The Biggest Desperation Moves of NFL Free Agency

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMarch 31, 2013

The Biggest Desperation Moves of NFL Free Agency

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    Every year we see certain NFL teams make desperate moves in free agency.

    Such moves usually fall into that category for two reasons: questions about the talent level or the money needed to sign the player.

    The following moves qualify to varying degrees on both counts. From Mike Wallace to Michael Huff, here are the biggest desperation moves of NFL free agency.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals

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    The Cardinals have had trouble keeping their running backs healthy. Both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams have been injured in recent seasons.

    What is their solution? They sign running back Rashard Mendenhall, who has major injury issues, of course.

    There is no doubt that Arizona needs a boost in its ground game, but signing Mendenhall seems like a pretty desperate move. Even though the deal is only for a year, you'd think the Cardinals would want to stay away from another injury-prone running back.

Michael Huff, FS, Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens lost Ed Reed to the Houston Texans. They responded by signing Michael Huff of the Oakland Raiders.

    While Reed certainly has seen a decline in his overall play, it's still a desperate move for Baltimore to believe Huff can replace him.

    For starters, Reed brought leadership to the Ravens defense that Huff can't bring.

    Reed's other great quality was his ability to make plays in the secondary. Huff, on the other hand, only recorded two interceptions last year. Quarterbacks had a rating of 92.4 and threw six touchdowns (paid subscription required) when throwing in his direction.

    The Ravens have made debatable moves in free agency, but thinking they can replace Reed with Huff is certainly the most questionable.

Jermon Bushrod, OT, Chicago Bears

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    Few teams needed help along the offensive line as badly as the Chicago Bears heading into free agency. The signing of Jermon Bushrod, a Pro Bowl offensive tackle, seems like a great move on the surface.

    However, Bushrod ranked as the 44th-best offensive tackle in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required). The Bears' old left tackle, J'Marcus Webb, only ranked three spots behind Bushrod.

    To make matters worse, Webb actually graded out nearly five points higher in pass protection than Bushrod did. While the Bears thought they got a major upgrade at offensive tackle, it doesn't seem like that is the case at all.

    The Bears needed to help protect Jay Cutler, and they allowed that need to force them to make a desperation move in signing Bushrod.

Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins

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    The Miami Dolphins needed a legitimate No. 1 receiver for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    Instead of drafting and developing a receiver like Keenan Allen or Cordarrelle Patterson, the Dolphins threw a ton of money at Mike Wallace. His five-year, $60 million contract includes a ridiculous $27 million in guaranteed money.

    This comes after Wallace posted one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. He only averaged 13.1 yards per reception—nearly six fewer yards than his yards-per-reception average of 18.7 yards over the previous three seasons.

    If Wallace is no longer the deep threat that made him so dangerous, this signing could be a major mistake. However, even before Wallace plays a game for Miami, this is a desperation move simply because of the guaranteed money.

Ed Reed, FS, Houston Texans

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    When Ed Reed finally retires, he will likely be remembered as one of the greatest safeties in NFL history.

    Unfortunately, he is far removed from the player he once was. Last year we saw a major decline in his overall play. While he was still decent in coverage, he was a major liability against the run.

    Pro Football Focus graded Reed as the 59th-best safety in the NFL last season (paid subscription required). That's below other safeties who were, or still are, free agents such as Charles Woodson, Patrick Chung and Will Allen.

    It seems like the Texans were more interested in Reed's name than what he could bring to the team. In trying to sign a big-name free agent, the Texans made a move reeking with desperation.

Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots

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    Wes Welker made 240 receptions for the New England Patriots over the past two seasons. Danny Amendola missed 20 games for the St. Louis Rams over the past two seasons.

    Do the Patriots really believe Amendola will be able to replace all that Welker meant to the team? On the surface, Welker and Amendola may seem like similar players. However, Welker is a proven and consistent veteran, while Amendola simply can't stay healthy.

    The Patriots lost Welker and made a desperate and poor move in trying to replace him with Amendola.

Erik Walden, OLB, Indianapolis Colts

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    With Dwight Freeney struggling to make the transition to outside linebacker, the Indianapolis Colts needed to find another pass-rushing outside linebacker.

    I'm going to be as straightforward as possible with this: Erik Walden is not that player. He has been the worst-ranked outside linebacker for the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required).

    Walden has struggled the most to get pressure on the quarterback, the one thing the Colts need. He only created 11 quarterback hurries last year, which was 22 fewer quarterback hurries than Freeney.

    The signing of Walden by Indianapolis was one of the worst free-agent signings this year and one of the most desperate moves of free agency.

Dan Connor, MLB, New York Giants

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    The Giants' biggest need the past few seasons has been at linebacker. They likely expect Dan Connor to compete for the middle linebacker position.

    Unfortunately, Connor was far from spectacular last year for the Dallas Cowboys. He only managed 56 tackles in 14 games.

    Connor was also absolutely horrid against the run in 2012. He had a negative rating from Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required) in all but four games he played in.

    With running quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III in the Giants' division, Connor's struggles against the run could become a major liability.

Isaac Sopoaga, NT, Philadelphia Eagles

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    When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Isaac Sopoaga, they likely wanted him to man the middle of their new 3-4 defense. However, it's a major stretch to think Sopoaga is capable of doing that.

    While he only played 352 snaps last year, Sopoaga still managed to be ranked as the 82nd-best defensive tackle/nose tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus (paid subscription required).

    He was awful when asked to get pressure on the quarterback, but he was even worse against the run. Overall, Sopoaga struggled to make any type of impact when the San Francisco 49ers brought him into the game.

    Why the Eagles think that a player who struggled like Sopoaga will be able to help them is a complete mystery.

Chad Rinehart, OG, San Diego Chargers

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    Losing a talented offensive lineman like Louis Vasquez (who signed with the Denver Broncos) is always tough. Vasquez was one of the better offensive guards in the league. He's someone the San Diego Chargers will miss.

    Instead of waiting until the draft to attempt to replace Vasquez with a prospect like Chance Warmack, the Chargers signed Chad Rinehart. This is a desperate move because Rinehart is nowhere near as talented as the player he's been asked to replace.

    On top of that, Rinehart has had major injury issues. He missed 21 games over the past three seasons for the Buffalo Bills.

    This signing by San Diego makes little sense since, even with Rinhehart, it'll still need to find a starting offensive guard.

Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams

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    The Rams have lacked playmakers on offense for a few seasons now. Unfortunately, Jared Cook has yet to prove he can be that kind of player. He has the potential, but he hasn't come close to reaching it.

    St. Louis, however, still decided to pay Cook like he is an elite playmaker. He signed a five-year, $35.1 million contract, with $19 million guaranteed. That is a ton of money to pay a player who hasn't quite put it all together.

    In an attempt to give Sam Bradford more weapons, the Rams overpaid for Cook and made the biggest desperation move of the offseason.