The NFL has plenty of players who never seem to get the recognition they deserve, no matter how well they perform. Some of those players are already stars in the league while others have yet to establish the footing of their counterparts.
Not only are these players performing at a high level, the value of their contracts significantly benefits the overall roster. These types of players are necessarily underpaid, but their contract is undervalued (essentially they are outperforming it).
Regardless of the contract, these players continue to perform week in and week out and play a massive role in leading their teams to victories. The NFC has a few players who outperform their contracts (whether it's on a rookie salary or not), resulting in them being "undervalued" or "underappreciated." So who's that one player on each team?
Keep in mind the fan bases of said teams don't undervalue these players, but fans around the league might if they are not watching every single snap of this player.
Thompson has signed his three-year extension that begins this year, yet he's only on the books for $5,287,750 in 2023 (and the Cardinals can technically get out of the contract and save cap space in 2024 if they desired).
Arizona has no reason to do that with one of its best young players. Thompson is coming off consecutive 100-tackle seasons and has four interceptions in that stretch, as opposing quarterbacks targeting him have a 75.5 passer rating.
Turning 25 this month, Thompson is a key piece in the Cardinals' rebuild.
The Falcons couldn't have asked for more production from a fifth-round rookie, as Allgeier rushed for 1,035 yards and three touchdowns in 2022 (4.9 yards per carry). Even better, Allgeier has a cap number of just $953,472 this season -- backing up Bijan Robinson behind one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in football.
Allgeier might be the best No. 2 back in football, even better with three years left on a rookie deal with a cap number that never exceeds $1.2 million.
Another player on a rookie deal, the Panthers receive excellent value for a player of Horn's caliber. Horn allowed just a 35.8 passer rating in coverage last season, with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He was only targeted 51 times last year, a definition of a shutdown corner when he's on the field.
In the third year of his rookie contract, Horn's cap number for 2023 is $5,757,858. Whether Horn is on the field or not, that's excellent value for the Panthers -- especially since he's already one of the better cover corners in the game.
Who was the sack leader on the Bears last season? The answer would be Brisker, who was one of the best players on the roster in just his rookie season. Brisker led the Bears with four sacks on the year, becoming just the third defensive back in franchise history to record four-plus sacks in a season (and the first one since 1986).
Brisker finished with 103 tackles (five for loss), four sacks, with two passes defended and an interception in his rookie season. While Brisker can improve in coverage (four pass touchdowns and 88.7 passer rating allowed), he's certainly an underappreciated player around the league.
Being a second-round pick on a rookie deal, Brisker's cap hit is just $1,671,714 in 2023 (with three years remaining on his contract). Brisker has excellent value in Chicago.
Just because he's bounced around the league, doesn't mean Cooks isn't a good player. Cooks has six 1,000-yard seasons in his career, four of which have come with different teams. He'll be facing No. 2 cornerbacks in 2023, so the production and efficiency should go up.
Dak Prescott is also a better quarterback than any signal-caller Cooks has caught passes from since 2020, so another 1,000-yard season may be on the horizon (Cooks doesn't turn 30 until September). Cooks also has a cap number of just $6 million in 2023, and a year remaining on his contract after that.
The Cowboys have Cooks on a bargain.
Houston was a highly productive edge rusher last season across from Aidan Hutchinson, recording more sacks (eight) than games played (seven). He didn't make his debut until Thanksgiving, and was actually waived by the Lions during final roster cutdowns.
Houston has a cap number of just $235,000 (base salary is $705,000), even better value for a player who recorded 17 pressures, 11 quarterback hits, and had a pressure rate of 19.3%.
The Lions are more than pleased with how Houston panned out so far.
Watson is also on his rookie contract, providing great value as a second-round pick. His cap number is higher than most ($2,100,233), but the production far outweighs the final three years of his rookie deal.
Watson finished with 611 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie year (14.9 yards per catch), but had the most receiving touchdowns (seven) and was sixth in yards per catch (16.9) over the final eight games of the year.
Becoming one of the best deep-ball receivers in the league, Watson is the No. 1 wideout to begin this new era for Green Bay.
The Rams don't have many players on a good contract, but Fuller is one of them. Fuller was part of a multitude of injuries on the Rams roster last season, only playing three games.
