2013 NFL Free Agents: Players Most Likely to Get Overpaid
We are just under the 60-day mark before the start of the 2013 NFL league year, which as we all know starts with free agency. Teams look for pieces to fill those missing gaps or for that big free-agent signing who could be the cornerstone of a rebuilt franchise.
Although, if you have followed the NFL at any length you know that in many cases the big free-agent splash doesn’t always work out.
Some teams—cough, cough, Washington Redskins, cough—suffer from what I like to call “reverse sticker shock.” That’s when a team gets completely mesmerized by a famous name in the NFL who may be overrated, past their prime, or simply the product of a great supporting cast.
As we look ahead to the 2013 free agency period, here are some players who are likely to receive an inflated payday.
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While I am aware that Alex Smith is not a free agent, his services in San Francisco are obviously no longer needed.
Colin Kaepernick did in two years what Smith needed seven years to do, which is win a playoff game. Obviously it’s not that cut and dry that Kaepernick did it and Smith didn’t, but that’s what it boils down to.
Plus, Kaepernick is the future and his ceiling is much higher than Smith's. Now that Smith is expendable—not to mention that his $7.5 million salary in 2013 is guaranteed if he’s on the roster on April 1st—it’s very likely that he will be shown the door.
What Smith’s situation created was the image of a proven starter who got the shaft from a coach who even once referred to him as “elite.”
He was in the top five in the NFL in passer rating when he was benched and was fresh off a season that fell two special-teams plays short of a Super Bowl berth.
Teams with quarterback needs will be eyeing Smith (Kansas City?) and will have their wallets open to pay a quarterback who may be only a step above game manager and even that depends on the type of offense he’s in.
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Yes, THAT Ed Reed.
One of the best safeties in the NFL over the last 10 years and a certainty to be enshrined in Canton one day could likely be playing for a new team next season.
The priority for the Baltimore Ravens this offseason is to sign Joe Flacco to a long-term deal, which will leave Reid unprotected and essentially free to a number of cap-rich teams.
While Reid is still playing at a very high level, his best days are behind him. He has seven interceptions over the last two seasons, far less than the 16 he produced from 2007-2008—his previous two-season span in which he played all 16 games.
He’s had some injury issues and has been almost Brett Favre-like on the issue of retirement. In addition, Reid will be 35 at the start of next season.
Reid could be the epitome of the “reverse sticker shock” that I mentioned previously. The name and the aura of the Ravens defense will follow him wherever he goes and some team will likely pay a premium for that.
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Situations like the ones affecting Cleveland Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs are tricky.
Teams have fallen in love with the idea of a dynamic return man who is a touchdown threat every time they touch the ball. The problem with players like Cribbs is that their greatest asset can be neutralized without much trouble.
Josh Cribbs has been a flickering light in a very dark room that is the Cleveland Browns. He has an NFL-record eight kickoff return touchdowns and three on punt returns.
However, he has scored only one return touchdown of any kind in the last three seasons. While the Browns attempted to get him involved more in the passing game, he’s posted only 48 receptions in the last two seasons with the bulk of them in 2011.
The Browns signed Cribbs to a three-year, $20 million deal in 2010 after a public contract dispute.
Unfortunately for players like Cribbs, once teams flag them as return threats they do everything they can to avoid kicking to them. Recent rule changes on special teams—number of players in a wedge, kickoffs from the 35—have also affected the number of return opportunities.
With Cribbs’ speed and abilities, he’ll likely have a number of suitors and he won’t be willing to take a low-ball offer. The result will be that he could end up with a team with not much of a positive outlook but are looking for some playmakers who can contribute right away.
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The guy who arguably revolutionized the sack-fumble, Dwight Freeney has been the biggest Colts mainstay over the last decade that was not named Peyton Manning.
He’s been terrorizing quarterbacks for 11 seasons—107.5 sacks, 44 forced fumbles. With Chuck Pagano taking over in Indianapolis in 2012 and the switch to a 3-4 defense, Freeney was required to switch to outside linebacker.
Freeney’s numbers took a huge hit this season. He recorded only five sacks—his lowest total since 2007 when he played only nine games—and only one forced fumble—his lowest since 2009.
The Colts are going through a youth movement and while Freeney has been a great veteran presence, his price tag and age—he’ll be 33 at the start of the season—will likely push the Colts to part ways with him.
Teams who have struggled getting to the quarterback who also run a 4-3 will likely pursue (Oakland?), but at what cost?
Freeney will command big money and the thing that will be overlooked is that there is no Robert Mathis on the other side to account for. At this stage in Freeney’s career, his value is likely overstated.
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I’ll be honest, for as great as Reggie Bush was in college I never thought he was worth the second pick in the draft.
Bush was used as a heavy receiving option in his first two seasons with the Saints but injuries took a toll and forced him to missed 20 games over five seasons.
He did see a resurgence in Miami in 2011, posting his first 1,000-yard rushing season while averaging five yards per carry. In 2012, he fell just 14 yards short of another 1,000 yard season.
Although Bush is a decent player, he’s not the type of back you can build a team around. He’s not going to score 12-plus touchdowns in a season—his highest combined rushing/receiving total is eight—and he won’t get 1,500 yards in a season rushing or combined.
He works best in tandem with other backs and those types of players don’t get the huge dollars…unless you play for the Panthers.
As he is approaching 28 years old and two years away from the unofficial running back “death sentence”—30th birthday, this will be his last shot at a huge payday.
Given that he’s been one of the few consistent performers on the Dolphins, he’ll likely be looking for a decent offer which Miami may not be willing to pay, especially since their focus will likely be on the contract status of Jake Long.
Reggie has a Super Bowl ring so the only thing left is financial security. His idea and another team’s idea of that number is what will be interesting.
WAIT…before you close the screen, hear me out!
Do I honestly believe that Wes Welker is going anywhere? With about an 87% certainty I would say no, but we have to consider some things.
Welker has been statistically one of the best receivers in the league for several years now. In five of the last six seasons, Welker has posted 110-plus receptions.
In those five seasons, he has over 1,100 receiving yards, averages a first down every time he touches the ball, and has been in the top-10 in the NFL in first downs among receivers.
He played under the franchise tag in 2012 and produced his second-highest career totals in yardage (1,354) and first downs (72). As mentioned in a previous article, the Patriots’ top priority this offseason is to sign Wes Welker.
Teams will be clamoring for him if the Pats don’t use the franchise tag again. With those types of numbers, what team wouldn’t want this third-down ace—who averaged 13.3 YPC on third and fourth downs with nine or more yards to go—on their roster?
Here’s the other side of the coin: Welker is a 31-year-old receiver who is under six feet and who is a product of a spectacular offense led by one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Welker prospers in the Patriots’ offense and I’m positive that he wouldn’t have an equal effect somewhere else. It really helps when you’ve had the pleasure of Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez drawing away coverage.
This isn’t meant to deny Welker’s talent, but any team that’s looking to throw around big money and blow the cap for the next few years to land Welker may want to proceed with caution.
History has shown that you can have the best receiver in the league and still finish 4-12.
Follow Walt J as he comes to you on his blog “Live From AREA 49″ with his rants on the world of sports from the fan perspective. Whether it’s picks against the spread, fantasy football tips, or sheer frustration with your team, AREA 49 has a place for you. Follow him on Twitter at @A49_WaltJ and @area49sports, and on Facebook.