15 NFL Free Agents Who Will Be Overpaid in 2014
NFL Free Agency: 15 Players Who Will Be Overpaid in 2014
NFL free agency season has arrived, and there is no shortage of talent in this year's crop of players who are on the market. Particularly interesting is the fact that many free agent players were a part of deep playoff runs in the 2013 season; including multiple big names from the Denver Broncos. These types of players who have had breakout, big-number seasons generally earn larger-than-necessary contracts when they hit the market after a Super Bowl appearance.
Another major consideration for teams picking from the free agent pool in 2014 is the NFL's surprising shift back towards the success of dominant defenses. The league seemed to moving in a direction that favored high-powered offenses over the past five or so seasons. Yet before everyone could write off the idea that the league's best defense could win them a Super Bowl over a superior offense, the Seahawks made a game-changing statement with their win in Super Bowl XLVIII against one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the NFL.
So now not only do bad teams have to look at improving on both sides of the ball, but defense has to become an even bigger priority again for the entire league. With that in mind, here's a look at 15 free agents who are sure to be overpaid in 2014.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB)
Rodgers-Cromartie's name still carries weight due to his breakout early in his career with the Arizona Cardinals. Turning 28 years old in April, he is still at his prime physically and he will be attractive to teams looking to improve their secondary with a guy that has health and big game experience. But his recent performances haven't been much more than average. He has not exceeded three interceptions in a season since 2009 when he had a career-high six INTs, and was at the middle of the pack among starting cornerbacks in passes defensed in the 2013 -- with fourteen. His finesse style of play means he contributes very little as a tackler in man coverage situations, limiting his value largely to big plays in zone packages.
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB)
MJD is perennially considered to be one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL since earning his stripes with three consecutive seasons with 1,300+ yards rushing from 2009-2011. After being out for much of 2012 with a foot injury, Jones-Drew had a sub-par 2013. He managed just 803 yards rushing on 234 carries, ranking him 41st in yards/rush (3.4) among running backs with 100+ rushing attempts. Jones-Drew will be three seasons removed from his last really productive year as an elite running back, but his flashes of potential and the possibility of seeing him in a more successful system outside of Jacksonville will increase his market value.
James Starks (RB)
Starks' four years in the NFL have been inconsistent, but he has shown that when he is healthy he can play well in a system as a number two, possession-style back. Starks averaged a league-leading 5.5 yards per carry in 2013, a number that will attract teams looking to add dynamism to their run game. The problem is that outside of Green Bay, who is blessed with the threat of Aaron Rodgers and now the sensation that is Eddie Lacy, Starks would most likely be relied on for more than just 89 carries. He is still an unproven commodity at best and a benefactor of his more talented teammates at worst.
Jeremy Maclin (WR)
Maclin missed the entire 2013 season with an ACL injury, but has maintained a name for himself since his breakout year in 2010 in which he had 10 receiving touchdowns. It's hard to go on faith that it's that Maclin that you would be getting in 2014 and beyond, considering the pieces he had working around him that year. Michael Vick rushed for nine touchdowns, LeSean McCoy rushed for over 1,000 yards and had 573 receiving yards, and DeSean Jackson had 1,056 yards receiving. Since 1998, only Devery Henderson has averaged more yards per reception in a season than DeSean Jackson's 22.5 in 2010. Maclin's success in the slot and the red zone was extremely dependent on the system around him, including an unstoppable run game and one of the best deep-threats in the game.
TJ Ward (S)
TJ Ward had 112 tackles in 2013, putting him behind only Barry Church in total tackles among safeties in the regular season. The problem with physical safeties that rack up tackles is that they are only a commodity if they are on a secondary with play-making safeties and corners. Otherwise, they fade into the background of mediocre defenses because they can't make plays on the ball. Notoriously high-paid safeties like Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson and Ronde Barber have all had cornerback skills that helped them play physically while also defend the pass. Ward had five passes defensed this year. On a stacked secondary like the Seahawks, his skill set would be an asset. On any other team, he is a solid starter worth regular starting safety money.
Knowshon Moreno (RB)
Moreno is a proven talent as a receiving back, and his skill set was showcased last season as part of the historically good Denver Broncos' offense. Still, he wasn't even the best receiving back in his own division. Pierre Thomas, Danny Woodhead, Matt Forte, Darren Sproles and Jamaal Charles all had more receptions than Moreno, and all but Thomas caught those passes for more total yards. Moreno also had the rare pleasure of playing with four receivers who combined for 4,284 yards and 47 touchdowns. Such a productive offense would boost any running back's numbers.
