Free agency is an exciting time for fans, but it's a stressful time for NFL executives. The issue is that free agency is a gamble that doesn't always pay off. This article includes a list of players who are not worth the money they receive.
Looking at this list, you'll notice several teams make a repeat appearance. The Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks all have three players listed. Notice that these three teams haven't been the most successful over the past few seasons.
Free agency can be positive, but those franchises that rely on it to win often are left with disappointment.
Contract: three-year deal for $24 million, with $9 million guaranteed
Alex Smith did a lot of nice things last season for the San Francisco 49ers, but the jury is still out on his long-term success. Last year was the best season of his career, and it came when he was asked to play the role of game manager. Today's NFL requires more than a game manager to win a Super Bowl.
There's a chance the 49ers paid Smith a one-year deal worth over $9 million, because if he has a subpar season they'll look to go in a different direction.
The reason this contract isn't higher on the list is because there is a chance he earns his money. However, it appears at No. 25 because there's an equal chance he fails to repeat last year's production.
Contract: four-year deal for $43 million, with $7.5 million guaranteed
The Carson Palmer contract appears on this list because the Oakland Raiders figure to keep him around for a few years. They didn't pay such a high price in the trade with the Cincinnati Bengals to release Palmer after a season and a half, so the $7.5 million guaranteed is actually much larger because of the length of the contract.
Palmer is still a serviceable NFL quarterback, but he doesn't really fit the makeup of this franchise. The Raiders need upgrades all across the roster. They'd be better off with a younger quarterback who fits their rebuilding process. At 32 years old, Palmer is in the last couple seasons of his career.
If Palmer had this contract with a team closer to contention and that team didn't surrender a valuable trade package, he wouldn't appear on this list.
Contract: four-year deal for $19.5 million, with $8 million guaranteed
Mark Anderson had a productive year last season with the New England Patriots, which is why the Buffalo Bills targeted him in free agency. However, he only averaged 2.7 sacks per season in the five years before joining the Patriots. This is a classic overpay for a player who had a breakout season.
There's likely a reason the Patriots didn't make a strong push to re-sign Anderson. He was their top pass-rusher last season, yet New England decided to let him sign with a division rival.
Those expecting Anderson to top the double-digit sack mark this season might have unrealistic expectations. He's more likely to come in around the five-sack mark, with a lot of that production being thanks to the attention paid to Mario Williams.
Contract: five-year deal for $36.3 million, with $17.7 million guaranteed
Marques Colston has been a highly productive player for the New Orleans Saints. However, his numbers are inflated because he plays with Drew Brees. If he played in another system with another quarterback, he'd have nowhere near the same production.
The Saints paid premium price for a No. 1 wide receiver but really got a No. 2 target.
Another concern surrounding this contract is Colston's durability. He's only played a full 16-game schedule twice in his six-year career. Franchises often regret giving a big contract to a player who struggles to stay on the field.
The Drew Brees factor is another reason the Saints should've avoided this contract. Brees is a talented enough quarterback to survive with lesser talent at the wide receiver position. They could've saved a ton of money and added a cheaper option via free agency.
Contract: five-year deal for $55 million, with $26 million guaranteed
Vincent Jackson got paid like he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver. However, the fact is he's never really produced at that level. Throughout his seven-year career, Jackson has only topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark three times and has never caught more than 68 passes.
There's no doubting Jackson's raw talent and big-play potential, but he hasn't been a consistent performer. Add in some off-field issues, and you have a player who was grossly overpaid. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could find themselves regretting this contract as early as next season.
The issue facing Tampa Bay was that it had a major need at the wide receiver position and had a lot of money to spend. This seems like an in-the-moment signing that has the potential to backfire.
Contract: three-year deal for $19.5 million, with $10 million guaranteed
Matt Flynn's deal with the Seattle Seahawks wouldn't look nearly as bad if he was able to beat out Russell Wilson for the starting job. However, the Seahawks are now paying over $10 million for a backup quarterback. This team has too many needs to justify such a signing, especially when it had Tarvaris Jackson on the roster.
The Seahawks should've also tailored their offer based on the market. There weren't many teams pursuing Flynn. This should have told Seattle that most evaluators in the NFL didn't see him as a starting quarterback. Most importantly, his former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, didn't make a strong push to have Flynn follow him to Miami.
This is one of the contracts on this list that could end the season as a good deal. Wilson's hold on the starting job is not set in stone. There's a strong possibility that Flynn gets another opportunity this year to seize the long-term starting job.
