The free agency period is always exciting for NFL fans who are hungry for any type of football news every spring. In 2011, it took on a whole new level of excitement due to the NFL lockout lasting well into July.
Unlike previous years, free agency occurred about two weeks before teams began to show up in camp. This, combined with rejuvenated excitement after withdrawal, made NFL free agency was a bigger story than ever before.
With big names available in the free agency pool such as Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo WIlliams, Santonio Holmes and Tamba Hali, it was something to watch with anticipation.
Fans watched the 24 hour media coverage and scoured their twitter feeds relentlessly in the hopes that their teams would fill some glaring needs with Pro Bowl talent, veteran leadership or young players with high ceilings.
When the dust cleared, some teams made off like bandits while others were left holding their checkbooks in their hands as their wooing ultimately failed. Others did what many like to call "Over Spending" on some players. My opinion on that varies, as I am of the belief that you always overpay in free agency. That's how you get a player to agree to join your club almost all of the time.
With that belief, there are many signings to look at on paper and wonder what a team was thinking. Some are real head scratchers, while others are simply placed with too high of expectations. So I'm going to take a stab at a number of guys I believe have been quite overrated additions to their teams.
I can't say I understand this move. San Francisco was finally at the end of the nightmare Smith has been since the team took him No. 1 overall in 2005. Sure, they only brought him back for one year at $5 million, but that money could have went elsewhere while the franchise waits for Jim Harbaugh to reunite with Andrew Luck in next year's NFL draft.
It seems that every season, New England lets go of a veteran guy that teams go hard after because of their success there. And it seems that every time, they are just a product of the system that never replicate that same success away from Belichick. It remains to be seen if Warren fits that mold yet, but one thing that seems to be true is to never give a guy over 30 the kind of cash Denver gave him. Why? Because he's already hurt, and his time to be missed has been speculated to be from five weeks to a year on the IR.
I understand the signing by the Bears of Gholston to tell the truth. Sure, he was a huge bust as the No. 6 overall pick in 2008, but he still has a ton on potential. He could be a really great fit as a 4-3 defensive end in Chicago or he could continue to underachieve. Personally, I don't see the hunger to succeed in Gholston. Which is why I'm guessing we'll see no real improvement in 2011, regardless of where he might have played.
Another reclamation project for the Bears, Okoye has more of a chance to succeed than Gholston in Chicago. As with all things whenever you mention Amobi, he is still only 24 years old, so the hope that he is a late bloomer is still there. After watching him for four seasons in Houston, I will warn Bears fans not to get too excited about his two sacks in his Bears preseason debut. He had four in his first month in the league back in 2007 and even won Defensive Rookie of the Month. This was followed up by only totaling seven more in his four remaining seasons with the Texans.
Clements has two things going against him in 2011, First, he is now 31 years old, and that seems to be when corners start to lose their speed. Second, he signed to play in NFL purgatory, otherwise known as Cincinnati. He has big shoes to fill too, with the departure of star corner Johnathan Joseph, who bolted the Bengals to join the Texans.
The lone punter on this list, Koenen isn't exactly what I'd called overrated as much as insanely overpaid. Even with the new collective bargaining agreement in place, Tampa proved that things can still get nuts in free agency when they gave Michael $19 million over six years. That's some ridiculous coin for a guy who averaged just barely over 40 yards per kick in 2010.
While I won't debate that this was a move the Texans had to make, Manning is by no means a guy who will solve all the problems in a secondary. Sure, he's likely already the best safety in franchise history for Houston, and pairing his singing with the addition of Johnathan Joesph could pay huge dividends. But Chicago ran out of patience with Manning because he never made a play on the ball during his time there. And his kick returning abilities shouldn't be added to the pros since the new kickoff rules pretty much make the point moot.
Even when Huff had Nnamdi Asomugha locking down half of the field in Oakland, he still struggled. He did rebound after a slow start to have a solid season last year, but I'm not sold on how well he can do so in 2011 without Nnamdi patrolling the secondary with him.
