Jake Long used to be an elite NFL left tackle. He no longer is, but a team will likely still pay him as one.
When an NFL team has a major need, it is willing to spend some cash to have that need fixed in free agency. However, some teams will unfortunately pay way too much, making the free agent grossly overpaid.
The perfect example of this is Albert Haynesworth and the Washington Redskins. Haynesworth was coming off a huge season for the Tennessee Titans, the Redskins had a need in their interior defensive line and the result was a seven-year, $100 million contract.
We all know exactly how well that worked out for Washington.
While we may not see a player as grossly overpaid as Haynesworth, we'll still see a handful of players get more than they're worth. Let's take a look at the NFL players who'll be grossly overpaid in free agency.
Actual Contract: Six years, $120.6 million
Does anyone really believe that Joe Flacco is the best quarterback in the league? Yes, he just won the Super Bowl, but that doesn't make him elite.
It's easy to look at what Flacco did in the playoffs and say that he deserved such a huge contract. However, it's hard to fathom Flacco being more valuable than every other quarterback in the league.
Flacco simply doesn't make our list because we're predicting players who will be overpaid, not ones that have already been overpaid.
Predicted Contract: Three years, $20 million
There is no doubting that Ed Reed is one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. However, he'll be 35 years old at the start of the 2013 season, and his production has already started to fade.
Reed still has the potential to make an impact for a team, but he should no longer be considered an elite talent. That won't stop a team from paying him like one, whether that is the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots.
While Reed won't be getting the largest contract in free agency, it'll still be way more than what he's really worth.
Predicted Contract: Three years, $16 million
Much like Ed Reed, Jackson isn't going to receive a huge contract this offseason. However, what he does get offered will likely be a team overpaying for his services.
Jackson is the best running back available in free agency. With so many teams in need of talent at running back, he'll likely be a hot commodity.
This becomes even more true when legitimate Super Bowl contenders like the Green Bay Packers or Cincinnati Bengals have such a need at running back. Unfortunately, Jackson has been a workhorse since he entered the league and might not have much left in the tank.
Look for Jackson to have many suitors in free agency and for him to get paid as if he were a much younger player.
Predicted Contract: Four years, $26 million
The problem with Jared Cook doesn't revolve around his potential. No, the problem with Cook revolves around the fact that he hasn't done anything with his potential.
In his four-year career, Cook has only recorded 131 receptions, 1,717 yards and eight touchdowns. However, the NFL is a league that loves players with huge upsides, and Cook has a rather large one.
The team that ends up signing Cook will be overpaying for a player who really hasn't done anything on the football field. It'll be hoping that he can reach that potential, but that is far from being guaranteed.
It's certainly possible that Cook will reach that potential and a contract like the one above will be a steal. However, when Cook signs that contract this offseason, he'll be an extremely overpaid player.
Predicted Contract: Five years, $38 million
The problem with Sean Smith is that he doesn't have the abilities to be a legitimate No. 1 cornerback in this league. With the league becoming a more pass-first league, that won't stop a number of teams from paying him like a No. 1 cornerback.
Smith only turns 26 years old in July, which should make teams interested. However, he struggles to create turnovers and wasn't all that good for the Miami Dolphins in 2012.
He finished the year as the 74th-best cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks had a quarterback rating of 85.1 against him. He also allowed six touchdowns, which was tied for the fifth most by any cornerback.
Simply put, Smith isn't worth anywhere near what a team will pay him.
Predicted Contract: Four years, $38 million
There was a time not too long ago that Greg Jennings was an elite receiver in the NFL. Then came the injuries, and now there are major questions surrounding the production a team will still get out of Jennings.
The reason that Jennings won't have any trouble finding a team is because so many teams desperately need playmakers. Both the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings would gladly pay Jennings nearly $10 million per year to boost their receiving corps.
Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine Jennings being worth that much money in the long run. He just isn't the player he used to be no matter how badly teams want him to be.
Predicted Contract: Five years, $30 million
Six million dollars per year isn't an outrageous amount of money for a wide receiver. However, for a wide receiver like Brian Hartline, it is a ridiculous amount of money.
Hartline is coming off a career year with 74 receptions and 1,083 receiving yards. While those are quality numbers, the fact that he only had one touchdown on the year is a troubling statistic. In fact, Hartline has only recorded six touchdowns in his four years in the league.
You simply can't pay a receiver this much money if he is unable to find the end zone. The bad news is that the Miami Dolphins are closing in on giving Hartline this type of money.
While Hartline's contract certainly won't be the biggest this year, he'll be grossly overpaid for what he can actually bring to a football team.
Update: The Dolphins have agreed to a five-year, $30.775 million contract with Hartline, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Predicted Contract: Five years, $40 million
If players got paid based on their ability to apply bone-crushing hits, Dashon Goldson might be the highest-paid player in the NFL. Goldson is as consistent of a violent hitter in the NFL as you can get.
Unfortunately, he doesn't really excel at much else. He finished the 2012 season as the 20th-ranked safety, according to Pro Football Focus. Goldson consistently struggled in coverage, against the run and when asked to blitz.
Teams could ask Goldson to switch from free safety to strong safety, where he wouldn't be asked to cover as much. However, even if he does switch positions, Goldson will still be an overpaid free agent.
Predicted Contract: Six years, $62 million
Jake Long used to be one of the best left tackles in football. He was a dominant force who excelled in both the pass and run game.
However, injuries have forced Long to miss six games the past two seasons, and he's no longer the player that he used to be. In fact, Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the 46th-best offensive tackle in the league.
The reason that Long will get overpaid as a free agent is because of how valuable offensive linemen are and his relative youth. He'll only be 28 years old when the 2013 season starts, and teams will likely be hoping that he can still be a dominant player.
It'll be interesting to see just how grossly overpaid Long becomes in the 2013 season. If his abilities continue to slide, he could be one of the most overpaid players in the league.
Predicted Contract: Six years, $68 million
Pass-rushing specialists have become quite a commodity in recent seasons. More teams are passing the ball, so more defenses want to be able to get after the quarterback.
With a number of teams in desperate need of some pass-rushing talent, Cliff Avril will be highly sought after in free agency. He's proved he can put pressure on the quarterback with his 29 sacks over the past three seasons.
The problem with Avril is that he really doesn't do much else for a team. His struggles against the run are well known, making him much less valuable as an all-around player.
However, a team like the Cleveland Browns or New Orleans Saints will be willing to pay Avril some serious cash just for his pass-rushing abilities. Avril may believe that he is worth more than this contract, but even this contract would make him grossly overpaid.
Predicted Contract: Six years, $70 million
Had Mike Wallace hit free agency two years ago, a contract like the predicted one above would have been a steal. Wallace was considered an elite deep threat at that time, and every defense was having a hard time stopping him.
Then the 2012 season rolled along, and Wallace had his worst season since his rookie year. While he did record eight touchdowns, his 13.1 yards-per-reception average was the lowest of his career.
Now there are doubts about just how elite of a deep threat Wallace is. Considering he hasn't shown the abilities to be anything more than a vertical receiver, these doubts should be rather concerning.
Much like the other players on this list, Wallace will become overpaid because of the need for his talents. Teams like the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins could all use a player like Wallace on their roster.
Don't be surprised if Wallace gets an even bigger contract than the one predicted, making him even more grossly overpaid.