Which 2011 NFL Free Agents Were the Most Overpaid?
When NFL free agency began nearly 20 years ago, it was rightfully considered a ground-breaking event.
The big spenders could finally flex their muscle and would surely now dominate the game, critics asserted.
Yet, as I'm sure you're all thinking while reading this, there was a very big catch.
The salary cap.
Indeed, the great equalizer of professional football was to play a correspondingly large part in influencing not only those who didn't spend money, but those who spent too much.
Many teams made early mistakes (Larry Brown) and overspent drastically for mediocre production. This proved crippling to some teams.
Over time, most of the league adjusted their strategy, becoming more conservative, with obvious exceptions (Daniel Snyder).
Which brings us to the present, where the cycle seems to be shifting back to teams trying to go for broke in free agency, like the Eagles.
Still, Philadelphia isn't the only culprit in overpaying. Let's take a look at some of the most overpaid players from free agency so far.
No. 7: Brad Smith, Buffalo Bills
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Don't get me wrong, I think Brad Smith is a perfectly good player.
But, as will become a theme on this list, he's not that good so as to earn the contract that he was given (four years, $15 million).
He's ostensibly a wide receiver used as a running back in certain situations, yet he's never had more than either 32 receptions or 38 rushing attempts in any one year.
He's a playmaker, yet he's never scored more than three touchdowns in a single season.
So I don't get it: the Bills were signing a special teams player for that contract?
Also, it's the Bills. To say that special teams was the problem area last year would be like saying the U.S. Government's chief problem is the President's bloated salary. It simply isn't the case.
The Bills have many other problem areas. Giving that much of the pie to one guy who might not even be on the field in the final two minutes of a game was not a good idea.
No. 6: Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks
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You can't blame Pete Carroll for trying to surround his quarterback with weapons (and we'll get to this later).
But the bad part is that the quarterback he chose is Tarvaris Jackson.
At 28, I suppose we will finally find out if Jackson is truly an NFL quarterback. But at two years and eight million dollars, that seems a risky bet.
You're telling me that this was the master plan behind not resigning Matt Hasselbeck? And this the grand reason behind not drafting a quarterback?
No. 5: Ray Edwards, Atlanta Falcons
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Edwards, a defensive end, will plug into the Falcons defense opposite sack-artist John Abraham.
Yet at five years and $30 million, I don't think he was worth it.
Maybe he will turn into an elite pass-rusher, but it just doesn't seem like it for me.
Look at his past. In Minnesota, he was opposite another great defensive end, Jared Allen.
Yet despite Allen and the Williams' in the middle of the D-line, Edwards could only muster 8.5 sacks with all of those favorable matchups.
If he couldn't hit double digits in Minnesota, I don't think he'll be worth this contract as a Falcon. It smacks of desperation and a "win now at all costs" attitude in Atlanta.
No. 4: Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks
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And the Hawks are on here again. Sorry Seattle fans, but I've been no fan of your team's offseason (and chances are, you haven't been either).
Like the Brad Smith signing, this doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not I think Miller is a "good player."
It's more to do with the fact that he was given $34 million over five years! An astronomical amount of money for a player who will, at best, be a second option in your passing game, let alone your offense!
And like the Bills, does Seattle need a tight end this badly? Don't they have a few other areas that they need to address first?
No. 3: Jason Babin, Philadelphia Eagles
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Like the Edwards signing, this was done to serve the Eagles insatiable "win now" appetite.
Yet with this contract, it isn't really the money that's the problem.
It's more the length.
Giving Babin five years at the age of 31 seems like a stretch. A serious stretch.
He might be one of the contracts that they're back-loading (i.e. saving cap space with in the short term in order to sign more players this season), but that still doesn't justify it in my opinion.
Babin, which some people forget, has already played for the Eagles. And he saw action in 12 games, recording just 2.5 sacks.
In fact, before last season with Tennessee, he had never had more than five sacks in a single season. And this is the guy who, at 31 years old, just got a five year, $28 million deal.
No. 2: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
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The thing about this signing, like the next one as you'll see, is that it might actually be a smart move.
But right now, I have to ask the question: was this too much money for a veteran running back?
True, he hasn't had that many carries in his career. But remember that in college (at Memphis), he carried nearly a thousand times over four years. He was the offense there.
So we shouldn't get too carried away saying he's overly fresh. And we know what happens to veteran running backs at a certain point. It isn't decline, it's total and instantaneous erosion.
At five years and $43 million, that will be asking a lot in year five when he's 33-34.
No. 1: Charles Johnson, Carolina Panthers
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After playing only one full season, Johnson got paid like he was Reggie White (actually, he got paid a lot more than Reggie now that I think about it).
At six years and $72 million, Johnson got the crown jewel of 2011 free agent deals.
The question is though: will he play up to that standard?
True, in an otherwise abysmal season for Carolina, Johnson somehow wrangled 11.5 sacks. It was a remarkable accomplishment.
But does that make him worth that deal? It's such a big contract that it's caused shock-waves throughout the NFL, as Giants fans will attest with the Osi Umenyiora situation. (This isn't to say that Osi's situation is directly related, but it clearly hasn't helped.)
Like with Williams, this actually could work out for the Panthers. If Johnson plays well, it will be worth it. But if he doesn't, then it looks horrible.
The point is, in the current NFL era where GM's have to be savvy with their money, Carolina will in no way look like they're getting a bargain with this deal.