The Tracy McGrady of the NFL, Bob Sanders is a sad story, really. The guy has All-Pro talent, but practice squad durability. He was worth taking the risk for one year at low money, and teamed up with Eric Weddle, he could rejuvenate his career. But he has to prove that he isn't still "Mr. Glass." Until he can do that, his presence will never truly make an impact anywhere.
After flirting with Dawan Landry and Danieal Manning but ultimately missing out, New Orleans really had no choice but to overpay to keep Harper around. And overpay they did. Roman is quite a serviceable NFL safety, but at four years and $28.5 million, I'm sure even his agent was surprised. Seeing him get torched against Seattle in the playoffs last year seems to have done little to hurt his free agent value. New Orleans may end up regretting this one.
With the departure of Dawan Landry to Jacksonville, Baltimore had to scrape the bottom of the free agency barrel to find a replacement. And when you talk of the bottom of the barrel, Bernard Pollard, who was part of one of the worst secondaries in NFL history last season, fits the bill. Pollard can bring the wood with the best of them. But when you ask the guy to cover someone, he's completely lost. I'm not sure if adding a guy that Houston wouldn't even keep on their atrocious defense to fill the void left by Landry was the best course of action.
If your former team would rather replace you with a specialist like Reggie Bush, it might be time to start thinking about life after football. However, anyone that signed with the Eagles was met with wild acclaim by the media after becoming the "It" team last season. Michael Vick's resurgence, plus adding Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, has Philly as the early favorites in the NFC. That is the only reason you're even hearing about Ronnie Brown, who only seems to be an effective player catching the ball out of the backfield these days.
Darren Sproles has two things going for him: his top end speed and his kick returning ability. I've already covered how I think the new kickoff rules will render this pointless, and I'm also in the handful of people who feel that Sproles seemed to lose some of his burst last season. Being buried behind Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, expect him to do about as much as Reggie Bush did in New Orleans. Which, as most will agree, wasn't much.
I will admit that I was a bit surprised when McGahee was released by the Ravens. But after earning the reputation as a "touchdown vulture," it appears that most Baltimore fans I've talked to are fine with replacing him with Ricky Williams. McGahee was quickly snatched up by Denver, as many predicted, on a four year deal to pair up with Knowshon Moreno. He can be a great second option and is still dangerous out of the backfield, but he has hit that cursed 30 years of age that not many running backs endure long after.
Regardless of winning a playoff game in an upset over the defending champs last year, Hasselbeck is done. He's 35 and hasn't thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in a season since 2007. Going into a serious rebuilding scenario like Tennessee doesn't make me think that this will be changing in 2011. His agent must have been wearing a ski mask when he got the Titans to give him $21 million over three years. Jake Locker will supplant him by Week 10 at the latest.
It can never be called overrated to protect your franchise quarterback, and to do so, you need good guys on that line to help him. It isn't that Doug Free isn't a solid offensive tackle, but that he isn't as good as Jerry Jones just made him rich. Unfortunately, for Jones and the Cowboys, they had no choice but to bring him back at whatever the cost. The offensive line for Dallas has gotten worse and worse, and locking Free up was an easy call. But there isn't much free about Doug besides his last name.
Let me just first start off by saying that I think Sidney Rice is a fantastic football player. He's been called a "contract chaser" for choosing Seattle over other up and coming teams that were courting him, but his talent is undeniable. The reason I think this signing is overrated however has nothing to do with him. It's the fact that he has Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst throwing him the ball in 2011. Which, to be blunt, they can't do.
Like I just said about Sidney Rice, Edwards is a talented football player. But again, the same question: who is going to throw him the ball? Even though San Francisco got him at a low-risk, high-reward type deal for only one season, Edwards' antics off the field are what kept him from getting a good contract. The guy is a bad teammate that will make Harbaugh's first year as head coach that much more difficult.
With a bitter divorce from the Giants making this even more of a media magnet, add to it that he is joining the Eagles. Smith is a great wide receiver when healthy. But already being placed on the physically unable to perform list has to be concerning. The earliest he will see action is late October, and there is no telling what product Philly will get.
