbacks, one spot ahead of EJ Manuel, per Spotrac. It puts him behind backups like Josh McCown, Chase Daniel, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum, and Shaun Hill. Simply by being paid only $3.1 million, there is a massive value difference between Taylor's contract and the market value for a quarterback.
When looking at players at other positions, no one on a cheap contract appears to have justified a high enough salary to come close to Taylor. Maybe Odell Beckham's $2.8 million cap hit, which will eventually turn into a $15 million or more salary when he's eligible for a contract extension. Allen Robinson is another receiver from the class of 2014 who doesn't even cost a million dollars this year, but his professional production probably deserves $12 million or more when he's eligible. Is Jamie Collins due for a massive pay raise? The Patriots linebacker is only making $1.2 million this year, but he's good enough to slot between Von Miller and Bruce Irvin with a roughly $14 million contract.
Still, these players are only getting value gaps of $12 or 13 million. If Taylor were paid like a top-15 quarterback, he'd be making $17 million, and the ensuing $13.9 million value gap outranks those players. Are there any other quarterbacks who could justify a larger value gap than Taylor's? Not really, given that most successful quarterbacks are picked early in the draft, giving them higher salaries than Taylor to start. Teddy Bridgewater is only earning $1.8 million this year, having been picked near the end of the first round, but the first two years of his career defined "pedestrian." In the end, Taylor tops the list. And if he can support his reputation in the 2016 season, he'll be due for a serious raise.