LaRon Landry vs. Reggie Bush: Who takes the prize?
With the 2012 NFL regular season over, 20 teams are beginning their offseasons. There are a plethora of free agents available for the taking. Some are worth grabbing, some not as much.
Every season a few teams get suckered into giving rich, long-term deals to players who never live up to them. Undoubtedly, that will happen again this year. A few high-profile players in particular have red flags all over them and need to be avoided by general managers around the league.
Here are the five top free agents your team should not touch with a 10-foot pole.
To New England Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer's credit, he just barely deserves to be on this list. He is not a bad player, and still has value to offer NFL teams.
The problem is that he is going to command a bigger payday than he can live up to. After four seasons of playing with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' offense, his stock is too inflated. Several teams will likely be bidding for Vollmer, and the price tag is going to get too high for a player who is above average but not great.
Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at reading blitzes and avoiding sacks. As a result, he inflates the market value and the perception of all his offensive linemen. His two tackles—Vollmer and Nate Solder—are both high-profile players who would likely be unknown if they played with an average quarterback.
The Tom Brady Effect
According to Pro Football Focus, Vollmer is the 13th-best tackle in the NFL, which is solid but not amazing. He allowed 22 pressures on Brady this season, which resulted in only six sacks.
Those 16 sack avoidances are due to Brady, not anything that Vollmer has done. Since the difference between a pressure and a sack has nothing at all to do with the offensive linemen, it is strange that sacks allowed—rather than pressures allowed—is a statistic that often gets noted.
The same effect can be seen with Solder, who plays opposite Vollmer at tackle. He allowed 28 pressures this season on Brady but only four sacks. PFF rates Vollmer as the 16th-best tackle in the NFL, again, solid but not amazing.
There are several offensive tackles not getting the positive coverage Vollmer has gotten this season who actually performed dramatically better than him.
One example is D'Brickashaw Fergusson, who allowed only 16 pressures this year despite playing with the indecisive Mark Sanchez. Another is Andrew Whitworth, who allowed only 11 pressures all season.
The Patriots have a handful of talented players who will be wanting pay raises. The two most notable this season are Wes Welker and Vollmer. If the Patriots are smart, they will make Vollmer a lower priority. If other teams are smart, they will not enter a bidding war to get a slightly above-average offensive tackle.
Shonn Greene—the starting running back for the New York Jets—has a more well-known name than he should. Due to the city in which he plays and the positive results in his rookie season, he has lingered as the Jets' de facto starting running back for three extra seasons.
Greene became famous with his effective playoff performances after the 2009 season in relief of Thomas Jones, helping the Jets surprise plenty of doubters and reach the AFC Championship Game.
A back who plays in a run-heavy system, Greene is meant to be a guy who wears you down and trucks over you. While this is not a completely false perception, his success at being a ground-and-pound back has been less than amazing. The past two seasons he has managed to squeak over the 1000 yard mark but averaged only 4.2 and 3.9 yards per carry respectively behind a strong offensive line.
Not a Quality Starter
This season it has become especially apparent that Greene does not bring much individually to the table. Both of his backups—Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight—have looked better than him when given snaps.
As an unrestricted free agent who will likely cost a hefty paycheck, some fans would be happy to see Greene leave New York. As Brian Bassett of TheJetsBlog.com put it, "Send the Bell Cow Out to Pasture."
Advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus agree with those fans and analysts. Greene is ranked as the No. 47 running back in the NFL by PFF for the 2012 season, right next to the equally overrated Reggie Bush (don't worry, he's coming up on this list).
Greene has a place in the NFL, but that place should not be as a full-time starter. Most teams have one back that is more effective than him, and some teams have two (think Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, etc.). Any team that invests heavily in Greene will be disappointed.
Everyone knows what Osi Umenyiora brings to the table. He rushes the passer and causes turnovers. He holds the New York Giants' franchise record for sacks in a game with six and the all-time NFL record for forced fumbles in a season with 10.
Umenyiora is a two-time All-Pro defensive end, a two-time Super Bowl champion and the 2005 NFC sacks leader. Fantastic resume. So what is the problem?
The problem is money.
Old and Expensive
Turning 32 years of age in 2013, Umenyiora would be a situational pass-rusher and a backup on most NFL teams. He can still fill that roll well and would be a steal for the veteran's minimum. But that is not the role he wants to play.
Perhaps the main reason Umenyiora will not be wearing Giants blue in 2013 is that he wants to start, and to do so he will have to go elsewhere. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Umenyiora will only be happy in a full-time starting position, commenting:
There's no football person who's going to actually sit there and watch tape and not think that I'm a starter in this league, and I'm 100 percent sure of that.
With his two Super Bowl rings, Osi will likely find some people who agree with him, maybe even a GM or two. However, the folks at Pro Football Focus—who do watch tape—do not fit Osi's prediction.
