NFL Free Agency: Should Teams Gamble on These High-Risk, High-Reward Players?

Dilan AmesCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2013

Reggie Bush celebrates a Dolphins touchdown.
Reggie Bush celebrates a Dolphins touchdown.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

NFL Free Agency is one of the best opportunities for teams to dramatically improve their rosters. For many fledgling franchises with mounds of cap room, it’s a chance to really turn things around. 

While there are many quality players in this year’s free-agency class, there are many others who hold much risk. 

In some cases, the risk-reward ratio is pretty even, but some franchises can’t afford to take the hit if things go awry. Especially in this year’s batch of free agents, there are many risky players who could very well pay off for a team, given the right situation. 

One guy who stands out especially is former New Orleans Saint and Miami Dolphin, Reggie Bush. Bush played well in New Orleans, in a change-of-pace back kind of role, but didn’t have a 1,000-yard season until he reached Miami. 

Bush seems to have gotten better, but there are still some questions when it comes down to whether or not he is a quality three-down runner. 

He is just one of many high-risk, high-reward players in this year’s class. Let’s take a look:

Danny Amendola, WR

Danny Amendola has been one of the few bright spots for the St. Louis Rams in recent years. 

He has proven himself as a highly-productive, Wes Welker-esque receiver—a legitimate threat in the passing game. For a young quarterback like Sam Bradford, Amendola was a dependable guy who definitely made Bradford’s job a bit easier. 

The biggest concern with Amendola is his failure to stay healthy. He has struggled with injury as of late; he missed almost all of 2011 with a dislocated elbow and five games in 2012 with a collarbone injury

Amendola has shown the ability to create separation and move the chains down the field. He has proved that he is one of the better receivers in the NFL—when he’s healthy. 

Teams should be wary of signing him to a big contract, in case he does in fact suffer another serious injury. Amendola could be signed to an incentive-heavy contract with less guaranteed money, although that is probably not what he’s looking for.

Steven Jackson, RB 

Another former Ram with big risk attached to his potential reward. 

Steven Jackson has been one of the most effective backs since coming into the league, but he has certainly slowed down over the past few years. Jackson rushed for 1,042 yards in 2012, his lowest since 2008, where he only played in 12 games. 

He also tied a career low in touchdowns in 2012 with just four. While his numbers weren’t up to par with what he’s done in the past, Jackson still made an impact on offense, although it was in a lesser way than usual. 

For teams interested in Jackson, they must temper their expectations of what they’re getting when they sign him. 

Two teams that have been linked to Jackson in the past are the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. Both teams are in need of a running back, but the jury is out as to whether or not they should court Jackson in order to fill that need. 

Both teams have pass-heavy offenses and would not need a workhorse running back, although it could help keep Jackson’s legs fresh. It would be smart for either team to bring in Jackson, as long as they don’t expect too much from him right away. 

He can still perform at a high level, but is declining.  

Reggie Bush, RB

Reggie Bush has certainly proved himself as a playmaker since joining the Dolphins a couple of years ago. 

He tallied his first (and only) 1,000-yard season in 2011 and has shown improvement as a between-the-tackles runner. Now that he has hit free agency, Bush will likely be looking for No. 1-running-back money. 

Perhaps the biggest issue with Bush is that he isn’t a prototypical three-down runner. He’s a bit smaller and lighter than you’d like to see in a No. 1 guy (6’0”, 203 pounds), but he has blazing speed and is shifty as hell.  

Bush’s best attribute as a back might be his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield; a large part of his success with the Saints came in the passing game. 

Bush is probably better suited to join a running back stable and be apart of a two-headed monster than to be the featured back. In a decreased offensive role, Bush could be extremely effective. 

According to, two teams that are highly interested in Bush are the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals. The Lions have missed having a speedy, all-purpose back since Jahvid Best has been out with injury after injury, and the Cardinals could use a fresh set of legs after the recent release of Beanie Wells

Whoever ultimately signs Bush will certainly be getting a weapon on offense, but not necessarily a starter at the running back position.