Most free agents have career years before entering free agency. Some players, however, were unable to come through when needed.
Prospective teams have to look at more than simply the production of the most recent season. They can see past performances as well as the likelihood of a rebound in the future.
Still, a poor year undoubtedly cost these players money as they look to get paid for their services.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Two years ago, Mike Wallace was one of the best deep threats in the entire NFL. He was near the top of the league in yards per catch as well as receptions over 20 yards.
The next season, he turned himself into a more complete receiver with 72 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.
However, this year was nowhere near as impressive. He only brought in 64 of his 119 targets and finished with only 836 receiving yards. This added up to a career-low 13.1 yards per catch.
While Ben Roethlisberger's injuries caused a lot of the struggles, Wallace did little to impress any potential employer. With a free-agent class that includes Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings, the Steelers wideout is no longer that valuable.
Jake Long, OT, Miami Dolphins
On name and reputation, Jake Long is known as one of the best tackles in football. Unfortunately, his play has actually diminished in recent years.
He is no longer the dominant player that was named first-team All-Pro in 2010.
In addition, injuries have slowed down the former top draft pick. After playing every game for three seasons, he missed two in 2011 and four in 2012.
His fall from the top was described perfectly by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Jake Long's regression over last 2 seasons is crazy. No idea if he'll be healthy and back to normal in 2013. Teams will be taking huge risk2013-2-5 17:11:48
While teams will always look for top tackles in the draft and free agency, Long's season did little to warrant a big contract.
Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants
After a 2010 season that featured 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles, a drop-off had to be expected from Osi Umenyiora.
He was almost as good last season, with nine sacks in only nine games, but he began to struggle against the run.
This season was much different for the veteran. He struggled to make any impact at all and only finished with six sacks all year. His 43 tackles were 11th on the Giants, a team that struggled defensively all year long.
Umenyiora looked slower all year and could not beat linemen with any consistency. It is possible this was just a down year, but he is now a big risk for any team looking to sign him.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
Running backs start to lose their value once they turn 30 years old. Steven Jackson will hit that mark in July.
While the veteran was able to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth straight season in 2012-13, his 4.1 yards per carry was very pedestrian. He also tied a career low with only four rushing touchdowns.
He was consistently average, only topping 100 yards in two games on the year. This is not something that teams should pay top dollar for.
Meanwhile, seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson was impressive for the Rams when he took the field, showing that Jackson's struggles had little to do with his circumstances.
A few years ago, Jackson would have been a prize signing. This simply is not the case anymore.