The 2020 sixth-round pick is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, having a cap hit of just $2,785,677. Los Angeles is paying for the 2021 version of Fuller, who compiled 116 tackles with an interception in 16 games. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Fuller had just a 65.0 passer rating and didn't throw a touchdown off him.
Los Angeles doesn't have a lot of young talent on its roster, but Fuller is one of them. The Rams don't win a Super Bowl without contributors like Fuller.
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The Vikings offensive line has been much maligned in recent years (and rightfully so), but Darrisaw is a sign the franchise is starting to get better players in the trenches. Darrisaw allowed 20 pressures in 539 pass-blocking snaps, a pressure rate of 3.7% (improvement from 5.6% in his rookie season).
On his rookie contract, Darrisaw has a cap number of $3,033,215 heading into his third season. That's excellent value for an offensive tackle that's in the conversation for a top-20 spot in the game.
Give the Saints a ton of credit for finding a player like Shaheed, who has a cap number of just $870,000 in 2023. An undrafted free agent out of Weber State, Shaheed was a deep ball threat in his rookie season, averaging 17.4 yards per catch in 12 games (28 catches, 488 yards, two touchdowns). He also averaged 14.3 yards per carry (on just four carries) with a touchdown while finishing with 1,058 all-purpose yards.
Shaheed was tremendous value for the Saints -- and his speed is one of the best-kept secrets in the league. He'll be an excellent No. 3 wide receiver for New Orleans in 2023, but don't be surprised if he elevates his status.
An underutilized pass catcher in New York after his rookie season, Brian Daboll found ways to use his talents again in 2022. Slayton was the best wideout on a Giants offense that lacked pass catchers, finishing with 46 catches for 724 yards and two touchdowns, averaging a career-high 15.7 yards per catch.
A new contract was in order for Slayton, as he has a cap number of $4,205,882 in 2023 (just $1.4 million guaranteed). With better pass catchers in New York this year, the numbers for Slayton may go up as he won't be the focal point of the passing game.
Sweat received his big contract from the Eagles in 2021 -- and he has rewarded the franchise for betting on him. He finished with 11 sacks, 43 pressures, and 23 quarterback hits (pressure rate of 12.7%), one year after making a Pro Bowl with a lower pressure rate (11.7%) despite having more pass-rushing snaps.
The sack totals have gone up every year for Sweat, who has a cap number of just $5,857,000 this year. The Eagles have Sweat on a bargain, as he's becoming one of the most productive pass rushers in the sport.
Gipson was one of the best coverage safeties in football last year, a testament toward how valuable he was on the 49ers defense. In his 11th season, Gipson had five interceptions as opposing quarterbacks targeting him had just a 19.3 passer rating (Gipson didn't allow a single touchdown pass).
He earned a new contract from the 49ers, having a cap number of just $2,100,000 in 2023. While Gipson may be 33, he showed there's still plenty of good football left in him.
Woolen took the league by storm in his rookie season, making a case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. A Pro Bowler, Woolen tied for the league lead with six interceptions, and finished with 63 tackles, three fumble recoveries -- along with a defensive touchdown.
Opposing quarterbacks had just a 46.1 passer rating targeting Woolen, the sixth-lowest rate in the NFL. The 2022 fifth-round pick has a cap number of $953,054, an insane bargain for a player who had a strong first year in the league.
Any guesses on how much one of the most productive linebackers over the last decade makes in 2023? David has a cap number of $1,832,000 with a guaranteed salary of $1,165,000. This is the same player who had 124 tackles and three sacks last season at the age of 32.
David is the just the third player in NFL history with 1,300-plus tackles, 25-plus sacks, and 10-plus interceptions after his first 11 seasons (Bobby Wagner and London Fletcher are the others). He's been incredibly productive, but has just one Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro to show for it.
The definition of underappreciated and undervalued.
If Howell is as good as Washington thinks he can be, this is going to be one of the best contracts in the sport for a few years. Howell has a cap number of $960,400 in 2023, the benefit of having a fifth-round pick as a starting quarterback.
Howell started just one game, throwing for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a Week 18 victory. Washington likes his talent and Howell is being groomed by Eric Bieniemy's play-calling as the new offensive coordinator is looking to get the most out of him.
A good season from Howell and he'll have the best value in the NFL.