Contract: five-year deal for $33.75 million, with $8 million guaranteed
A.J. Hawk gets a lot of slack because of his high profile and popularity; however, he's grossly overpaid. The way Hawk received this contract only makes his situation more of a black eye for the Green Bay Packers.
Ted Thompson released Hawk because he didn't want to pay him a $10 million roster bonus, only to re-sign him to a long-term deal featuring $8 million in guarantees.
Last season was a terrible year for the entire Packers defense, but especially Hawk. He struggled to support the run with consistency and was often out of position against the pass. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had the following to say about Hawk:
Hawk? You've got to be kidding. He's just a guy. His contract is by far the worst contract that Thompson has ever enacted.
The decision to re-sign Hawk was doubly damaging because it also meant the end of Nick Barnett's career in Green Bay. They played side-by-side from 2006 until Week 4 of 2010 when Barnett broke his wrist. Scouts routinely over the years called Barnett the better player of the two.
Contract: franchise tag, $8.856 million guaranteed for one season
The Dallas Cowboys made upgrading the talent in the secondary their main offseason focus. This is one of the reasons why they decided to slap Anthony Spencer with the franchise tag. They just didn't have the cap room to make a push to sign a top-level pass-rusher. However, paying Spencer a guaranteed $8.856 million is steep.
It's shocking that Spencer has never topped the six-sack mark in a single season. With DeMarcus Ware on the roster, Spencer receives plenty of one-on-one opportunities. It's obvious that he isn't capable of taking advantage of those opportunities.
This deal appears like a stopgap solution that helps the Cowboys avoid signing Spencer to a long-term deal. However, they could've worked out a multi-year deal with less guaranteed money and just released Spencer after the season.
Contract: seven-year deal for $57.168 million, with $18 million guaranteed
Since signing his massive contract, Miles Austin has battled a string of nagging injuries. Last season, these injuries limited him to 10 games, 43 receptions and only 579 receiving yards. This year hasn't started out on a good note, as Austin has missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury.
Austin's struggles to stay healthy are placed in the spotlight because of the other issues going on around the Dallas Cowboys. This team is always under the microscope, and this preseason has been filled with plenty of negatives. The issues include Austin's injury, Dez Bryant's off-field issues, Jason Witten's injury and poor play along the offensive line.
There have been some whispers questioning Austin's toughness. He has an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, but first he'll have to get over this recent hamstring injury.
Contract: five-year deal for $27.5 million, with $8.25 million guaranteed
When the Washington Redskins acquired Jammal Brown, they had a major need at the right tackle position. Some felt that Brown just needed a change of scenery and he'd be able to live up to his potential. However, he hasn't been able to remain healthy enough to make an impact.
In two seasons with the Redskins, Brown has missed a total of four games and now is expected to miss at least the first six games of the 2012 season. It's safe to say that Washington didn't get its money's worth out of this contract.
The bigger concern is the overall state of the offensive line. Washington is trying to develop rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and now must do so with a projected backup at right tackle. It's never a good thing to have a young quarterback deal with a lot of pressure.
Contract: five-year deal for $43 million, with $21 million guaranteed
DeAngelo Williams is an explosive player with the potential to be highly productive. However, the problem is that he's stuck in a time share with Jonathan Stewart. Williams just doesn't get enough touches to validate the size of his contract. The Carolina Panthers severely overpaid for a running back who only touched the ball 171 times last season.
Matt Forte's contract and production is a good example of how the Panthers overpaid. The Chicago Bears signed Forte to a four-year deal for $30.4 million with $13.8 million in guarantees. Last season, Forte touched the ball a total of 255 times. Basically, the Bears are getting a lot more bang for their buck.
The Williams deal wouldn't be so bad if the Panthers didn't also ink Stewart to a massive extension.
Contract: two-year deal for $11.5 million, with $7.3 million guaranteed
The Washington Redskins took a big risk signing Josh Morgan to a deal that guaranteed him $7.3 million. He's coming off a major leg injury and really hasn't put up great numbers throughout his career. They're paying for Morgan's upside, but there's an excellent chance he never lives up to his potential.
Taking a risk on a high-reward player isn't a problem, but the issue is giving him so much guaranteed money. Already this preseason, Morgan is dealing with another lower-body injury that forced him to miss a lot of action.
Washington could find itself paying over $7 million to a player who barely sees the field. Adding to this concern is the fact the Redskins are dealing with a salary-cap issue. Washington and the Dallas Cowboys are both being pushed for misuse of the salary cap during the lockout.
