2011 NFL Free Agency: 10 Free Agents Who Will Get Wildly Overpaid
We are in the midst of an exciting playoff season in the NFL, with the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears the only teams left playing football.
That, of course, means that there are 28 other teams who are already looking to improve their team for next season in order to get into the playoffs and still be playing football at this time next season.
One thing that teams can do to improve their totals in the win column is sign a talented free agent away from another team, and this offseason is ripe with free-agent talent that could make or break a team.
There are franchise players who could avoid a franchise tag from their teams due to contract restrictions, a lack of money or a young player coming up to take their spot.
That leaves a handful of good players that could end up switching cities with revenge on their mind or taking in their huge contract and going into statistical hibernation until their next contract season comes up.
Here I have compiled a list of players who will be free agents this season and who have the best chance of becoming the next Albert Haynesworth and being insanely overpaid.
10. Matt Light, OT, New England Patriots
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
If there is one thing besides Tom Brady that has been a constant for the Patriots over the past decade, it has been big Matt Light protecting the left side of the line.
Next season, Light will be turning 33, and while he will still be one of the better offensive linemen in the league, his skills are already starting to go downhill.
Light allowed double-digit sacks from the left side this season, and with the younger, better Sebastian Vollmer looking capable of taking Light's spot, Light could end up being on his way out the door.
New England has a history of cutting ties with guys just before they have a big drop-off in productivity, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him leave.
If he does end up signing with a new team, it is likely they will sign him to a contract because of his name, not because of his previous season, and will overpay him.
9. Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
This season, Michael Bush could end up becoming one of the highest-paid backup running backs for the Oakland Raiders, or he could become an overpaid, average starter on another team.
Bush has been the third, first and second option at running back for the Raiders for the past three years, and every time he has looked like he might be capable of handling the load of a No. 1 running back.
First, the Raiders have questions surrounding Darren McFadden's durability, so they may want to keep Bush on the payroll in case McFadden goes down. But they will have to pay up to keep him.
Oakland could let him go and see how free agency treats him. Teams will look at his potential and spring for him to come to their team to be their premier back, where he could fail miserably.
8. Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Steve Smith had a breakout season a year ago, but he got bit by the injury bug this season and only played in nine games.
He was the No. 1 target a year ago, but he was used as a complement to the stellar running game of the New York Giants, and he has never been asked to carry a team before.
If a team comes calling to ask him to be their main threat on offense, it's hard to say how he would react. He has always played, at best, third banana to Eli Manning and the Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw combination.
7. Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins
The talent is all there with Ronnie Brown, but the numbers are not.
In his six-year career, Ronnie Brown has started all 16 games only once (this season) and rushed for 1,000 yards only once (2006).
With his injury history and inconsistency, it is hard to justify giving him a large contract. But the talent he brings to the table and the fact that he has been the best part of Miami's offense when healthy should bring too many zeroes to his paychecks.
6. Atari Bigby, S, Green Bay Packers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
In his five years in the NFL, Atari Bigby has played in only 45 games. That's nine out of a possible 16 games per season.
Also, in his five years in the league, Bigby has intercepted 10 passes and forced three fumbles in only 45 games; that's a turnover every three games to his credit.
He is a great talent at safety, but he is very injury prone. And in the NFL, a lot of teams like to pay for the upside and hope the downside doesn't come back if they are looking for a great signing.
Bigby will probably end up getting a decent-sized contract, play great for the first half of the season for whatever team he signs with, and then go down in a heap at midfield and be done for the year.
5. Champ Bailey, CB, Denver Broncos
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Champ Bailey is in a boat similar to Matt Light, but he is one step behind him.
Bailey has been one of the best cornerbacks of the past decade, and this year he had another stellar season, as quarterbacks continue to avoid him.
He is still a guy that drapes himself all over a receiver and comes up with an interception here and there.
This offseason, with the Broncos rebuilding, it is unlikely that they will re-sign him, as he is turning 33 this year.
He hasn't lost but maybe a half-step so far, but his downfall is coming, and whichever team that signs him to a huge contract will be sorry when they are three years in and his production has dropped.
4. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Matt Hasselbeck looked like he was closer to being an analyst on ESPN for much of the past two years, than he was to a new contract in the NFL.
Well, this season he didn't perform spectacularly, but it was enough to get teams to think that he still has enough in him for a year or two.
Inevitably, a team will sign him (or the Seahawks will re-sign him) to bridge the gap between himself and a young quarterback, and most likely he will regress back to the production he has been at in the past two seasons.
3. Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
If ever there was a guy who turned it on for a big contract, it is Ray Edwards.
In the first seven games of the season, he only had one-and-a-half sacks. Edwards was performing like much of the rest of the Vikings defensive line—he was under-performing.
Then it seems as if he got a call from his agent reminding him that he was in a contract year, and he went off.
Over the last nine games of the season, he had 22 tackles and six-and-a-half sacks.
2. Doug Free, OT, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Free is a monster of a man who has started 23 games for the Cowboys over the last two seasons.
Dallas parted ways with "The Hotel" Flozell Adams a season ago, and they have been dying to replace him as an impact offensive tackle.
Doug Free has been tabbed as the guy to do that and with a free agent year, they are going to pay him what he wants to be their anchor on the line.
They want to build around someone and Free is their top candidate to do that.
The biggest problem with that is that he is a good lineman, but he had seven false start penalties called on him.
For a team that died from stupid penalties last season, it may not be the best idea to have their most important lineman be one who is so adept at getting flags thrown against him.
1. Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets
Antonio Cromartie is a good cornerback, but he still doesn't seem to be one of the top five corners in the league.
He has played great over the past few seasons and has helped the Jets pass defense stay afloat while Darrelle Revis was out.
Cromartie will end up getting a huge contract from a team with money to spend thanks to the pay rate for corners being expanded by leaps and bounds over the past few years.
A team will come in and offer him a long-term contract with oodles of guaranteed money, and he will sign the paper before they finish their interview with him.