On the cusp of NFL free agency, it is easy for fans to get excited.
After all, big names once again litter the market, but the players in search of a new home come with a major risk not many seem fond of hearing about until it is too late.
Put it into perspective—the important names like Jimmy Graham were hit with a franchise tag for a reason. Several recognizable players were allowed to hit the market despite quality seasons and a strong history of production. Not only that, they are favorites to find new homes.
So to fans that reside in those new areas, it is acceptable to be happy. But buyer beware: These guys are coming to town for a reason.
Charles Tillman, DB
There was a point in recent history where Charles Tillman was one of the most feared defensive backs in football.
Tillman has been a sound corner for most of his career, but 2012 was the highlight season that brought him to the forefront of the minds of fans everywhere thanks to his three interceptions, each of which he returned for scores, and his 10 forced fumbles, two of which he recovered himself.
While still a big name, Tillman is now 33 years old and recovering from a torn tricep after playing in just eight games last season. Tillman understands that these two factors may be part of the reason he cannot take it personally if the Bears elect to not bring him back after 11 seasons of service, as he told Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times:
We’ll just kind of see what happens. I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be, whether it’s Chicago or whatever team. If I hit the market, I hit the market. If I don’t, then I’m here.
Free agency is something that you can’t stress about. This is a business, and I think the quicker you understand this game as a business, the better off you’ll be. You don’t take anything personal.
Thanks to his age and deteriorating athleticism, there are rumors that teams are interested in Tillman as a safety, as ESPN's Adam Caplan reported on NFL Insiders (h/t Rotoworld).
So there is the trifecta. Coming off an injury well past the age of 30, Tillman is now going to play a different position? Tillman has the aggressiveness to fit the bill, but these things rarely go as planned and Tillman may not be the same after such a major injury to boot.
Jared Allen, DE
After six years in Minnesota, it appears Jared Allen's time with the team has come to an end as the 31-year-old veteran looks to play for a contender. His agent, via NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, says Allen is set on testing the market:
Spoke with Ken Harris, agent for Vikings DE Jared Allen, who will test FA market regardless. “He’s going to see what 32 teams have to offer”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2014
Allen himself later added further detail on his desire to win, as captured by Sirius XM NFL Radio:
FA DE @JaredAllen69: I think for my next team it will come down to a chance to win, a good organization, as well as getting a fair contract.— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) March 5, 2014
The owner of 11.5 sacks last year, that number is down from Allen's 12 in 2012 and 22 in 2011. Admittedly, the situation between Allen and his potentially former team seems to be more on his end thanks to his desire to pursue a championship, but the diminishing numbers do speak for themselves.
Allen may very well find a home with a contender such as Denver, but it will have to come at a discounted price and the potential for him to forgo the strict pass-rusher status he had in Minnesota.
A change of scenery does not always prove fruitful for veterans, and Allen in a new home is nowhere near a lock to be a success. Allen is a risk despite his name, and the chance his numbers continue to drop will only be helped by going somewhere different.
Eric Decker, WR
As ideal as it likely sounds to Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos are likely not going to be able to keep the offensive bunch together to make another run at a Super Bowl.
This is especially the case with wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas all due for extensions after next season.
There is a reason Eric Decker is on his way to the market instead of in talks for a slice of the pie. John Elway confirmed as much recently, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN:
I think they have to hit the market, the market sets those, especially where you look where we are and what we have coming up. Both Thomas' are up next year. And Wes is, too. So all that plays into it. We'd love to have Eric back, but he's made he comment he's like to be back. He's got to do what's best for Eric, too, and vice versa. That's why we go through this process.
Sure, Decker posted 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 scores last year—a stat line worthy of a No. 1 receiver—but Decker is a far cry from a lead player in a passing attack. These numbers will likely see Decker land a deal in the neighborhood of $8 million per year, perhaps with a team such as the Indianapolis Colts, if Vic Lombardi of CBS4 is to be believed:
Among the teams that have interest in Eric Decker ... Indy. If he can't play with PFM, he'd love to roll with Andrew Luck.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 27, 2014
Regardless of where Decker ends up, his hefty production is the byproduct of playing with Manning in an offense with three other weapons that caught 65 passes or more last season.
As a target of defenses around the league and without Manning, Decker is sure to inherit the "bust" label.