For the season, Umenyiora ranks as an average defensive end, grading above average as a pass-rusher and well below average against the run. If that is not a situational pass-rusher, I don't know what is. He is the No. 29 ranked 4-3 defensive end in the NFL and the No. 44 overall defensive end.
Umenyiora and the Giants have had a "grand total of zero contract talks," according to Jen Polashock of Giants101.com. He will be seeking a bidding war, and you can bet he is not going to be interested in the veteran's minimum and a backup job. Cap-conscious teams would be wise to steer clear of Osi in 2013.
Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush will most likely be headed elsewhere after this season. Miami invested a second-round pick in Daniel Thomas in 2011, and Thomas is a better back than Bush.
The former second overall pick took the majority of the snaps this year, but at age 28 in 2013 he will simply not be worth the price tag and long-term deal he will ask for.
Several teams with struggling offenses may join the bidding war for Bush. He is a well-known back with good speed and acceleration. Unfortunately for those teams, his value has been inflated by playing in a run-heavy offense behind a talented offensive line that includes former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long.
The Miami Effect
Playing with a great offensive line alongside the worst passing attack in the NFL can do great things for a running back's numbers. Over the past two seasons with the Dolphins, Bush has racked up more than 2,000 yards on the ground. The year before in New Orleans, he garnered only 150 yards and zero touchdowns for the pass-heavy Saints.
Based on the rankings at Pro Football Focus, Bush has had a slightly below average year for a running back, ranking No. 46 in the NFL.
The two biggest knocks against him are penalties and pass protection, where he ranks well below league averages. Bringing Bush into a pass-heavy offense—like the one he had in New Orleans—would be a train wreck. He cannot block without holding, and he is ineffective in general in the passing game.
The fundamental problem with Bush is that while he is poor in the passing game, he cannot carry a team with a rushing attack. In a run-heavy offense, he can garner decent statistics but not enough to win games.
This has been demonstrated during his two years in Miami. The two seasons yielded poor results and this year—despite leaning heavily on the running game—the Dolphins were only 13th in the league in rushing.
Ultimately, Bush's presence is a negative for any NFL team. He will command a high pay check and want a lot of snaps, but those snaps will not lead to wins. The best-case scenario for Bush is another bad team where he can put up statistics in losing efforts.
Perhaps the deadliest fish in the free-agent sea this year is safety LaRon Landry, coming off a one-year contract with the New York Jets. Overrated, past his prime and injury prone, Landry is the trifecta of bad free agency.
Last year, Landry was a great pickup by the Jets. Coming off an injury and vastly underrated, the Jets signed him to a low-cost one-year deal.
Suddenly since coming to New York, Landry has become hugely overrated, despite not improving his play. With his first ever Pro Bowl appearance this season, Landry stands in a position to ask for a major contract. Something as high as five years, $40 million might not be out of the question.
He is not worth it, not even close.
Landry's stock is rising at just the right time for him to cash in. He is one of only two Jets players to be voted to the 2013 Pro Bowl (the other is cornerback Antonio Cromartie).
Unfortunately, Landry is perhaps the least deserving player on the AFC Pro Bowl squad. Several Jets players deserved to get in over him. Most notable is defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, arguably the biggest Pro Bowl snub of the year.
Past His Prime
Landry has played free safety this season but is more of a strong safety at heart. He is better as a run-stuffer than in coverage. In fact, he has been beaten many times on coverage this year. In some of those cases, television announcers mistakenly blamed cornerbacks, but reviewing game film shows that Landry was often at fault.
The folks at Pro Football Focus—who watch and analyze every snap of game film for all players—have Landry as the No. 55-ranked safety in the NFL, grading out as an average safety in pass coverage. Note that he is average for all safeties, whereas free safeties should be above average when compared to strong safeties.
With only five pass deflections on the season to go along with 13 missed tackles and an 89.1 opposing quarterback rating, one could easily argue that Landry has gotten worse this season, rather than better.
By good fortune, Landry made it through the 2012 season. In the offseason, most teams ignored him, assuming he could not play a full year. His recurring Achilles' tendon injuries have been a problem for years. These problems—which persist today—have kept Landry out of many practices and put him on the questionable list before almost every game.
This has been the first season since 2008 in which Landry played all 16 games. Most likely this was the exception, not the norm. He will probably not be able to play all 16 games in 2013. With the spotlight on him this coming offseason, he should try to lock up a long-term contract. He might get it, but the team that gives it to him will regret it.
In reality, Landry is what many other safeties are in the NFL. He is a decent veteran who is a borderline starter. There are multiple teams who could use his skills at the veteran's minimum. However, if he expects a Pro Bowl-caliber paycheck, then he is the biggest rip-off on the free-agent market.