The Worst Moves from 2013 NFL Free Agency so Far
How bad is a bad free-agency move?
To some people, any free agency move is a bad move. Ted Thompson has made a career of trying to avoid free agency at all costs. When he finally picked up a "big" name—Jeff Saturday last season—it blew up in his face. Saturday was benched and the team was left with a huge hole at center. General managers like Thompson (and many others) prize the compensatory picks gained by staying quiet in free agency more than the ability to pick up a "proven" commodity.
So, if free agency already comes with a penalty—potentially less draft picks—and if that penalty is compounded by the need to pay an acquisition more than a draft pick at the same position, a miss in free agency is incredibly hard to overcome.
Which teams made those mistakes in the first week of free agency this year?
Jeremy Trueblood (OT Washington Redskins)
Longtime readers know that I chart offensive linemen in my spare time. Often times, both fans and media ignore line play and focus only on results. This usually means a lineman is credited with a poor play even if the sack was due to an improper line call or a quarterback holding the ball even after the lineman has blocked successfully.
Long story short, I've watched a lot of Trueblood and both the phrases "heavy feet" and "trouble getting to the next level" show up numerous times. Think that makes sense, at all, for a zone blocking scheme? Worse yet, it doesn't make sense for a mobile quarterback.
Trueblood could be a valuable reserve for some teams out there, the Redskins aren't one of them. They have little money to work with and Trueblood is a wasted signing.
Craig Dahl (S San Francisco 49ers)
Dahl is suspect against the run and looks lost when in deep zones. He doesn't have the physical abilities to match up with slot receivers or tight ends who are trying to hit the seam. If that sounded like the 49ers' new safety isn't great at any of the things it takes to be a safety, you would be correct.
Harsh? Probably. Dahl is 27 and has some room for improvement. He's a good enough athlete to be an impact special teamer and (if he refines his game) he could be a decent in-the-box third safety. However, the 49ers have a hole at the position and if Dahl ends up spending significant time on the field in 2013, it will be a problem for Harbaugh and company.
DeAndre Levy (LB Detroit Lions)
Levy has developed a bit of a cult following among Lions fans.
The story goes that the Lions' scouting department threw on tape of someone else and couldn't take their eyes off of the Wisconsin linebacker. In a draft that the Lions desperately needed MLB help, they nabbed Levy (an OLB in college) and immediately floated his "ability" to play all three linebacker positions.
He was a pick that came out of nowhere.
The problem is: he hasn't gone anywhere either.
Levy has been a below-average linebacker his entire career and (at times) has been a huge liability for the defense. His re-signing meant the departure of Justin Durant, who has played well for the Lions.
The Lions had an easy choice to make with their linebacking corps and they blew it.
Willie Colon (OG New York Jets)
Didn't the Jets get a new general manager? Because, this move reeks of the old Jets we've come to know and love.
The talent difference between Brandon Moore (who declined heavily last year) and Willie Colon is negligible. Colon may be a slightly better pass-blocker on his best days, but Moore is still a much better athlete in the run game because he actually still moves his feet.
Colon's biggest issue is that he plays "dirty." Now, dirty for a lineman is a lot different than dirty for a defensive back. Colon isn't malicious, but it's easy to catch him holding because he gets caught off balance and outside the defender's frame.
Going from an aging solid player for a slightly less aging solid player with penalty issues? That's not a free-agency win.
LaRon Landry (S Indianapolis Colts)
When the Colts signed Landry, GM Ryan Grigson pointed out that they were getting a "220-pound safety who runs 4.3." Apparently, Grigson believes that Landry (now 28) runs the exact same speed that he ran after months of pre-combine training years ago. Also, Grigson apparently doesn't mind a player getting beat like a ragdoll every time a quarterback takes a split second to look him off.
