We’ve already seen Bleacher Report assess RB Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints as the most underpaid player on the roster, and now Bleacher Report has gone the other direction and named the most overpaid player of each NFL team. For the New Orleans Saints, it’s LB A.J. Klein:
A.J. Klein had a few nice moments as an injury substitute for Luke Kuechly during the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Though he didn’t have anything approaching Kuechly’s range and play-reading ability, he also didn’t embarrass himself as a stationary inside linebacker who could make a few plays in the passing game and close down on the run. Klein got the most out of his potential with the Panthers and was a valuable backup.
So, when the Saints signed him to a three-year, $15 million contract with $9.4 million guaranteed in March 2017, it seemed like a bit of a high guarantee for a player of Klein’s capabilities, but not too out of the ordinary.
The problem was, when he was expected to provide starting-level play on a snap-to-snap basis, Klein found it tough to measure up. He looked lost in coverage in a defense that required him to cover more ground. Klein isn’t fluid enough to cover from the middle out, and receivers who run angular routes in short areas easily put him out of place. And as a run-stopper, he isn’t fast enough to flare out and deal with backs out of the backfield when closer to the line of scrimmage.
Now, the Saints are stuck with a $5.2 million cap hit for Klein’s services in 2018, and they can’t get out of the contract until 2019 without a larger financial penalty. This is an example of how a seemingly small, innocuous contract can come back to bite the team giving it.
Klein has been the subject of other articles circulating in recent days as a possible trade candidate in a post-June 1 move, with contract considerations part of the motivation in a hypothetical move.
But back to the main point of this piece: who do you think is the Saints most over-paid player? Do you agree that it’s AJ Klein, making an average of $6 million per year of his deal? Maybe you think it’s the oft-injured Terron Armstead, making an average of $13 million per year. Maybe you think it’s Armstead’s fellow trenchmate, Max Unger, averaging $7.4 million. Or maybe you think it’s someone else. Let us know in the comments. Send me presents.