Is Panthers' Charles Johnson Underrated?

Is it possible that the player with the third highest cap hit in the NFL could be underrated? For Carolina Panthers’ Charles Johnson, that certainly seems to be the case.

This week’s Elliot Harrison put together his All-Underrated team, which included three Carolina Panthers. While defensive tackle Kawann Short and kicker Graham Gano makes sense, it was a bit of a surprise to see defensive end Charles Johnson. He is entering the 2015 season with the third highest cap hit in the NFL at $20,020,000, which is just behind wide receiver Calvin Johnson and ahead of players like Eli Manning, Mario Williams and Aaron Rodgers, according to Spotrac.

This then raises the question, can a player with this kind of salary still be considered underrated?

In terms of the value he brings to the Panthers, the answer would probably be no or the team wouldn’t have been willing to offer the contract they did. However, in terms of his place in the NFL among pass rushers, he seems to be largely forgotten.

These are the top seven players in terms of sacks over the past five seasons with Johnson tied for fifth with Kansas City ChiefsTamba Hali.

NFL Sack Leaders Since 2010

Name Total Sacks 10+ sack seasons Pro Bowls All-Pro
DeMarcus Ware 62.5 4 4 1
Jared Allen 62 4 2 1
Cameron Wake 57.5 2 3 1
J.J. Watt 57 3 3 3
Charles Johnson 52.5 3 0 0
Tamba Hali 52.5 3 4 0
Mario Williams 51.5 3 2 1

*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

**J.J. Watts entered the league in 2011, so his stats are over four years

Of this group, every player has been selected to at least two Pro Bowls and, except for Hali, been selected to at least one All-Pro team. Meanwhile, Johnson has not been selected to either over this time frame.

When asked who have been some of the top pass rushers over the past five years, it would be hard pressed to find someone to mention Johnson’s name outside the Carolinas.

Even though he may be underrated to the rest of the NFL, the Panthers know how valuable he is to this defense. With the departure of Greg Hardy, the responsibility will be back on Johnson to lead the pass rush.

ESPN’s David Newton wrote that Johnson could be moving to the right side of the line this upcoming season. This could create more opportunities for Johnson to get to the quarterback as he will be going up against right tackles, who are typically not as athletic as the left tackles. 

Brandon Croce is the Lead Publisher for You can find him on Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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