The 7 Riskiest Moves Made in NFL Free Agency So Far
The first significant wave of free agency is over, with the vast majority of the NFL world having descended upon Phoenix, Arizona for the 2013 owner's meetings.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lavished on players, and unfortunately for several teams, not every financial expenditure was prudent and the "right move."
Here are the seven riskiest moves made in NFL free agency so far.
Miami Dolphins Sign WR Mike Wallace
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No team has made a bigger splash in free agency than the Miami Dolphins. General manager Jeff Ireland has thrown around money as if he were the lovechild of Dan Snyder and the late, great Al Davis.
While I actually like most of the moves the Dolphins have made, one in particular stands out as an exponentially larger risk than the rest: the inking of former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million contract, making him the third-highest paid receiver in football.
In the NFL, speed kills, and Wallace has wheels to spare. For a Dolphins passing attack that's been as stagnant as an apartment with no air circulation, on paper, it's a move that makes sense. The team needed to supply quarterback Ryan Tannehill with playmakers.
However, Wallace carries significant risk. He's just been too inconsistent, especially in a down 2012 season that had me questioning whether or not he was just looking for his megabucks contract.
The fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the savviest organizations in all of sports, didn't make a strong attempt to retain Wallace should be telling. Wallace helped submarine the Steelers' 2012 campaign, staging a holdout that netted him zero extra dollars and not being a part of the team's offseason program. The result was Wallace's worst season as a professional.
I wonder aloud if the Dolphins will be getting the best of Wallace for the duration of this contract now that he's gotten paid.
I'm not saying that Wallace can't be successful on South Beach. His speed is unquestioned, and he certainly has the ability to break games open by his lonesome.
But, this move was a significant risk for the Dolphins. Wallace just isn't consistent enough to have merited that kind of coin.
Cleveland Browns Sign LB Paul Kruger
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I'm a big Paul Kruger fan. I wrote about him several times during the postseason and wasn't surprised in the least by his dominance, as his 4.5 sacks in the tournament helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship.
With that said, I'm not sold on Kruger's ability to be a pass-rushing terror for a full 16-game season.
While Kruger was majestic in the postseason, he didn't truly become effective until Terrell Suggs returned from his Achilles injury.
In the Ravens' run through the playoffs, Kruger had to come off the field on rushing downs, limiting him to a pass-rushing specialist. While Kruger wants to do more in Cleveland, I have questions about his ability to be an every-down player.
That makes the Browns' decision to hand Kruger a five-year, $40 million contract a very risky one.
This offseason, they definitely needed to add pass-rushers to fit the scheme of new defensive coordinator Ray Horton as the team transitions to a 3-4. Pairing Kruger with Jabaal Sheard could turn out to be a masterstroke by the new Browns front office.
However, the team is banking on getting the Kruger that showed up in this year's postseason for every game, and it is paying him like he'll play at that level.
The Browns took a major risk with this signing.
New England Patriots Let WR Wes Welker Go, Sign WR Danny Amendola
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The New England Patriots, led by owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, have long been a model franchise, both in the NFL and in all of sports. They very rarely make catastrophic blunders.
That's what made their decision to replace Wes Welker with Danny Amendola all the more shocking.
Welker was dazzling during his time in Foxborough, catching over 100 passes in five of his six seasons as a Patriot. His rapport with Tom Brady was unquestioned, and so was his toughness. Despite taking many bone-rattling hits, he only missed three games in six years.
Meanwhile, Amendola has resembled a china doll as of late, appearing in only 12 of a possible 32 games the prior two seasons.
Forget about the ridiculous "he said, she said" between Kraft and Welker's agent, David Dunn. The Patriots blew this one, period. End of story.
It's been obvious for a while that the Patriots and Welker had differing opinions on the receiver's value. While the Patriots surely think that Amendola can be an adequate replacement for Welker, inking him to a five-year deal, I don't believe that's the case.
Welker has been a transcendent player for years. He's not just a "slot receiver." He's one of the very best receivers in all of football.
Could you ever say that about Amendola? It just doesn't make sense.
This was amateur hour all the way around for the Patriots, a franchise that is usually better than that. This was too risky a move for New England.
Tennessee Titans Release QB Matt Hasselbeck, Sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
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I've written it many times before: I'm just not a fan of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While I've found Fitzpatrick to be courteous and engaging every time we've spoken, I believe he was an average quarterback masquerading as a franchise savior, as his record as the Bills starter speaks for itself.
