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10 Buffalo Bills who played below their pay grade in 2014

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Several Buffalo Bills players were far less valuable to the 2014 team than their contracts would indicate. These 10 players sat atop the list.

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While some Buffalo Bills players provided a return way above their pay grade in 2014, there were others that underperformed their contracts, too. In the era of free agency, with big-money deals handed out willy nilly, that should hardly come as a surprise - and as you will see, almost all of the players on the list are on here with free agent contracts. It should reinforce the importance of the draft in your minds.

10. Mario Williams ($18.8M)

It's hard to be the highest-paid player on the team, because you're expected to have the biggest impact. Consider that his cap hit was almost three times as much as the next guy on the list, and you see why Williams shows up here despite being an All-Pro. Williams recorded 14.5 sacks, 42 tackles, and two forced fumbles in 2014 - but his cap hit was higher than all but four other players in the league, as well.

9. Eric Wood ($5.95M)

Wood did not have a great middle of the season. From Weeks 6-10, he accumulated a negative-11.1 grade, per Pro Football Focus. During the beginning and through the middle of the season, he was dealing with a dumpster fire at left guard and a right guard we'll get to, so it's hard to lay all the blame at his feet, but that's what happens when you're the captain and the highest-paid player on the offensive line.

8. Erik Pears ($3.45M)

A liability at tackle that was moved inside when rookie Seantrel Henderson had a nice preseason, Pears had difficulty blocking in space on screens and was a negative force in the run blocking game, as well. He played 100 percent of the team's snaps, but that had less to do with Pears and more to do with their lack of alternatives.

7. Manny Lawson ($3.1M)

Lawson played fewer snaps on defense than Corbin Bryant in 2014. He was behind Jarius Wynn in the rotation when Wynn was healthy, and managed just 20 tackles in 2014 with 1.5 sacks. Not exactly the numbers you expect from someone with a top-25 percent cap hit on your team.

6. C.J. Spiller ($5.92M)

I don't like adding injured players to this list, but in the eight games plus the handful of snaps he was healthy, Spiller averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, had one touchdown (receiving), and fumbled three times. He added some value as a kick returner, scoring a touchdown in Week 2, but Marcus Thigpen cost just $167,647 against the cap and had a special teams touchdown, too.

5. Mike Williams ($1.8M)

Williams was supposed to provide the big red zone target EJ Manuel needed. Instead he was only targeted three times following Manuel's benching. Kyle Orton reportedly had a better rapport with Chris Hogan, Williams was benched and didn't like and eventually released. Eight catches and one touchdown in 188 snaps. (Ed note: Williams was inadvertantly left off a previous version of this list.)

4. Chris Williams ($2.4M)

As I've already explained, I'm not adding Williams to the list for his injury.  Williams' performance prior to his injury would have landed him here anyway. He played every snap in the first two weeks before a back injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. There was no noticeable drop-off when fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson stepped in (at almost $2 million cheaper) but even Richardson played poorly enough to get benched later on.

3. Marquise Goodwin ($674,719)

Goodwin had the 33rd-highest cap hit on the team, but the return on that yielded one catch and three rushes with a fumble in his sophomore season. He was a three-time healthy scratch, but played enough snaps to have more of an impact. Even with such a low cap hit, he belongs on the list.

2. Cyrus Kouandjio ($874,331)

You might place him here solely based on his draft position, but this is all about salary cap hit, and Kouandjio was active for a single game and didn't play any snaps. The guy immediately below him in cap hit was Chris Hairston, who played 37 snaps while providing depth that wasn't ultimately needed at the tackle spot.

1. Keith Rivers ($1.85M)

Nothing new for Rivers since being a first-round pick out of USC. He started three games, but only accumulated 16 tackles on the stat sheet. He was a far cry from Doug Whaley touting him as a "four-down player" when he was signed last offseason. The emergence of Preston Brown left him sidelined even with Kiko Alonso being out. He stayed sidelined or played one snap or fewer in half of the team's games, and is a likely cap casualty this offseason.