2014 NFL Free Agency: Who Has Made This Year's Biggest Mistakes?
While it’s basically impossible to really determine a good move from a bad move in free agency this early—you don’t really win or lose in March—there were definitely some moves that seemed less-then-stellar on paper.
Some were the result of a player overestimating their worth. Some were desperation plays by teams or players. Some were a little of both.
Maybe some of these will look genius in retrospect but right now all they do is make everyone scratch their heads in confusion.
For now, all we can do is take a look at some of the moves that seem to be among the worst mistakes of the free agency period so far and explain why they look bad for at least one party involved.
James Jones Overestimates the Market, Ends Up in Oakland
Let me be clear—this was a good move by Oakland. They needed wide receiver help and they had cap room. Although, we know Jones isn’t a No. 1 receiver—and his three-year, $11.3 million contract lets us know that they don’t think so either.
From Jones’ standpoint, it’s hard to figure out what he was thinking during the whole process. While I don’t like to bang on guys for chasing cash, he didn’t get well paid and he goes to a team with no viable quarterback.
That aspect of it might look better later, if the Raiders move to address the position, but for now, it appears as if Jones got a bit desperate and signed whatever offer he could get.
It seems like Jones may have overplayed his hand—thinking he was going to parlay a season where he led the league in receiving touchdowns into big money and fabulous prizes.
Instead he goes to a questionable situation for very little money.
What does the future hold for Jones?
Well, Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders might have put it best.
James Jones to Oakland? "After that my guess is you will never hear from him again." pic.twitter.com/09fKFY9F23
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) March 17, 2014
Carolina Panthers Decide to Carry No Starting Wide Receivers
One of two teams who cut players at key positions with questionable depth, only to have said cuts pretty much blow up in their face.
What if I told you a team with a young and still developing quarterback allowed all its young receivers to hit the pavement in free agency? What if I then told you it cut its only veteran?
Would you think it a wise move?
It wasn’t and it isn’t. Ladies and gents, I present to you the Carolina Panthers, who as of now have Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King as their starting wide receivers.
They thought that despite needing a receiver or two, cutting veteran Steve Smith was a dandy idea.
Somehow, they didn’t manage to snag anyone in free agency either. Which brings us to the earlier sentence and world-beaters McNutt and King.
So they’ll be working on some receivers in the draft, one would think.
Cam Newton might want to file a grievance with the union because if he is expected to catch his own passes, he's going to be underpaid.
The Panthers won the NFC South last season and looked like legitimate contenders again this year. Now it merely looks like they were a pretender to the throne.
New York Jets: Cornerbacks? Who Needs Cornerbacks?
The other team who bobbled the ball in the end zone of free agency would be the New York Jets.
However, that was the only strong move they made in free agency and a decision they made prior to it—cutting Antonio Cromartie—has been nigh-disastrous.
Why? Because they managed to miss on every good cornerback on the market from Alterraun Verner to Darrelle Revis to Aqib Talib. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie chose to head to New York—but to the Giants not the Jets.
The Jets can attack the position in the draft but given the needs the team has on offense, it’s somewhat baffling that they cut a player they may have to re-sign.
Assuming they can, as Cromartie was last seen in Arizona, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
Getting Cromartie back would make this more palatable but for a team with tons of cap room to not attack a need (which they created themselves) at all is somewhat baffling.
Tennessee Titans Overpaying for Tackle Michael Oher
Unlike many, I happen to think Michael Oher is a decent right tackle, last season being a year where he was bad, but no worse than the rest of the Baltimore offensive line.
Even if I happen to be in his corner, I can’t wrap my head around a four-year, $20 million contract—making him the eighth highest paid right tackle in the NFL.
That seems a tad excessive.
Yes, you need two solid tackles in this day and age of edge pass-rushers.
However, I can’t see him paid better than Sebastian Vollmer or Geoff Schwartz and I can’t see him paid almost as much as Zach Strief and Andre Smith.
Bravo for Tennessee addressing the offensive line. But they paid more than they should have for what they got.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie Costs Himself Some Money
While you can’t fault a guy for making as much money as he can, you have to wonder at the decision of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to pass on a Denver Broncos offer of a six-year, $54 million dollar contract.
Especially when he ends up with a five-year, $39 million contract from the New York Giants instead. Now, by and large, landing with the Giants isn’t a bad thing—they’re a team who, last year notwithstanding—competes most years.
However, he appears to have gotten less money. The particulars haven’t surfaced yet, so all we have are the basics from Spotrac. Even knocking off a year doesn’t come close to evening it out.
At five years, the contract still would have totaled $45 million—so still $6 million more.
Now, we don’t know what the contract completely looks like from the Giants, while Mike Klis of the Denver Post recently wrote that Denver’s contract wasn’t terribly player-friendly.
Then again, what contract is?
In the end (and clearly without all the details) it looks like DRC might have over-estimated his value and cost himself some money in the bargain.
Josh McCown: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Starter
Yeah, this one scares me and probably should scare most Buccaneers fans.
Because your head coach—a defensive genius whose teams have never excelled offensively—just declared a journeyman, 10-year veteran who has failed to hold a starting job the times he’s had a chance as your starting quarterback.
Maybe head coach Lovie Smith is right and new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford can replicate what Bears head coach Marc Trestman pulled off last season with McCown.
Tedford has zero NFL coaching experience, by the way, and traditionally his quarterbacks have struggled a bit when getting to the NFL.
Now, maybe Mike Glennon isn’t the “real deal”—I myself have grave reservations—and we know new regimes like to bring in their own guy.
However, betting on McCown is the sort of move which could take a team that looked like a contender and ruin their chances.
It’s an awful gamble and, in the end, probably the wrong decision.
We’ll see if it remains the same when the draft comes in May.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him @andrew_garda on Twitter.