While Matt Hasselbeck is no longer the quarterback he once was in Seattle, the 37-year-old is a steadying influence in the locker room and was a friend and mentor to Titans quarterback Jake Locker. For those reasons, I was surprised when the team released him.
2013 is a critical year for the Titans. It's not a stretch to say that the fate of head coach Mike Munchak will be decided via wins and losses this upcoming season.
That's why I simply cannot believe that they signed Fitzpatrick to replace Hasselbeck as Locker's backup.
Locker has been up and down during his first two professional seasons, and while he'll be "The Guy" this season in Tennessee, there's no guarantee that he starts all 16 games, either due to injury or potential poor play.
If Locker needs to miss a few games, will Munchak feel comfortable rolling Fitzpatrick out there? I wouldn't feel good about that. Fitzpatrick plays hot potato with the football, too often settles for the short gain and just doesn't seem to have "it."
Now, Hasselbeck isn't exactly a world-beater anymore, but he's a steadier option than Fitzpatrick and also was the consummate teammate to Locker, supporting him when necessary and befriending both him and his family.
I'm not saying that Fitzpatrick can't be a good teammate or won't be a good friend to Locker. But why rock the boat?
I don't care that Hasselbeck carried a heftier price tag in 2013 than the team was willing to pay. The Titans should have figured out a way to make it work.
Now, if Locker goes down, Fitzpatrick is the guy. That should scare the hell out of Titans fans. And Mike Munchak.
Minnesota Vikings Sign WR Greg Jennings
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After trading the talented but mercurial Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks, the Minnesota Vikings desperately needed help at wide receiver.
Heck, when defensive tackle Kevin Williams joined the SiriusXM Blitz after the Harvin trade, he said he couldn't even name one receiver on the team. That's what we in the industry call a "red flag."
With that said, I don't blame the Vikings for signing former Packers receiver Greg Jennings. They needed to add a receiver, and Jennings was the best available option when Minnesota locked him up.
However, the contract doesn't come without risk. Jennings will turn 30 during the season, and he's suffered through two consecutive injury-plagued campaigns. I question the Vikings handing him a five-year deal.
Jennings is a great guy, terrific teammate and should help Christian Ponder tremendously in 2013. It's 2014 and beyond that scares me, and that's what makes this a risky deal for Minnesota.
Indianapolis Colts Sign S LaRon Landry
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LaRon Landry had a very good 2012 season for the New York Jets, exceeding expectations and putting him in line to receive a nice contract this free-agent period.
I definitely didn't expect him to get paid like he did, as the Colts signed him to a four-year, $24 million deal.
I have major questions about Landry's ability to stay healthy. Quite frankly, the guy is too big. His arms look like they've had tennis balls surgically implanted into his biceps, almost reaching comic proportion. That kind of muscle is great for a bodybuilder, not so much for an NFL safety.
Landry was unable to stay healthy in 2010 and 2011. His ultra-aggressive style of play doesn't lend toward playing a full slate of games despite what he was able to accomplish in 2012.
Landry definitely deserved an opportunity to start somewhere, but I'm surprised the Colts paid him what they did. Indianapolis will end up regretting the deal. This was a risk by general manager Ryan Grigson that I don't think will pay off.
Chicago Bears Sign LT Jermon Bushrod
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It seems like it's been ages since the Chicago Bears have had a competent offensive line capable of protecting a quarterback for 16 games. Given the amount of hits he's taken over the past three seasons, it's a wonder Jay Cutler is able to get out of bed in the morning.
It's not at all surprising that the Bears looked to improve their offensive line in this free-agent period. What was surprising was the contract they lavished on former Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod, to the tune of five years, $36 million.
Bushrod is a decent player who has played in a Pro Bowl. That doesn't make him a Pro Bowl-quality lineman.
Fact of the matter is, the Bears were looking at all of the top offensive linemen on the market, and when they didn't land players like Phil Loadholt, Bushrod became a fallback option.
Look, I believe Bushrod is an upgrade over incumbent left tackle J'Marcus Webb. At the very least, it's hard to imagine Cutler getting in Bushrod's face like he did to Webb last season. But I don't think Bushrod is the quality of tackle that Chicago needed to stabilize its offensive line, and not at that price.
Bushrod is an above-average player who was paid like a great one. That encapsulates the risk of free agency in a nutshell.
And the Bears took a risk with his signing.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz," hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.