A couple days ago, ESPN's Mike Sando put together a list of overvalued and undervalued players in the NFC West. The lists are based on salary and performance. The 49ers find themselves with three players on the overvalued list and none on the undervalued list:
Nate Clements, 49ers cornerback. Clements appeared uncomfortable and off his game last season. An injury eventually landed him on injured reserve. The 49ers can stomach his $6 million salary if Clements returns to form, but the price otherwise appears quite steep.
Michael Lewis, 49ers safety. Three concussions last season raised serious questions about whether Lewis should continue playing and whether he can stay on the field. His salary is $4.1 million.
Brandon Jones, 49ers receiver. His $2.145 million salary isn't particularly burdensome, but Jones became worth far less to the 49ers once the team drafted Michael Crabtree and, to a much lesser extent, added Ted Ginn Jr.
It's certainly not shocking to see these three guys on the list. When any kind of overpaid list comes up, these three are sure to be mentioned. Of all three, Nate Clements is the most intriguing in my eyes. If Lewis is healthy, we know what we're getting. Brandon Jones certainly has some upside, but if he struggles it wouldn't be shocking, and the 49ers have other depth to replace him. However, with Clements back to 100% healthy, nobody really knows what to expect from him. He struggled before getting injured and at one point was replaced by Tarell Brown. The question now is how he'll bounce back in training camp. He's probably not worth the $6 million, but if he returns to his form of a year and a half ago, he could be a big boost to the secondary.
In the undervalued list, the 49ers were the only team in the NFC West not included. Sando did include points on some of the unmentioned 49ers:
The fine print: As noted, the 49ers have rewarded quite a few of their younger players. Others, including Vernon Davis, are earning good money this season. Manny Lawson, Josh Morgan and Dashon Goldson were considerations, but each had a chance to earn more money through escalators.
Even with contract escalators, I still think Josh Morgan qualifies as undervalued. After all, he was playing with a 2009 base salary of $385,000 and his total deal was 4 years, $1.811 million. The same holds true for Goldson.
If I was looking at just the 49ers undervalued options beyond the guys mentioned above, I might include a guy like Eric Heitmann. He had a base salary of $800,000 and a million dollar roster bonus. Even with bonuses and whatnot, Heitmann has been a strong performer for the team year in and year out.
Going forward, are there any predictions on who might emerge as an "undervalued performer" among the current crop of players? Maybe Jason Hill? Maybe Tarell Brown? Any other predictions?