The NFL season is heating up, but for some teams the playoffs are out of sight. That means more draft talk and keying in on what 2012 NFL free agents can help your team.
This year's class represents a star quarterback in Drew Brees, a couple of terrific running backs in Matt Forte and Ray Rice, and a crop of receivers who will have teams that are in need of pass-catchers, drooling.
Free agency is a gamble. Sometimes you win big and sometimes you fail. There are some big gambles in this year's class, especially at the wide receiver position. And shelling out a huge sum of money to a running back is always a gamble.
But what players should teams avoid when free agency starts?
Find out in the slides to come as these are seven players teams shouldn't risk their future on.
On paper, Dwayne Bowe looks like the perfect candidate for a team in need of a receiver. He's big, strong and has a solid track record on a team that hasn't had the greatest quarterback play.
So why wouldn't a team want to invest in Bowe?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. Starting off, he isn't an elite receiver in the NFL nor will he ever be, yet there's a good chance he's going to get paid like one. Bowe has always been inconsistent in his playing days and never brings the same production week in and week out for an entire season.
This is a problem.
The effort doesn't always seem to be there with the receiver, who makes some puzzling drops at times, while other times he doesn't fight for the football. A good example would be on the interception Tyler Palko threw against Pittsburgh where Bowe had a chance to go for the ball, but didn't even make an attempt.
It wasn't a pretty pass by any means, but there was a possibility that he could have gotten a hand on it and prevented it from being intercepted.
At a reasonable price, Bowe would be a great get, yet some team is going to look at his prior stats and see a budding star who has been hindered by poor quarterback play. That may end up being the case, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Investing a high amount in a wide receiver is always a dangerous move, and if you do you better be sure that it works out.
We are entering an era where the running back position is becoming more and more replaceable. Gone are the days of needing a dominant back, and in are the days of having multiple who split carries.
Why pay one guy big bucks when you can pay two or three much less and get similar production?
That's a question many general managers have to be asking themselves right now, especially Jerry Angelo. Angelo has the tough task of deciding whether or not to pay Matt Forte who is in the midst of his best season as a pro.
Pressure from fans to sign Forte is growing, but Chicago, along with other teams searching for a back, should steer clear of investing their future in Forte. It's not an indictment of him as a player by any means, but more so his position.
Investing heavily in a running back runs the risk of having what has happened in Tennessee happen to your team. The Titans gave Chris Johnson a massive contract and have watched him struggle throughout the season. Some are even pondering if Johnson will be cut at season's end.
Another worry about Forte is the workload he has taken on. He's on pace to go over 400 touches this season, and if the Bears make the playoffs, that number will only increase.
What makes Forte so enticing is his ability to run the football and catch it out of the backfield. If DeAngelo Williams can get $43 million over five years, it stands that Forte will make more.
And that's just too much to pay for a running back in today's NFL.
DeSean Jackson is in the middle of a disappointing season in which his character, work ethic and attitude have come in to question. That's not exactly a good thing for a receiver who has been griping about his contract since training camp.
Yes, Jackson deserves a raise, but not what he is going to expect this offseason. The talented speedster would give any team an upgrade as far as a deep threat wide receiver goes, and he is a terrific punt returner. But there are going to be concerns about his work ethic after he gets paid.
Will he put this season behind him and work hard or will he continue his frustrating antics?
Whichever team signs Jackson better do their homework on him before investing any money in him. Despite being dynamic and a game-changer when the ball is in his hands, I would advise teams to avoid investing their future in him.
It's been a disastrous season for Peyton Hillis, and any hope of him striking rich has gone out the door. But any team hoping that Hillis is the answer at the running back position for them going forward is looking in the wrong direction.
The Cleveland running back is a one-year wonder. He tailed off towards the end of last season and is injury prone. Couple that with questions about his attitude and work ethic, and you have a player most every team should avoid.
Hillis is going to enter free agency looking for a big contract, but will likely settle on a short deal hoping that he can rebound and strike rich after next season.
Pass-rushing defensive ends often get paid quite well, especially when they have a history of sacking the quarterback. That is exactly what Robert Mathis brings to the table. Yet any wise team would avoid spending a boatload of money on him.
Mathis is on the backside of his career, and his best years appear to be behind him. There's still a possibility he could turn in a few more productive years, but don't expect to be getting a guy who is going to record double-digit sacks.
On a bad Indianapolis Colts team, Mathis has compiled 5.5 sacks this season. It would take a ferocious finish for him over the final five games of the season to reach double figures in sacks. But it isn't even about the number of sacks he finishes with, it's about the lack of an impact he has had on games this season.
Mathis and Dwight Freeney used to be two of the most feared defensive ends in the game, yet they have struggled this season much like the rest of the team. Any team looking to fix their pass-rushing woes should look elsewhere, because Mathis is getting long in the tooth and it wouldn't be smart to give him a long-term contract.
One of the biggest free agents this upcoming offseason will be Vincent Jackson. Jackson is having an up-and-down season in which the ups have been really good and the downs have been really bad. Consistent play is something the receiver needs to work on going forward.
The biggest question mark when it comes to Jackson is his age. He's going to turn 29 in January, which will cause caution for teams. Jackson relies on his speed and athleticism, and what worries me is how he will adjust when those raw skills start to fade.
By no means is he a technician at the receiver position. He isn't a great route-runner and there are some work ethic concerns with him. Whether or not they are warranted is only known within the San Diego organization.
Bottom line: Jackson looks like a potential free-agent bust.
The controversial wide receiver often makes headlines for the wrong reasons. After mocking Plaxico Burress this past weekend, Johnson has received rightful criticism over his immature actions. Immature is a good way to describe the Buffalo receiver at this stage in his career.
If Johnson wants to strike a big deal this offseason, he is going to have to start catching passes and shutting up. Johnson has the talent to be a No. 1 receiver and greatly help out a passing attack, but untimely drops and a lack of focus have plagued him.
By signing him to a long-term deal worth a significant chunk of change, a team would be assuming a risk and far from a sure thing. That's why I believe the smart move would be to avoid the dramatic receiver.