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2014 NFL Free Agents: Big Names Teams Should Steer Clear of on Open Market

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders in action against the Denver Broncos at O.co Coliseum on December 29, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2014

Unless you are a fortunate fan of one of the four remaining teams in the NFL playoffs, your attention has likely shifted to the upcoming draft or free-agency period that will bring promises of greener pastures in the future.

With any luck, your team's front office has shifted its collective attention to those avenues as well. 

It is very tempting to get caught up in the glamour of the free-agent market as big names become available every offseason, but there are some players in particular that teams would be wise to avoid. Let’s highlight a few of them in the 2014 class.

 

Darren McFadden

Injuries have prevented Darren McFadden from living up to his billing as a top-five pick, which is rather unfortunate considering how explosive he was at Arkansas. 

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  Running back Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders carries the ball for 5 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter on November 3, 2013 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Eagles won 49-20. (Pho
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

In fact, McFadden has never played in more than 13 games in a single one of his six career seasons, and he has missed a combined 19 games the last three years. Logic would dictate that his injury-riddled past will drive down the asking price, but he is only 26 years old which means some team will probably spend too much because he is still young.

Young or not, McFadden averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per carry in 2012 and 2013, so we know he is at least consistent with his struggles. 

Adam Levitan of Rotoworld.com suggested that the Cincinnati Bengals could be interested in McFadden, which could actually work because he wouldn’t be the sole talented running back on the roster.

Whichever squad picks up McFadden won’t be able to count on him as a featured workhorse back for an entire year. With running backs so replaceable in today’s NFL, outside of a few elite ball-carriers, most teams would be better served taking a flier on someone late in the draft rather than spending the money on an injury-plagued McFadden.

 

Hakeem Nicks

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 08:  Cornerback Richard Marshall #31 of the San Diego Chargers breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants in the first half at Qualcomm Stadium on December 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Hakeem Nicks just finished one of the worst seasons of his career production-wise, which wasn’t the best timing considering he is entering free agency. Yes, some of those struggles can be placed on the shoulders of Eli Manning, but Nicks hasn’t cracked 1,000 yards the last two years.

What’s more worrisome is the fact that Nicks didn’t register a touchdown catch in 15 games in 2013 and only had three in 2012. Nicks should find the end zone more than that considering he is lining up with Victor Cruz, who often draws double-teams and tight coverage.

This isn’t to suggest that Hicks isn’t a talented player who is capable of putting up big numbers, but the downtick in his production has to be alarming for teams looking for a true No. 1 receiver via free agency or the draft. 

Hicks is worth taking a risk on if he is demanding second- or third-option type of money, but he simply hasn’t put up the type of numbers necessary the past two years to be considered a go-to receiver.

 

Maurice Jones-Drew

Perhaps playing for so many years behind the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line sapped Maurice Jones-Drew of his powers that he seemed to put on display every Sunday during his early days.

Jones-Drew averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry in 2013 and never seemed to have the explosiveness we have become accustomed to seeing from him in the open field. Yes, there weren’t a lot of running lanes to hit for No. 32 this season, but there were plenty of running backs on bad teams that put up big numbers (Alfred Morris, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson come to mind).

The durability issues may be a concern as well. He did play 15 games in 2013, but he only played in six in 2012 and was hampered by nagging injuries for much of this season. Jones-Drew also has eight grueling seasons under his belt, which (along with his numbers this year) seems to suggest his best days are behind him.

Jones-Drew was also part of a somewhat ugly holdout in 2012, which may turn some teams off who don’t want to possibly deal with that situation down the road. As Will Brinson of CBS Sports noted after the holdout was complete, it didn’t do much to win Jones-Drew any fans:

When it was finally over, what did he accomplish? Nothing. Well, not "nothing"—MJD did manage to alienate himself from a new coaching staff and he got an extended vacation. But that's about it. 

The cold reality in the NFL is that running backs that are 30 or nearly 30 (Jones-Drew will be 29 in March) are simply not worth the health risk. Chances are, Jones-Drew will never be the superstar runner he once was early in his career.

 

Other names considered

Mike Vick, Matt Flynn, Kenny Britt and Henry Melton

 

Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.

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