NFL Free Agents Who Are Bound to Bust

Eli NachmanyCorrespondent IIIMarch 7, 2013

NFL Free Agents Who Are Bound to Bust

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    The best NFL teams build through the draft.

    We just saw the 49ers and Ravens make the Super Bowl this last season with a good portion of their rosters having been on their respective teams their whole career.

    Free agency, to the best general managers, is simply a supplementary period to make slight upgrades to the roster. But there are only be a few great general managers, so look for the others to take chances on the following free agents, all whom have a good chance of being busts in their new homes.

Jared Cook

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    Chance he'll bust: 40 percent, somewhat unlikely

    Best fit for success: Chicago Bears

    Analysis: Jared Cook is the most athletic tight end on the market, and based on raw potential, he could be the best player available.

    But as with NFL draftees, athleticism doesn't always equate to production on the field, so don't be surprised if Cook falls off the map, even if he gets a big contract.

    The tight end has had trouble being productive in the past, and if he doesn't go to the right team, then he could really struggle.

Steven Jackson

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    Chance he'll bust: 80 percent, highly likely

    Best fit for success: Green Bay Packers

    Analysis: Steven Jackson's had a great career in St. Louis, but he's not going to be worth a fraction of the money he receives on the open market.

    The problem with this rusher's impending free agency is that teams will be giving him money based on past performances, not future projections.

    For a number of years, Jackson was a premier rusher in the league. He's now old and slow, a bad combination for any athlete but especially an offensive skill player.

    He won't be able to meet expectations, and it's unfortunate, as he'll be remembered for a bad showing at the end instead of a great career on the whole.

Greg Jennings

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    Chance he'll bust: 80 percent, highly likely

    Best fit for success: Green Bay Packers

    Analysis: Greg Jennings wants to be paid like a top-level receiver and a needy team will cave in and give him his money; it won't end well for that team.

    Large contracts are usually out of desperation, and teams like the Minnesota Vikings have their hands tied with a shaky quarterback, a malcontent No. 1 receiver on his way out of town and a win-now mentality after their most recent playoff berth.

    Jennings is shorter than most No. 1 targets at just 5'11'', so he's not as complete of a wide receiver as 6'1'' Mike Wallace (whom I'm proud I left off of the list as I love his play style). He doesn't have elite attributes that set him apart, and even if had been healthy in 2012, then he still would have been the third-best receiver on his own team.

    Though NFL teams see immense value, I see an injury-prone receiver on the wrong side of 30 that doesn't have anything elite about him outside of his contractual desires.

Cliff Avril

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    Chance he'll bust: 60 percent, definitely a chance

    Best fit for success: Detroit Lions

    Analysis: Cliff Avril needs to just give the Lions a hometown discount and stay there or else he'll be another in a long line of pass rushers that fell flat on their face after their first free agent payday.

    Avril has shown no indication that he can be a stand-up rusher in a 3-4 scheme, but with the immense need for sack artists, some team will overpay him.

    Though he has talent off the edge as a 4-3 defensive end, he'll have too large a learning curve to transition outside. It's hard to see him covering slot receivers or containing toss plays; he'd be very limited in a new scheme.

Sean Smith

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    Chance he'll bust: 60 percent, there's a chance

    Best fit for success: Kansas City Chiefs

    Analysis: Teams are enamored with big, physical corners after the display that Richard Sherman put on this last year.

    While Dee Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft, Sean Smith is widely considered to be the best free agent defensive back available.

    That said, he's not a top-shelf player and doesn't have a ton of experience covering true No. 1 wide receivers. His game film doesn't show anything that positions him to be anything outside of a solid No. 2 corner.

    While he'll be paid No. 1 cornerback money, he's not that good, and that could be an issue going forward.

Ed Reed

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    Chance he'll bust: 70 Percent, probably happening

    Best fit for success: New England Patriots

    Analysis: I hate having to do this to the old guy, but Ed Reed isn't worth the contract he's going to attempt to command on the open market.

    His mind is still elite in the defensive backfield, but his body can't do most of the things it used to be able to do.

    Reed will end up with a team like New England, where where Bill Belichick's masterful scheming can mask his deficiencies in coverage. It's unfortunate, but the safety is past his prime at this point.

    He'll get his interceptions and pass deflections, loading up the stat sheet, but he's prone to getting burned by younger, faster pass catchers.

Jake Long

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    Chance He'll Bust: 20 percent; probably not going to bust but worth monitoring

    Best fit for success: Indianapolis Colts

    Analysis: Teams need to be very careful when it comes to signing Jake Long, because he had serious issues last season as a zone blocker.

    It's tough to imagine the Dolphins bringing him back. They've seen the writing on the wall with the left tackle, electing to franchise defensive tackle Randy Starks instead.

    Long is a great pass blocker and could surface with the Colts or Bears, but the question remains as to whether 2012 was a sign of things to come.

    A team that gives this blocker a lot of money hopes it wasn't, but that's no guarantee.

Brian Urlacher

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    Chance he'll bust: 80 percent, very likely

    Best fit for success: Chicago Bears

    Analysis: Brian Urlacher is getting up there in age and doesn't have the athleticism he used to. He'll hope to go out in Ray Lewis-type of fashion, but the Bears may not be good enough to get over the hump.

    Urlacher is a complete linebacker, able to cover receivers while also making plays against the run. That said, he has a hard time being an impact player at his advanced age.

    Nevertheless, he'll attempt to get his last big payday this offseason, and a team could become enamored with his abilities, taking a chance on his experience.

    It'll be a mistake.

Brandon Myers

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    Chance he'll bust: 40 percent, somewhat likely

    Best fit for success: Atlanta Falcons

    Analysis: Brandon Myers catches a lot of passes, but despite the fact that he was targeted 101 times, he only found the end zone four times.

    Myers is also an atrocious run blocker, so don't just look at his numbers in the passing game as an indicator of his overall competency.

    Look for this tight end to get legitimate money on the open market, but he'll need to go to a team with an established quarterback and two star receivers already in place to make an impact.

    Atlanta is a nice fit if Tony Gonzalez retires. It'll allow them to fill a need with a player that won't have to run block as much.

Wes Welker

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    Chance he'll bust: 80 percent if he leaves New England, zero if he stays

    The only team where he not bust: New England Patriots

    Analysis: Wes Welker has only known true success in Bill Belichick's system in New England, which shows how much of a genius the coach is. He turned a 5'8'' afterthought into a premier target in the NFL.

    Patriots receivers don't have much luck on other teams after they leave New England (see Deion Branch and Randy Moss.

    I'd be surprised if Welker finds success anywhere other than where he is right now.

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