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9 NFL Free Agents Sure to Be Underpaid

David AllisonContributor IIJanuary 25, 2012

9 NFL Free Agents Sure to Be Underpaid

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    With only the New York Giants and New England Patriots still playing for postseason glory, the other 30 NFL teams are trying to figure out how to strengthen their teams in the offseason.

    Of course, drafting young players and re-signing your own free agents is a fantastic way to build a team from within.

    Most teams have seen the wisdom of this approach, but other teams (notably the Washington Redskins) continue to try to build themselves into contenders through free agent pickups.

    The 2012 free-agent class has some big names, with guys like Drew Brees, Ray Rice, Wes Welker and Matt Forte almost certain to end up with their current teams and a fat new contract.

    But this slideshow isn't about these stars. Instead it's about the guys who won't get paid this offseason. Let's dive in.

Jason Campbell Will Be Standing Without a Chair When the Music Stops

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    Jason Campbell's unfortunate midseason injury derailed what had been a nice showing for the six-year veteran. In six games, Campbell had piled up 1,170 yards and had six touchdowns.

    In the wake of his season-ending injury, the Oakland Raiders went out and paid a king's ransom to get the disgruntled Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Palmer's presence on the Raiders' roster will cause Campbell's value to plummet. Palmer has better career statistics and seems to have better upside than Campbell, who has been steady, but never spectacular.

    The Raiders' new coach, Dennis Allen, will have some tough decisions to make coming into 2012. None will more important than who to trust with the reins of the offense. He will most likely go with Palmer as the proven entity.

    Campbell may find himself commanding a backup quarterback's salary in 2012.

Michael Bush Won't Command the Kind of Money He'd Like

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    Although he protects the ball well and is a dangerous pass-catcher, Michael Bush is clearly a No. 2 running back with Darren McFadden in the fold.

    The Oakland Raiders have a number of dynamic offensive playmakers, and Bush doesn't fit the mold of the majority of these guys.

    Some teams that are looking for depth at running back will certainly crave his skills, but probably not enough to pay him royally.

    He's a complementary piece, and those types of players rarely get top dollar in free agency.

Reggie Wayne, in the Twilight of His Career, May Not Get the Contract He Wants

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    Reggie Wayne has been the Indianapolis Colts' premier receiver since Marvin Harrison's decline about five years ago.

    He has great hands, is athletic enough to shake cornerbacks and plays taller than his actual size. Even with inferior quarterbacks chucking him the ball this past season, he still racked up 960 total receiving yards.

    Now, however, the 33-year-old Wayne finds himself on the verge of losing a step.

    He can still make plays and probably has at least two more good years in him, but teams are wary of signing older veterans at skill positions for big contracts.

    With the shake-up in the Colts' front office, the new regime may decide that speedy defensive end Robert Mathis is a better free agent re-signing option than Wayne.

    Mathis is younger and is a true difference-maker for a team that is woefully under-manned on defense.

    Wayne will be paid, but he may not be in the upper echelon of wide receiver salaries any more.

Jeff Saturday Is Another Colt Who Won't Get Top Dollar

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    Jeff Saturday is an accomplished veteran center who has served as Peyton Manning's security blanket for his entire career.

    At the age of 36, however, his speed off the snap and his stamina over the long slog of the season will begin to tail off.

    Although he's been a mainstay at Pro Bowls and has been the heart of the Colts' offensive line for over a decade, Saturday is going to find himself taking a pay cut this offseason.

    The Colts are a team in transition, with a major overhaul underway guided by owner Jim Irsay. The new-look Colts may be without a familiar face in the center of their line in 2012.

As an Aging Center, Matt Birk Is in the Same Position as Saturday

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    The Baltimore Ravens' stalwart center Matt Birk finds himself in the same position as Jeff Saturday. He is a well-respected and effective veteran offensive lineman who is entering the final stages of a storied career.

    Now 35 years old, Birk is still one of the better centers in the NFL. His reign as a top center will be short-lived, however. He'll soon lose a step and find himself outplayed by opposing teams' younger defensive linemen. 

    Birk has been an anchor on the Ravens' offensive line for the past couple years. Before that, he held down the middle of the line for the Minnesota Vikings.

    Many fans in Baltimore would be sad to see him go. The Ravens may be ready, however, to either cut him loose or let him retire (as he has hinted).

    Teams know that this is coming for Birk and will shy away from signing him to a big contract as a result. 

Braylon Edwards' Lack of Production Will Lessen His Value

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    San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards totally underperformed in his first year in San Fran. Although supremely talented, Edwards has been plagued by injuries and his own lassitude throughout his career.

    After a down year with the 49ers, Edwards will have a hard time getting No. 1 wide receiver money. His physical tools are all there to be a game-changing receiver. He hasn't really put it all together to be a consistently effective pass-catcher.

    Look for a team desperate for receiver talent like the Arizona Cardinals or the St. Louis Rams to try to pick him up. But they likely won't pay top dollar for his services.

Kyle Orton Is a Journeyman Who Will Get Paid That Way

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    Kyle Orton's career has been riddled with mediocrity. He's had a few good moments and he has the experience and arm to move the ball, but he seems to lack the ability to take a team to the next level.

    In stints with the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and now the Kansas City Chiefs, Orton has compiled some nice statistics, but he's never been any team's first choice.

    Jay Cutler replaced him in Chicago, Tim Tebow replaced him in Denver and now Matt Cassel (who will be recovered from his injury by the start of the season) is likely to replace him in Kansas City.

    Orton will probably get looks from teams that need depth at quarterback (Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks), but with Orton's age and lack of moxie, it's unlikely that he'll get paid like a starting QB.

Tracy Porter's Health Concerns Will Keep His Salary Down

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    Tracy Porter is a nice cornerback when he's healthy. The New Orleans Saints value his speed and ability to lock down opposing teams' receivers.

    He is, however, injury-prone. In addition, while he's fantastic in coverage, he isn't a sure tackler.

    Porter has only been in the league for four years, but he has yet to complete an entire 16-game season without missing at least a couple of games due to injury.

    Teams would be wise to pay him like a No. 2 cornerback. He doesn't see the field enough to warrant the bigger money.

Rashean Mathis Will Be Hard-Pressed to Get the Big Bucks

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    Although he's been the Jacksonville Jaguars' premier cornerback for most of his nine-year career, Rashean Mathis' injury problems and lack of big-play production could hurt his value heading into free agency.

    Mathis had his 2011 season cut short by a torn ACL. Even before his injury, he demonstrated questionable effectiveness at the back end of the Jaguars' defense.

    Mathis' best days are probably behind him and it's unlikely that a team will pony up in a big way for his diminished skill set.  

    Let the buyer beware for the following players. These guys are unlikely to get paid well in 2012.

    1. Rashean Mathis

    2. Tracy Porter

    3. Kyle Orton

    4. Braylon Edwards

    5. Matt Birk

    6. Jeff Saturday

    7. Reggie Wayne

    8. Michael Bush

    9. Jason Campbell

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