Writer: Lions' Mathis, Levy underpaid; Johnson overpaid
The Lions apparently are getting more than their money's worth for Rashean Mathis and DeAndre Levy.
That's according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, who has the two Lions among his top 10 most underpaid veterans in the NFL for an item at ESPN.com (pay site). Jahnke uses his own "Jahnke Value Model" and the player's salary cap hit to come up with a value differential in ranking the players.
The 35-year-old Mathis, a cornerback entering his 13th NFL season and third with the Lions, comes in at No. 5. His salary cap hit, but he carries a $5.5 million value differential, according to Jahnke's formula.
"He is getting paid like a 35-year-old corner, but he hasn't been playing like one," Jahnke wrote. "In his last two games of the 2014 season against the Packers and Cowboys, he played 42 coverage snaps, and allowed only a 3-yard catch.
Amazingly, he's allowed single-digital receiving yards in 10 of his 31 games with the Lions, and he has yet to give up more than 100 yards in a game. With just one interception in the last two seasons, Mathis is living proof that you can still shut down receivers without picking off the quarterback."
Levy, meanwhile, is coming off a season in which he was second in the NFL in tackles (151 combined). At No. 8 on Jahnke's list, Levy counts $4.5 million against the Lions' cap, but is worth $9.5 million in Jahnke's model — a $5 million difference.
"Levy, who's in the last year of his second contract, is on pace for a big payday if all goes right," Jahnke wrote. "It's rare for 4-3 outside linebackers to get much fanfare, but Levy was among the top linebackers in the game last season."
It's not all good news for the Lions, however. Jahnke on Wednesday released his list of most overpaid NFL veterans (pay site). Star wide receiver Calvin Johnson checks in at No. 4. His $20.6 million cap hit exceeds Jahnke's value model of $8.8 million.
"There was a time when Megatron was the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL" Jahnke wrote. "This past season, players like (Steelers reciever and former Central Michigan standout) Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants) were fighting for that crown, and the two of them combined won't be making as much as Johnson will this season."