2012 NFL free agency is quickly approaching now that there are only four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs. The 28 teams that have already been eliminated are now deep in thought on whether to keep their own free agents, or pursue more attractive options.
The NFL playoffs saw some amazing performances from future free agents, as well as some not so amazing performances. The mediocre performers potentially lost millions of dollars and interest from elite teams simply because of their performance in a single game.
Free agents on the national stage of the playoffs are placed under the most intensive microscope of their career—one that can make or break their future as an NFL player. For those who underperformed, their future in the league is cloudy at best.
Here are 10 NFL free agents that lost the most money this postseason:
Cedric Benson rushed for over 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season in Cincinnati while helping lead the young team to the playoffs.
Then his abysmal playoff performance happened.
In the AFC Wild Card Round against the Houston Texans Benson rushed seven times for 14 yards. Ouch. He did score a touchdown in a short-yardage situation, but his 2.0 average doesn’t help his case for a decent contract this offseason.
Benson is 29 years old, but is still a very solid option for a team utilizing a two-back system. Unfortunately for Benson, after his playoff performance teams aren’t going to be willing to pay him much to bring him in. What should have been a decent contract to finish out his career has turned into a contract simply allowing him to continue to play in the NFL.
Brent Grimes is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but he didn’t help his case for a large contract in free agency by sitting out of a playoff game this year—a playoff game that the Atlanta Falcons were humiliated in, 24-2.
Grimes practiced the week leading up to the playoff game against the New York Giants, only to sit out of the game. Some speculated that Grimes had his free agency in mind when sitting out, which is a red flag for any team looking at him on the market.
Grimes is a great corner, but a knee injury followed by not participating lost him a good amount of money this offseason. Time will tell if Grimes receives the payday he is seeking.
In the 2011 offseason free agency period the San Francisco 49ers let Aubrayo Franklin depart for the New Orleans Saints. The 49ers did that for a reason.
In two games this postseason Franklin posted one tackle. On the season Franklin had 17 total tackles. He was what some would call a bust for the Saints after coming off of impressive seasons with the 49ers.
The problem with Franklin is that he was effective as a nose tackle in a 3-4 with San Francisco, but struggled in a 4-3 with New Orleans.
Franklin joined a plethora of veterans that only signed one-year deals last offseason because of the lockout. Franklin had the perfect opportunity this offseason to show NFL teams he still has it. Now Franklin will struggle to find a team that wants to pay him anything at all.
Brodrick Bunkley posted a solid season as a starter at defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos. With free agency upcoming for Bunkley, things were looking up.
Bunkley posted a sack in the Broncos' upset win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Against the New England Patriots Bunkley suffered a concussion while the Broncos endured an embarrassing blowout.
A concussion is by no means Bunkley’s fault, but it hurts his chances of receiving a major contract he was likely hoping for this offseason. Bunkley isn’t getting any younger in NFL terms at age 28, and will have to settle for what the Broncos or other franchises are willing to offer him at this point.
Ryan Grant didn’t have an amazing season by any means, but really played better down the stretch for the Green Bay Packers. However, Grant’s impressive late-season performance didn’t include the playoff loss to the New York Giants.
In the last four games of the regular season Grant had a yard per carry average of 4.0 or better. In the loss to New York in the NFC divisional round Grant only had 33 yards rushing and lost a crucial fumble at a critical point in the game.
At 29 years old, Grant can still be a solid contributor to a team that uses a two-back system. Unluckily for Grant, his asking price was dramatically lowered thanks to his unimpressive playoff performance.
It’s uncertain whether Matt Birk will retire or not after the playoffs are over, but one thing is for sure—with the way the Ravens offensive line has performed this postseason no team is going to be willing to pay Birk much.
In the Ravens victory over the Houston Texans the offensive line struggled all game to protect quarterback Joe Flacco and provide running lanes for Ray Rice. Rice was held to a measly 2.9 average and Flacco was under constant pressure all game.
Obviously the struggles aren’t all Birk’s fault, but being a 35-year-old veteran at the most crucial point on the line ensures Birk most of the blame. If Birk doesn’t reach a Super Bowl this year he may want to return for a 15th season, but after his performance no NFL team may want to pay him anything.
Jerome Simpson is best known for his flip touchdown that would have garnered him some interest in free agency this offseason. Now Simpson may never play in the NFL again.
Simpson had a horrible game as the Cincinnati Bengals were defeated by the Houston Texans, only catching three passes for 33 yards. Simpson’s lack of production is confusing because of the single coverage he received thanks to fellow receiver A.J. Green.
Simpson was also recently indicted on drug trafficking charges and faces one to five years in prison. His tumultuous postseason has made it that Simpson may never set foot on a NFL field again.
Jermichael Finley is a freak athlete that lines up at multiple positions for the Green Bay Packers. Finley disappeared in the postseason, and so did his chances of landing a major contract.
In the Packers loss to the New York Giants Finley caught four passes for 37 yards. He also had a few critical drops in the game, something that Finley is becoming notorious for.
An athlete that causes mismatches all over the field should be signed to a ridiculous contract at only 24 years old, but Finley is making it hard to justify doing that. Many teams would love to bring Finley in, but the money he would love to make continues to drop with the passes he allows to bounce off his hands.
Robert Meachem is a rare deep threat that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was more than happy to utilize all season. Meachem had a solid game against Detroit in the Wild Card Round, but things got ugly for him against San Francisco.
Against the 49ers in the divisional round, Meachem simply disappeared. He caught three passes for 19 yards and missed most of the second half with cramps. Not quite the performance an impending free agent needs in his last game before hitting the open market.
The Saints have several free agents they must bring back before Meachem including Drew Brees, Carl Nicks and Marques Colston. The rest of the teams in the league won’t offer much for Meachem knowing this and looking at his mediocre performance against the 49ers.
John Abraham is a seasoned veteran and a member of the 100 sack club. With an impressive 2011 campaign under his belt, Abraham looked to carry that success into the postseason.
Abraham didn’t perform horribly, recording one sack against the New York Giants. However, Abraham failed to have a massive impact on the game as his team was embarrassed, 24-2. The lack of consistent pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning exposed Abraham’s deteriorating skill set.
At 33 years old, Abraham still has some good football left in the tank. Based on his average at best performance against the Giants, it’s doubtful if teams will want to pay him decent money and bring him in on anything more than a cheap one-year deal.