After another interesting year of NFL free agency, football fans head into April with a renewed sense of optimism about the 2012 season.
For some top-tier players who didn't get top-tier deals, the optimism is not shared.
With a lot of good players on the NFL free-agent market, it's common for a player or two to not get the big contracts that they truly deserve.
We count down seven players who never got the big money that they should have gotten in the NFL's 2012 edition of free agency.
Contract: Received exclusive franchise tag
True market value: Five-to-six years, $100-120 million
Analysis: In an offseason that saw the Saints re-sign top receiver Marques Colston, make a big splash with guard Ben Grubbs and then almost lose everything in the "BountyGate" scandal, it's no wonder Drew Brees didn't get his money.
New Orleans was unable to lock up their quarterback for the long term, despite his record-setting performance in 2011 and the big deals that other signal-callers in his class recently got.
Contract: Three years, $19 million total, $10 million guaranteed
True market value: Four-to-five years, $60-plus million
Analysis: After the Kevin Kolb fiasco in 2011, teams were reluctant to buy into the limited sample size that they had of Flynn.
The quarterback was unable to land the huge deal that players before him, like Matt Schaub and Kevin Kolb signed, despite a very high stock going into free agency.
Contract: Received franchise tag
True market value: Four-to-six years, $35-$50 million
Analysis: With the recent, disturbing trend of running backs getting injured or hitting the wall, the Bears were reluctant to make a long-term commitment to Matt Forte.
Instead, the team brought in Raiders rusher Michael Bush to spell Forte and make the incumbent Bear know that he is replaceable. The move has led to a caustic relationship between Forte and the club.
True market value: Three-to-four years, $20-$25 million
Analysis: For a small stretch last season, Demetrius Bell was up there with Jason Peters as one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
While I'm sure that over a 16-game season, Bell would regress a bit from that showing, he certainly proved that he is capable of being an above-average left tackle and he still doesn't have a contract.
Contract: Two years, $14 million
True market value: Three-to-four years, $24-$28 million
Analysis: In terms of just salary, this deal is somewhat fair for one of the best receiving tight ends in the game today.
What we have to realize with Finley, though, is that he didn't get the long-term security that I'm sure he'd have liked to receive. Vernon Davis recently got a six-year deal. Just saying.
True market value: Two-to-three years, $18-$28 million
Analysis: You could argue that London Fletcher was one of the three best inside linebackers in all of football last year, but he is without a contract going into April.
Fletcher's age is scaring teams away, who would rather be a year too early than a year too late with the veteran linebacker.
Contract: Received franchise tag
True market value: Five-to-six years, $50-$59 million
Analysis: Grimes is up there as one of the best cornerbacks in all of football and he was an integral part in the Falcons' run last season.
The Atlanta defensive back didn't get the huge contract that other, comparable players on the market (Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan) received, which is grounds to be a little upset come training camp.
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