Five NFL Free Agents Who Won’t Be Worth the Price of Admission in 2013
The NFL Shield
For many NFL players as well as franchises, offseason free agency is equal parts state lottery drawing, crap shoot and public audition. With potential millions of dollars on the line, franchises must do their due diligence when targeting a player to come in, sign a contract and claim a starting roster spot. For players, like the rest of society, they can go where their services are most valued. At first glance, free agency appears to be a win-win situation for franchises and players alike. However, there are some who believe that free agency changed the game for the worse and that there's some loss of loyalty between teams and players as well as with the fans.
But in certain cases change can be good.
Since NFL unrestricted free agency began in earnest in 1993, there have been hundreds of players that have bounced from one team to the next with various levels of success. Case in point, for every Reggie White (who in '93 signed a record $17 million deal for a linemen, to play for the Green Bay Packers) that actually changes the course of his new franchise, there's an Albert Haynesworth (whose $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins appears to be the best heist film in American cinema), whom also changes the fortunes of their new team, but for the worse. However, those are just two extreme examples of the potential and pitfalls in regards to free agent players. The long and short of the matter is that there's a lot of gray area when it comes to players finding a new NFL home.
Although there seems to be equal parts star and bust in free agency, I have complied a list of players that for one reason or another won't be worth the price of admission.
5. Jake Long
A four-time Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins, offensive tackle Jake Long plays one of the most unglamorous positions on the football field. Unlike receivers, running backs, linebackers or safeties, offensive linemen don't have dozens of stats that can be used to show their productivity or lack thereof. Also, to the average NFL fan, rarely do they notice offensive linemen unless they are under preforming or constantly getting beaten by the pass rush. For Long's case, neither may be the case as he settles into the role of protector of Sam Bradford with the St. Louis Rams.
4. Rashard Mendenhall
Yes, he has a Super Bowl ring. And yes, he's known for his bruising rushing style. However, the six year back fell out of favor with head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff last season for inconsistent play on the field and what many perceived to be a lack of maturity on and off the field. Signing with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, Rashard Mendenhall may indeed be on a short leash with Bruce Arians who is known for slinging the football around the field. In all likelihood, however, it will be injuries that will keep Mendenhall away from the field.
3. Charles Woodson
A former Heisman Trophy winner and fourth selection by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1998 draft, Charles Woodson started his NFL career as a shutdown cornerback. But as age and injuries piled up, Woodson, as a Packer, moved into the role of safety. Although the seven-time All-Pro and 2009 Defensive Player of the Year helped lead the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV championship, the now 36 year-old safety is going home again to the "Black Hole" of the Oakland Coliseum. But one has to wonder how much time he's going to spend on the field of play versus how much time he'll spend on the sideline in street clothes coaching up younger defensive backs.
2. Dwight Freeney
A seven-time Pro-Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts, Dwight Freeney is regarded as a pass rush specialist at the defensive end position. Known for his speed, explosiveness at the snap of the ball and a devastating spin move that's left quite a few offensive linemen grasping at air, Freeney was converted from defensive end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme during his last season with the Colts under new head coach Chuck Pagano. Due to injury as well as playing out of position, Freeney had a career-low year with only five sacks and 12 tackles on the season. Now as a member of the San Diego Chargers at this stage in his career, it's doubtful that Freeney will see double digit sacks nor will he be an every down defensive end for the club as they too run a 3-4 scheme.
1. Paul Kruger
Paul Kruger made a name for himself as a linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, and in the offseason he cashed in by signing with Ravens' division rival Cleveland Browns. Kruger has the greatest potential of being a free agent signing bust. A four-year pro, it hasn't been until the last two seasons that Kruger's production and stats started to resemble a top flight linebacker. However, a case has been made that Kruger was able to have the type of season that he had due to playing along side linebackers Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.