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2012 NFL Underpaid Stars: Part 1

2012 NFL Underpaid Stars: Part 1
With 6 weeks nearly in the books this NFL season, our experts take a look at the comparison between league leaders and their current financial situation.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Matty Ice has led a weapon-filled Falcons offense to an undefeated 6-0. He’s currently 2nd in quarterback rating (106.1), 3rd in yards (1,507), and 2nd in touchdowns (13). While his current salary ($11.5 million) ranks him a deserving 3rd among active quarterbacks, he only has 1 year remaining on his 6 year rookie contract, and is in line for a big time extension to solidify himself as the franchise leader in Atlanta for years to come.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Ridley is the #85 ranked running back salary in 2012 ($509,250), yet is 4th in attempts, 5th in yards, and 2nd in touchdowns. It hasn’t been in the DNA of the New England Patriots’ front office to sign running backs to long-term contracts, but Ridley has shown that in game plans that favor the running game, he can carry the team on his shoulders. The young LSU product should be warrant an extension to boost his yearly pay.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins
The 4th year former Ohio State buckeye is having a breakout season with new quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the helm. Hartline is already earning double-teamed coverage only 6 weeks into the final season of his 4-year rookie contract. He triggered an escalator this year to raise his salary to $1.3 million and is line to be paid like the #1 receiver in Miami for the next few years.
Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
He’s signed through 2016, but the Eagles tight end has shown when he’s healthy that he’s both a safety option in blocking and short gains - as well as a legitimate deep threat. He leads all tight ends with 8 catches of 20+, and is second with 357 yards in 2012, while ranking #17th with a $1.9 million salary. A healthy Celek through 2013 should warrant a restructure request.
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
In his second NFL season, Watt has already proven his value as the dominant lineman in Houston and a viable replacement for the recently departed Mario Williams. His $885k salary in 2012 ranks 51st among lineman. His 7.5 sacks, and 26 combined tackles lead the league. Houston won’t wait long to pick up Watt long term.
Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Also in his second NFL season, Houston has supplanted himself as the center-piece of an already good Chiefs defense. His base $465k salary in 2012 ranks him 164th among linebackers. Houston is 2nd in sacks (6), and has 21 combined tackle, a safety, and an interception through 6 weeks this year.
William Moore, S, Atlanta Falcons
With fellow safety Thomas DeCoud extended graciously this past offseason, it’s only fair that Moore has the solid start to his 2012 season - the final year of his rookie contract. Moore boasts 39 combined tackles, 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 7 deflections through 6 weeks this season- a season that pays him a 71st best $565,000.