Contract: five-year deal for $41 million, with $18.5 million guaranteed
If you overlook the 2009 season, Sidney Rice would be sitting on the roster bubble or completely out of the NFL. Rice's career year in 2009 featured 83 receptions, 1,312 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. His other four years in the league haven't been nearly as impressive. The averages for those four years are 24 receptions, 325 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Adding to the concerns with this contract is Rice's injury history. He has only played a full 16-game schedule once in his career, which came during that 2009 season. The Seattle Seahawks paid a high price for a player who never showed much consistency.
Rice does have plenty of talent, but it's unlikely that he ever lives up to the deal he signed in Seattle.
Contract: five-year deal for $35 million, with $17 million guaranteed
Marcedes Lewis is getting paid based on the 10-touchdown performance he had in 2010. However, he tallied zero touchdowns last season, which is closer to his career average. Before his breakout performance in 2010, Lewis never topped the two-touchdown mark.
Some will point to the Jacksonville Jaguars' poor quarterback play last season as a reason for Lewis' drop off. However, there's no excuse for someone who's making this type of money to produce a zero-touchdown season.
Outside of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, tight ends don't typically get this type of contract. The fact that it was given to a player with one year of good production is crazy. I'm sure the Jaguars are already regretting this deal.
Contract: six-year deal for $65 million, with $12 million guaranteed
A total of 10 quarterbacks surpassed Kevin Kolb's career passing yard total in only 16 games during the 2011 season. However, Kolb's contract suggests that he should be considered among the top quarterbacks in the league. This just shows how much the Arizona Cardinals overpaid for his services.
Adding to the Cardinals' anguish is the fact that they parted with a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
After his poor preseason, Kolb is dangerously close to losing the starting job to former fifth-round pick John Skelton. The biggest problem plaguing Kolb is his inability to remain healthy. He missed seven games last season, and his injury problems with the Philadelphia Eagles opened the door for Michael Vick.
Kolb has come nowhere near earning the deal the Arizona Cardinals gave him.
Contract: six-year deal for $37.811 million, with $22.5 million guaranteed
The Carolina Panthers decided that one inflated running back contract wasn't enough, so they signed Jonathan Stewart to a long-term extension. Like DeAngelo Williams, Stewart is an extremely talented running back. However, his value is greatly decreased because of the time share he's forced into with the Panthers.
Between Stewart, Williams and Mike Tolbert, the Panthers have shelled out nearly $50 million in guaranteed money for the running back/fullback position. The Houston Texans gave Arian Foster, arguably the game's best running back, $20.75 million in guarantees. Carolina's trio is not worth double the money of Foster.
It also doesn't make much sense to shell out this type of money when Cam Newton is your starting quarterback. The Panthers won't want to limit the opportunities for a quarterback who threw for over 4,000 yards as a rookie.
Contract: five-year deal for $32.5 million, with $13.8 million guaranteed
The Jacksonville Jaguars' desperation to surround Blaine Gabbert with talented receivers led to them signing Laurent Robinson to a terrible contract. They decided that the 11 touchdowns he scored for the Dallas Cowboys last season were worthy of $13.8 million guaranteed. It appears that the Jaguars overlooked Robinson's career numbers.
Throughout his career, Robinson has never played a full 16-game schedule. He's suffered from a handful of nagging injuries that forced him out of the lineup. More importantly, he rarely produced when healthy. Outside of last season's production, Robinson has a career total of 89 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The Jaguars are taking a big risk that Robinson can both remain healthy and repeat last year's production, which was well above his previous career highs.
Contract: four-year deal for $32 million, with $17 million guaranteed
Doug Free's play after signing his new contract was so poor that the Dallas Cowboys decided to move Tyron Smith to left tackle. Smith is the more physically gifted of the two players, but he likely would've remained at right tackle if Free hadn't struggled.
Free is getting paid like a starting left tackle, but the fact that he has to move to the right side means he's overpaid. Adding to the problems is the fact that he's not performing well on the right side either. Free is struggling to keep defenders in front of him and protect the quarterback.
His problems are magnified by the issues Dallas faces along the interior of the offensive line. Actually, the unit as a whole is really struggling. The Cowboys need the offensive line to get on the right path if they hope to make a playoff appearance.
Contract: six-year deal for $100 million, with $35.5 million guaranteed
Michael Vick has the talent and explosiveness to earn every dollar of this contract. However, his inability to remain healthy makes it tough to justify this large of a deal. Andy Reid and company felt that what Vick showed in 12 games during the 2010 season was enough to ink him to this $100 million deal. So far, it hasn't played out as expected.
Vick's aggressive style of play has led to a wide range of injuries. He has a lot of toughness and did his best to play through those injuries, but he still missed three games last season. The Philadelphia Eagles have Super Bowl hopes, but those hopes rest on the health of Michael Vick.
