With each passing offseason comes change in personnel, through retirement, the draft and via free agency, in which teams often look to fill holes in their roster and often overpay—you can count on it every year.
We're nearing the third segment of the aforementioned process, as NFL teams are preparing to address their needs through both the 2013 NFL draft and the free agent window.
Joe Flacco headlines this year's free agent class after winning the Super Bowl and silencing critics by establishing himself as an elite quarterback, but there's little doubt that Baltimore will take care of the XLVII MVP in the salary department in the coming weeks.
Elsewhere, teams will surely make trades (potentially involving quarterbacks, with this year's weak draft class considered weak at the position) and plan on addressing big needs in the upcoming draft. However, falling through the cracks will be a myriad of capable starters in the NFL—starters that teams will be clamoring for if they see the player as a good fit for their organization.
That said, here's a look at three guys who are sure to be overpaid this offseason. From ownership falling in love with a player to other factors forcing the hand, so to speak, these three guys will get paid more money that they are really worth in the next couple of months.
DT Henry Melton, Chicago Bears
The three-technique stud has established himself as the best defensive lineman available in this year's free agent class and he's already drawing interest from teams like the Dallas Cowboys, who are switching back to a 4-3 base defense.
Melton, a former University of Texas running back who has successfully transitioned to defensive tackle in the NFL, seems to be the perfect fit for the Cowboys' new scheme . He's produced 13 sacks the past two seasons and has the size current interior lineman Jay Ratliff lacks against offensive lineman.
ESPN's Tim MacMahon is already advocating that the Cowboys use their best money on Melton, as he explains in his latest piece about what Dallas is trying to accomplish in free agency. If you know anything about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, you also know that he isn't afraid of breaking the bank to sign a player he loves.
While Dallas has to make a decision on Anthony Spencer, it could instead decide to give Melton a huge contract to dissuade him from accepting a lesser offer from the Chicago Bears—his current team. Although Melton has expressed interest in staying with the Bears (h/t Jeff Dickerson, ESPN), it's quite possible Dallas or a mystery team (Seattle, maybe?) steps in with an offer he can't refuse.
RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
While I think that Steven Jackson can be a quality running back on a good team, there's also the potential for someone to overpay for his services. Jackson, a nine-year veteran and one of the most consistent players rarely in the conversation of top-tier backs, still had 1,000 yards in St. Louis this season in a limited role.
The free agent running back class includes some big names, from Shonn Greene to Reggie Bush back to the out-of-favor Rashard Mendenhall and Peyton Hillis. Jackson is the best of the bunch and has better upside than some of the backs projected to go in the top three rounds of the draft.
Jackson has also hinted at retirement being a real possibility at this point in his career (h/t NFL.com) signaling that an offer to stick around would have to blow him away.
That being the case, there are teams out there that would benefit from a steady presence in the backfield.
It won't come cheap, as Jackson sounds in the interview with NFL.com like he's ready to hit the next phase of his career if he can't find the happiness that comes with the job.
WR Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
Wallace's money demands are well documented—particularly in the minds of Pittsburgh Steelers faithful—and it's looking more and more like the black and gold will be ready to move on without him in 2013. That's the most recent look from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ed Bouchette, too:
Ed Bouchette @EdBouchette
“@DDT101: @EdBouchette not looking good for the Steelers to resign Mike Wallace?” ... Not looking good at all2/5/2013, 1:06:12 AM
After holding out for more money before the start of 2012 training camp, Wallace was finally appeased by a deal that got him to the Steelers' facility extremely late in the camp process. The Steelers don't look eager to franchise him at $12 million, especially since that number his higher than his $10-$11 million salary requirement (h/t Jason La Canfora, CBSSports).
Wallace also had a struggled in a 2012 season plagued by drops and lapses in focus, as he caught just over 55 percent of the balls that came his way. Those issues draw on bigger questions of his ability to be a good teammate and make a big play for a contender.
According to a CBSSports report by Larry Hartstein, that won't stop Miami, Cincinnati and Kansas City from aggressively pursuing the free agent burner, especially considering that he's still relatively young and one of the fastest receivers in the entire league.
Talent generally trumps attitude and focus (at least when it comes to personnel decisions) and Wallace's raw talent will keep him in the conversation for a contract in the double-digit millions when he signs on the dotted line. A team desperate for a receiver may have him near the top of their list with Greg Jennings and Dwayne Bowe.
Wallace could end up having a bigger contract than either of them when this process is over.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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