I remember thinking that Brad Childress might have been the only coach out there that thought Tarvaris Jackson was a starter in this league. Bit along comes Pete Carroll, who decides to have a quarterback battle between Jackson and Whitehurst. That's like the prettiest girl in fat camp right there. Jackosn is a terrific athlete, but he doesn't seem to have the football IQ to play the position. His pocket presence is non-existent and he can't read a blitz if his life depended on it. Perhaps Carroll is going to challenge Harbaugh in that race for Andrew Luck in 2011.
I will sit here and tell you that I think Bill Belichick is hands down the best coach in this league and that he has been for quite some time. But one thing I am about sick of is people thinking that he is infallible in personnel moves. For example, one day Albert Haynesworth is the laughing stock of the NFL and doesn't even belong in the league. The next day, after New England trades for him, everyone goes out of their way to say how great of a move it is and how everything is going to be puppies and rainbows because Belichick made it. I'm a supporter of Bill's, but that is just downright ridiculous.
The same thing applies to Shaun Ellis. The guy is 34 and is already on the physically unable to perform list. Other than keeping him from the Jets, I don't see this move seriously benefiting New England in the end.
Ike Taylor has a pretty poor 2009, but not surprisingly, played well in his contract year. In doing so, he got a nice offer to stay in Pittsburgh. He falls into that category of over 30 guys that seem to lose their speed around that age. That isn't the kind of a guy I want being a major cog in my secondary. Injuries are going to start mounting up, and Taylor is already out of the preseason with a broken thumb that might not be healed before the season opener. I'd be surprised if Taylor plays out the end of this new contract.
After failing on a number of levels for the Texans, Seahawks and Chiefs, Babin finally had success last year for the Titans. There are many who feel that he was just a one year wonder, and he needs to replicate that kind of performance to be worthy of the contract he signed with the Eagles. Babin was a mediocre to bad football player before Jim Washburn got a hold of him in Tennessee. And with both of them jumping ship to Philly, it's easy to think he will pick right up where he left off last season. Color me skeptical, as I don't think a player can be that bad for six seasons and then just one day figure it out. Especially not after getting that fat contract.
Probably the only team that gets more media adoration than the Eagles this summer was the New York Jets. And why not? They've been in back-to-back conference title games and have a controversial head coach. But with this, we've had to hear for the past few weeks about how big of a deal it is that Plaxico Burress signed with the Jets. Sorry, I'm not buying it. He was slowing down before he went to jail, and after being out of the game for two years, I doubt he's found a second wind.
And for everyone that is comparing the situation to Michael Vick, remember that it took a full season just for Vick to get his athleticism back. I see no reason why Plaxico would have zero problems after the layover, especially with a quarterback who struggles to hit his receivers frequently.
The thing that is great about fullbacks in the NFL is that they are cheap. However, Vonta Leach took full advantage of getting all of the credit for Arian Foster's huge season in 2010, and who can blame him? Watching every Texans game, I won't sit here and tell you that Vonta isn't a terrific blocker who doesn't deserve everything that he is getting. The guy is a total stud and an All-Pro for a reason. However, I think the scheme in Houston and Foster need to get some more of the credit than they are, specially when you consider that the majority of Foster's yards in 2010 came on snaps where Leach was on the sideline.
So all those articles out there telling you that taking Arian in your fantasy draft is a poor idea, don't listen. Vonta will have a pretty good year blocking for Ray Rice, no doubt. But his contract will far outweigh his performance from a non-premium position in this league.
The most idiotic thing I keep hearing around the league is the statement that if Michael Vick goes down with an injury in 2011, the offense won't have to change at all since Vince Young has a similar playing style. Obviously those people haven't watched the NFL version of Young. Give me an example of one time that Vince has ever played as well in a game as Vick did last year while not wearing burnt orange.
The bottom line is that Young suffers from immaturity and a sense of entitlement at the highest level. The fact that his game isn't NFL ready was what my main criticism was against him being drafted so highly in 2006 and not much has changed. If he couldn't handle the way the fans in Tennessee treated him, imagine how he will cope with the demanding Philly fans should Vick miss some time. This is likely Young's last chance in the NFL, and if he is smart, which is debatable, he will shut his mouth and listen to whatever Andy Reid tells him to do. But, as with most of the players on this list, I'm quite skeptical.