Every year, there are players who are signed to huge contracts and leave fans scratching their heads.
What, we wonder, was the front office thinking for giving that guy so much money? They haven’t earned their payday yet, or don’t deserve what they got.
Sometimes those undeserved big contracts end up working out favorably. The player in question lives up to their bigger paycheck and in the end, everybody’s happy.
Sometimes, though, the opposite happens. The player is a bust, and the people responsible for signing him take a big credibility hit.
Over the next 12 slides, we’ll take a look at some upcoming free agents who might land big contracts that they haven’t earned or don’t deserve.
There’s really no beating around the bush with Levi Brown: He is the worst left tackle in the league.
Given that the Cardinals have not replaced him yet, there’s no real reason to believe that they’ll break away from the status quo now.
A more likely scenario is that Brown will be signed to a new contract to continue standing aside and letting the defense hit the quarterback.
In Brown’s case, any sort of contract in the NFL is a big contract—and one that he doesn’t deserve.
As far as cornerbacks go, Tracy Porter isn’t the best or the worst in the league. He’s all around fairly adequate.
That’s why the New Orleans Saints will likely re-sign him to a pretty nice contract. He’s doing his job and making some of the right moves.
The problem is, he hasn’t really earned it. He hasn’t had a standout career up until now; he has simply been a part of an all-around good defensive unit and will probably reap rewards that he didn’t earn.
After missing most of the 2010 season, Jermichael Finley finds himself in a contract year where he needs to put up or shut up.
He wants to get paid. The Packers’ front office wants to see some consistency.
Even if the Packers decide not to pony up the cash for Finley, there are plenty of other teams in the NFL who will. Unfortunately, during his 2011 campaign, he has not really demonstrated that he deserves it.
Early Doucet is going to end up being fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. Although he has done little in the previous three years, he has done just enough in 2011 to earn his starter status with the Arizona Cardinals.
The fact is that there isn’t really a better viable option for the Cardinals at wide receiver to stand alongside Larry Fitzgerald. If Doucet is good enough to relieve some of the pressure on Fitzgerald, chances are good that the Cardinals will offer him a lucrative deal to stick around.
Aaron Ross of the New York Giants is at somewhat of a turning point in his career.
After putting up mediocre numbers in 2010 and spending much of 2009 on injured reserve, Aaron Ross is in "put up or shut up" time.
Right now he’s putting together a pretty good 2011 campaign, including a career-high four interceptions. He’s doing a great job of being a disruptive influence on the field, and opposing offenses are starting to take notice.
He hasn’t proven that he has the consistency to maintain the windfall that will probably come his way as the result of his excellent season, though.
Although Brandon Meriweather was named to the Pro Bowl for two seasons, he was released by the New England Patriots in September and signed to a one-year deal by the Chicago Bears.
Provided that he has a decent 2011 season, he’ll hit the free-market scene with a splash.
In some ways, Meriweather has earned his paycheck more than other players on this list since he has a history of making plays.
The problem with Meriweather is that he doesn’t follow direction well. His big-play ability is largely as a result of Meriweather’s tendency to ignore his coach and improvise.
While it sometimes works out well, in a team game like football, that sort of attitude will mean he causes more trouble than he’s worth.
He’ll get paid for his athleticism, but his behavior until now doesn’t merit it.
Have you ever heard of a Cinderella season? Alex Smith had better hope that his coaches haven’t.
Alex Smith’s contract has come up for renewal after a year where is achieving heights that he has never seen before. His passer rating, average yards per attempt, and touchdowns are up, and his interceptions are way down.
He’ll get a shiny new contract at the end of 2011 before anyone knows whether this season was a statistical anomaly or if this new Alex Smith is the real deal.
Jay Feely has demonstrated in 2011 that he cannot be relied upon. Field-goal misses in multiple games ought to give him a reputation that will follow him.
He has 10 years of fairly good play to fall back upon, though, and it’s a pretty good bet that some team will choose to believe in that history than his more recent failure.
Despite his potential decline, Feely’s long tenure in the NFL will mean that his services will come only with a hefty contract.
Matt Flynn will be a bit of an unusual case when he hits the free-agent market.
On the one hand, he was a seventh-round draft choice who has made a career of backing up Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers.
On the other hand, he’s consistently demonstrated that he can be pretty good when he has to come into a game. He’ll also have the intangible benefit of having been on a Super Bowl-winning team in the past two years.
If a franchise that can’t win the Suck for Luck lottery decides to set its sights on Flynn, it won’t be because of the body of his work. Instead, it will be because the stars have aligned in his favor and he has made the most of his limited opportunities.
Ryan Grant will probably land a hefty contract with a team that is not the Green Bay Packers. After missing most of last season with an ankle injury, Grant found himself competing for his job with newcomer James Starks.
As we roll through the 2011 season, it is clear that Starks has stolen the job from Grant, so it’s almost certain that he’ll be looking for a new home next year.
Since he’s not getting many carries this year and since he spent most of 2010 on injured reserve, whatever team signs him will do so based on the body of his work prior to the 2010 season.
That will be great for Grant, who had back-to-back 1,200 yard rushing seasons in 2008 and 2009, but given his performance this year, it means that whoever signs him will overpay for his services.
If Tashard Choice can find a way to make a splash with the Buffalo Bills in Fred Jackson’s absence, he may find himself back in the competition for some big cash in the offseason.
That’s the thing about running backs. Once they become hot, some coaches are willing to ignore their past flaws and take a big chance on them.
Should Choice find himself in such a situation, it will be because of circumstance and the kindness of his former coach Chan Gailey. Certainly it won’t be thanks to his 3.25 average yards per carry over the last two seasons.
Six weeks ago, it might have been a different story regarding DeSean Jackson and his upcoming contract negotiations. He’s had a pretty darned good career so far as a deep threat for the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year, however, his me-first attitude has become increasingly apparent to the point where it is arguable that he cost his team an entirely winnable game against the Arizona Cardinals. His production has also dropped, which is not a good sign.
Still, Jackson is going to get paid based on his name and reputation. If the Eagles get smart and won’t have him, then some other team in need of a receiving threat certainly will. And they will pay for the privilege.