Landry is a great athlete (though, I would highly doubt he runs in the 4.3s anymore) and he's clearly a weight-room addict. He's also slightly unbalanced on the football field and is known for his hard edge. While it could be an absolutely great addition to the locker room, it could also create friction on a young and growing defense. If anyone is expecting Landry to come in and be a leader, they are sorely mistaken.
Mostly, Landry just isn't that great in coverage. He was a high pick who's been on popular teams his entire career—that's how he makes a Pro Bowl. He was hardly one of the best safeties in football last year and the Colts overpaid for his services.
Connor Barwin (OLB Philadelphia Eagles)
When a team gives $36 million to a pass-rusher, one would expect that person to be able to, you know, rush the passer, right?
Last season, it was almost maddening to see J.J. Watt singlehandedly create devastation along the Texans' defensive front while the other pass-rushers—Connor Barwin and Whitney Mercilus especially—almost refused to make a impact. As such, I've been thumping the table for the Texans to go back to the defensive line well again to help Watt even more.
Maybe they can use the compensatory pick they'll gain from the Eagles' mistake.
Anthony Fasano (TE Kansas City Chiefs)
First of all, the Chiefs already have Tony Moeaki, so Fasano is likely the No. 2 tight end in Kansas City. However, he's getting paid more money than a lot of backups (money that could've gone to a starter like Eric Winston) to be a No. 2 without a clear role.
He's an average blocker in space who can't really in-line block down linemen and he's a below-average receiver because he doesn't have the athleticism to create matchup problems or do anything after the catch.
He's a sure-handed safety blanket who might end up not seeing the field as much as he salary should dictate.
Shonn Green (RB Tennessee Titans)
Shonn Green has been overrated since a solid rookie season that led many to (foolishly) believe he was a feature back. Now, he gets a chance to go to Tennessee and back up Chris Johnson who needs a back with some between-the-tackles ability to take some of the load off of his shoulders.
While Green wasn't part of the solution in New York, he gets a little bit of guilt-by-association and was actually pretty average last year. As a backup, a team could do worse.
Worse, of course, would be paying him $10 million and comparing him to Eddie George—always an excellent way to manage expectations.
The Titans could've grabbed the exact same production they'll get out of Green out of a handful of free-agent backs or a dozen guys in the draft. All of those options would leave valuable cap space for the other talent-bereft areas on the team.
Ed Reed (S Houston Texans)
Did I lose you, football fans?
It's not "sexy" to bash Ed Reed—he's a fantastic NFL legend. I'll help lead his Hall of Fame campaign when that time comes. I certainly won't sit here and tell you that he doesn't have a highlight reel longer than anyone and that he spent most of his career as one of the greatest game-changers ever in the secondary.
That isn't what he is in 2013, though. This is 2013.
The Texans are flailing. After a 2013 season in which they looked, at times, invincible (but not when it counted) they are trying to get that one piece to put them over the top. Fans will convince themselves that Reed is that one piece. They'll also convince themselves the same thing about every single draft pick.
Truth is: the Texans are getting a liability in coverage who is going to be a significant step down from Glover Quin.
Mike Wallace (WR Miami Dolphins)
Dolphins fans are probably sick of me deriding this move, but I believe this is the last time I will need to do so for a while.
Bottom line: the Dolphins are overpaying for the hope that Wallace offers all of the impact he gave the Steelers and none of the headache. They are hoping that at 26, he puts it all together and is more than just a speedster who can take the top off of the defense.
They're hoping that the Steelers were wrong for allowing Wallace to walk and pushing their chips in on Antonio Brown. It's a big gamble because Jeff Ireland's job is on the line and there's new stadium additions to be built.
Wallace is better than what the Dolphins had at receiver last season, but he's not as good as what they could have built (cheaply) through the draft and it's arguable that he wasn't even the best receiver on the market (though he didn't have the age or injury concerns of others).
The Dolphins had money to spend, so they spent it. Often times, that's the quickest route to free-agency failure and that looks like the case here.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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