I have a theory that Reid was in a rush to lock Vick up long-term because of Kevin Kolb's struggles. Kolb was Reid's guy, and it's possible that he quickly realized Kolb didn't have what it takes to make it in the NFL. Reid was saved by Vick's resurgence, in turn rewarding him with a big contract.
Contract: five-year deal for $34 million, with $17 million guaranteed
Zach Miller had a nice run with the Oakland Raiders that led to a massive deal with the Seattle Seahawks. His first season in Seattle was a disappointment, as he only recorded 25 receptions, 233 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. That type of production is nowhere near worth a deal that guaranteed him $17 million.
Miller's disappointing season likely played a role in Seattle's decision to bring Kellen Winslow into the mix. The Seahawks now have two tight ends who offer very little in the running game and might not be healthy enough to produce in the passing game.
The issue with his contract is the size of the guaranteed money. A much more productive tight end in Aaron Hernandez received $16.4 million in guarantees.
Contract: six-year deal for $55 million, with $22.5 million guaranteed
DeAngelo Hall receives a ton of media attention, but not because of his high level of play. It's more because of his tendency to voice his opinion and show flashes of talent. His ability to generate turnovers is his strength and something else that gains attention. However, his skills as a cover man limit his effectiveness.
Hall is overly aggressive, which often results in big plays for the offense. He's not the type of cornerback who shuts down an opponent's top receiver. Hall is more likely to intercept a pass on one play and on the next allow a long touchdown strike.
Somebody making this type of money needs to be a more well-rounded player. There are a lot of defensive backs in the NFL who can produce turnovers if they take the same risks as Hall. That doesn't equate to winning football, which is why Hall is overpaid.
Contract: five-year deal for $45.25 million, with $24 million guaranteed
It may be hard to believe, but Santonio Holmes has only surpassed the 1,000-yard mark once in his career. Despite that, the New York Jets felt that he was worth a contract that paid him like a No. 1 receiver. They quickly found out that he's not that type of player and is a headache in the locker room.
I have a hard time understanding how someone could be so disgruntled at a job that pays him such a high salary. Throw on top that he just signed the long-term deal a few months before his negative attitude started to surface. Doesn't Holmes agree with the principles of a honeymoon period?
It's hard enough to swallow paying a player more money than he's worth, but it has to be terrible to pay someone that type of money when he has a poor attitude. Don't be surprised if the Jets cut ties with Holmes next offseason.
Contract: six-year deal for $76 million, with $32 million guaranteed
NFL franchises place a lot of value on the ability to rush the passer. Just this offseason, Mario Williams signed a deal worth $50 million guaranteed. This is why there are a lot of defensive end/outside linebacker types who are overpaid. Charles Johnson is a great example of a player who received a ton of money before he proved himself.
The Carolina Panthers handed Johnson a massive contract a year after they lost Julius Peppers to the Chicago Bears. It appears as though they rushed this decision and overpaid for Johnson's services.
He does have a ton of potential but hasn't lived up to it just yet. Johnson is only averaging six sacks per season over his five-year career. The past two have been his most successful, but he was only able to tally nine sacks last year.
It's tough to justify this type of payday for a player who doesn't consistently top the double-digit-sack mark.
Contract: six-year deal for $57 million, with $25.5 million guaranteed
Even Dunta Robinson realizes that he hasn't lived up to his contract, which is likely why he decided to pass up some money he was due from the Atlanta Falcons. His play since signing in Atlanta has been inconsistent and, at times, terrible.
Robinson's poor play likely played a role in the Falcons' decision to bring Asante Samuel into the mix. They knew they couldn't advance further in the playoffs with their current cornerback unit, especially because of the presence of teams like the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
The issue is that the pass-heavy NFL means that teams must have talent and depth in the secondary. Robinson won't be the last cornerback who gets grossly overpaid. I have a feeling we will be talking about Eric Wright this time next year.
Contract: five-year deal for $58.25 million, with $20.5 million guaranteed
The New York Jets rewarded Mark Sanchez's average play with a contract extension. Oh, they also gave him some competition in Tim Tebow. The truth is Tebow isn't really competition, but more of a media distraction. Sanchez has done nothing to secure the long-term quarterback job in New York. This is why it makes no sense to give him this kind of deal.
Nothing about Sanchez's career numbers suggests that he's the type of quarterback who can lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. He has never completed more than 57 percent of his passes, averages 17 interceptions per season and seems to crumble in pressure situations.
The money New York gave Sanchez makes it tough to move on if he has another subpar season. Not sure many owners would be willing to eat over $20 million for one season of average play.