NFL Free Agency 2013: 5 Free Agents Who Will Be Overpaid

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What Happens When NFL Teams Overpay for Free Agents?

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Once upon a time (2012), the Buffalo Bills signed an expensive free agent. His name was Mario Williams. The Bills signed this defensive end to a six-year, $100 million contract. Many Bills fans rejoiced because they believed it was the key ingredient that would help them reach the 2012-13 NFL playoffs. Years of playoff-less football were about to end!

In his first season with the Bills, Williams had 46 tackles, two forced fumbles and 10.5 sacks. Those were his best tackle and sack totals since the 2008-09 season. One of his sacks came against his former team, the Houston Texans. Three of his sacks came against the Indianapolis Colts. That’s correct: three sacks in one game.

Williams enjoyed one of his finest seasons. In return, the Bills watched their $100 million investment help increase their win total from six wins to six wins. This zero-win difference was good enough to get them absolutely nowhere near the AFC playoff picture.

There was another fairy tale about this “Dream Team” that built much of their roster through free agency. They were called the Philadelphia Eagles. We’ll save that story for another time.

Some teams never learn from their mistakes nor others’ mistakes. They overpay free agents because their name recognition excites the fans. Within weeks, management realizes that they’re not a good fit for the organization. They’re stuck with paying those huge signing bonuses.

These five free agents will be among the most overpaid signings during the 2013 NFL free-agency period. They’re listed in alphabetical order, not by rank of importance.

Buyer beware.

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Cliff Avril (DE)

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Through four seasons, Cliff Avril has 39.5 career sacks and 16 forced fumbles. It must help when he plays for a team who has Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley anchoring the interior of the defensive line. As a run-defender, Avril offers very little.

Mario Williams-type money (six-year, $100 million)? No chance. A one-dimensional defensive lineman isn’t worth half of that, which is what Avril could get.

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Jared Cook (TE)

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The Tennessee Titans declined to use their franchise tag on Jared Cook after he threatened to take the case into arbitration. Had Cook won, the Titans would’ve had to pay him over $10.5 million as a wide receiver instead of the $6.066 million for a tight end.

Cook finished the 2012-13 season with 44 receptions for 523 yards and two touchdowns. Through four seasons, Cook has 131 catches. For a player who normally splits out, that’s pretty weak. It doesn’t help that he’s an awful run-blocker.

Yet, some team will overpay for his athleticism at the tight end position—even though he rarely plays tight end. Cook was the AFC’s version of Jermichael Finley; although he never had the breakout playoff game like Finley did in Jan. 2010.

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Greg Jennings (WR)

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Since Greg Jennings was drafted in 2006, he has caught passes from Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. These quarterbacks can make almost anyone look good

How much should a team pay for a wide receiver who has missed 11 games over the past two seasons, eight of which came during the 2012-13 season? Jennings has never had more than 80 catches in any season. The 2010-11 season was his last season of more than 1,000 receiving yards or 10 touchdowns. He’ll turn 30 years old in Sept. ESPN lists him as 5-11 and 198 pounds.

Reportedly, Jennings wants $12-14 million per season. He’ll probably get $8-9 million, which is still too much.

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Osi Umenyiora (DE)

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Living on past accomplishments, Osi Umenyiora is another defensive lineman who benefited from a good scheme and supporting cast. The 31-year-old has seen his sack totals decline in each of the last two seasons. His 2011 decline was caused from injury. In 2012, Umenyiora had just six sacks.

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Mike Wallace (WR)

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Which team will overpay for Mike Wallace? Wallace has never had more than 72 catches in any single season. Only once has Wallace had more than eight touchdown catches. At age 27 (in Aug.), when does his speed start declining?

The Miami Dolphins could pay Wallace more than the Kansas City Chiefs paid Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million per season). That hasn’t worked well for the Arizona Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald) or Lions (Calvin Johnson).

Joshua Huffman is a contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your LinkedIn and Google networks.