Josh McCown (QB)
There were an astounding amount of people last season speaking about McCown during his tenure as starter on the Chicago Bears as if he were a young kid. Even more incredible was the fact that many also thought that McCown should be handed the starting gig over a healthy Cutler. McCown played well when he came during Cutler's missed starts due to injury, but the fact of the matter is that he has been a backup in the NFL since 2002, and will turn 35 years old in July. Prior to 2013, he was 13-20 in career starts, with a 77.2 passer rating. In other words, he is about as average as a backup quarterback comes. The price that a team will pay based on his performance in a few games in 2013 will be very inflated.
Jon Beason (LB)
In his first four seasons in the league (2007-2010) Beason averaged 134 total tackles a season. His 537 total tackles over that time frame were third best behind only Patrick Willis and London Fletcher. After tearing his achilles in 2011 and dealing with a nagging knee injury in 2012, Beason began to make his way back to previous form after being traded to the New York Giants and helping their defense come together to play a major role in winning 5 of 6 games after starting the season 0-6. Beason certainly still has the skill to be a defensive leader, but his injury issues over the past few years along with his lack of explosiveness in the pass rush mean that he probably isn't worth the money that his name and comeback season will probably earn him.
Jared Allen (DE)
Allen has been one of the NFL's premier defensive ends for nearly a decade, and his name is deservedly synonymous with the very definition of the modern, elite defensive end. No one playing in the NFL has more sacks since 2004, and when it is all said and done he is one of the greatest pass rushers to ever play the game. With 11.5 sacks last season he has proved he still has plenty of game left to play, but there is no denying that he is on the back half of his career after hitting his prime in 2011 with 22.0 sacks. Allen will turn 32 in April and enter his 11th NFL season, and the likelihood that he will play out whatever contract he gets without injury or significant decline in production is very slim.
James Jones (WR)
James Jones in most high-powered offenses would be a No. 3 possession receiver. He was thrust into a larger role with the injuries to Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, and still managed to have his 2013 numbers massively eclipsed by leading receiver Jordy Nelson. Jones' 14 touchdown season in 2012 leaves many teams itching to see what they could do with him in the red zone. But across the span of a seven year career, his production in 2012 is an incongruity that unfortunately seems like it had more to do with the guy running his offense and throwing him the ball. /p>
Eric Decker (WR)
Decker's marked and drastic improvement since Peyton Manning's arrival in Denver is hardly surprising, nor is it an indictment. It is, however, hard to imagine translating into another system with another team. Before Manning - in 2011 - Decker had 44 catches for 612 yards and eight touchdowns; a good season but certainly not the season you want from a No. 1 receiver. And while Decker's 2013 season was brilliant, he went on streaks in some games of being nearly irrelevant among more the more dynamic receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, only picking up momentum in the red zone toward the end of the season when Wes Welker was largely out with injury.
Donte Whitner (S)
Whitner was clearly playing for a contract in 2013, as he was a major part of the San Francisco 49er's secondary and contributed a career-high 12 passes defensed. His style is almost opposite from TJ Ward, as he is a middle of the pack tackler with huge big play potential. Historically though, defensive backs who have big play potential with career seasons during a contract year, turn out to be massive disappointments. Whitner will be a great asset to the secondary whether he stays in San Francisco or moves on to another team, but he is not worth Ed Reed money.
Brian Orakpo (LB)
Orakpo is young, explosive, a skilled pass rusher who can also drop back as a pass defender and has played in at least 15 games in four of his five seasons in the NFL. Any team looking to add a veteran leader still in their prime to their linebacking core will be attracted to Orakpo, and that may include 70 percent of the teams in the league. Considering the wide range of teams that could use Orakpo's skill set and general bill of health after returning from injury, as well as the number of teams that were burned by injured linebackers in 2013, his market value will be at a premium.
Brandon Pettigrew (TE)
At 6-foot-5, and 265 pounds, Pettigrew is one of the more physically imposing tight ends in the league. He has been a serviceable to above-average tight end for the Lions since entering the league in 2009, topping off at 777 yards and five touchdowns in his best season in 2011. Unlike other physically dominant tight ends in the NFL right now (like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham), Pettigrew plays a pretty classic role in his offense and has never been used as a lead receiver. But their are plenty of teams looking for their own Gronk or Graham, who believe that Pettigrew could excel as a receiver in his own right if he were out of Calvin Johnson's shadow. Unfortunately, they are wrong and whoever pays him will end up with the same guy that Detroit has had for the last five seasons.
Michael Vick (QB)
Michael Vick's allure to teams in the NFL is somewhat of a mystery considering how injury-plagued he has been, and how his style of play only continually puts him in harm's way even when he is healthy. Yet NFL executives have continued to stress that they believe Vick is not only the most coveted free agent quarterback in 2014, but that he will end up with a starting job somewhere; and a starting quarterback job means starting- quarterback money. Vick will be 34 years old when the 2014 season begins, and knowing all that we know about his skill set and problematic health history, it's nearly impossible that whatever team he lands with will get their money's worth.