2012 NFL Free Agents: 15 Players Who Won't Land the Big Dollars They Seek

Brandon Alisoglu@@BrandonAlisogluCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2011

2012 NFL Free Agents: 15 Players Who Won't Land the Big Dollars They Seek

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    Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is among a handful of 2012 NFL free agents who have squandered their opportunity to receive large pay raises.

    Contract years (when a player is not under contract for the following season) tend to motivate NFL players to excel and thus maximize their negotiating leverage. Unfortunately, it occasionally is the only year that a player will put forth their maximum effort.

    The following players entered this season thinking their play would translate to financial security. They'd probably be better off getting an internship at Edward Jones.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith

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    Alex Smith came into this season on a one-year audition for new San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. He re-signed for $5 million and has performed admirably, guiding his team to an 11-3 record.

    The 49ers should still be in the market for a quarterback who can take the load off of Frank Gore. It wouldn't hurt to see what the Indianapolis Colts required in exchange for Peyton Manning.

    Smith has limited his mistakes by taking what the defense has given him. The result has been 16 touchdowns, which puts him in the middle of the pack. 

    He may not have come in with the aspirations of receiving a franchise-tag salary, but it will be difficult to give him much of a raise.

Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Kyle Orton

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    Interim coach Romeo Crennel has stated that Kyle Orton should be the starting quarterback in 2012 if he leads the Kansas City Chiefs to victories in their final two games.

    Crennel should probably worry about his own job security first. Proclaiming that you have a starting quarterback after a no-touchdown effort against one of the worst defenses in the league isn't the best interview fodder.

    Orton appeared to be a semi-hot commodity coming into the season, but quickly played himself out of that position. He needs to repackage himself as a veteran backup if he plans on signing a longer contract.

Oakland Raiders Quarterback Jason Campbell

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    Jason Campbell wasn't after big dollars so much as job security. He is not going to find it with the Oakland Raiders.

    Nobody has had the bad luck that Campbell has had over the last few years. Campbell has dealt with new coaches everywhere he has gone, whether it was Mike Shanahan or Hue Jackson.

    Additionally, both the Washington Redskins and Raiders acquired washed-up veteran quarterbacks to take over his job.

    His best route may be to contact the Chicago Bears. They could use a solid backup. 

Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson

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    DeSean Jackson is the NFL free agent equivalent to Donald Trump's Republican nomination campaign: plenty of bluster about who deserves what, but short on substance.

    Jackson held out for the first 11 days of Philadelphia Eagles' training camp, claiming he was severally underpaid. He might not have been an elite receiver (zero seasons with more than 62 catches), but he added an explosive element to the offense and as a return man.

    Jackson's season has mirrored the Eagles' regarding both hype and lack of accomplishment. He has three total touchdowns this year.

    His best move would be to take a one-year, incentive-laden contract to earn the long-term security he so badly desires.

Indianapolis Colts Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon

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    Peyton Manning's neck injury not only altered the future of the Indianapolis Colts, but single-handedly changed the course of Pierre Garcon's impending contract negotiations.

    Garcon's numbers are mostly on par with what he has done for the last couple seasons. He has hauled in six touchdowns and accumulated 875 yards.

    Yet Garcon has to be wondering what numbers he would have produced with Manning at the helm. 

St. Louis Rams Wide Receiver Brandon Lloyd

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    Brandon Lloyd had a career year in 2010. Unfortunately, he signed a two-year contract prior to his breakout year.

    A team may compensate him based on his proven potential, but his one successful season doesn't warrant much of a payday.

    Lloyd went from 11 touchdowns in 2010 to four this year. His 2012 salary will reflect the same steep drop-off.

San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards

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    The New York Jets made Braylon Edwards expendable in the offseason. Edwards then accepted a one-year offer from the San Francisco 49ers, with an eye towards proving his worth.

    It seemed to be a sensible move after having his second-best year in 2010, but the gamble did not pay off.

    Edwards has zero touchdowns and 14 receptions this season. Lastly, he has not been able to stay healthy, as he has only played in eight games.

Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis

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    Peyton Hillis rivals DeSean Jackson in money lost this season. The Madden 12 cover-player had a chance to grab the type of contract that secures your family for life.

    Instead, Hillis will face intense scrutiny regarding his desire and durability. This is his fourth year in the NFL and half of his career yardage was gained last year.

    He will have a difficult time selling himself as a long-term feature back. In fact, those days may have already come and gone.

Cincinnati Bengals Running Back Cedric Benson

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    Cedric Benson came into the season on thin ice due to multiple run-ins with law enforcement over the last few years. His play this season hasn't done enough to erase those concerns.

    Benson has been steady throughout his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, yet he never had the breakout season he appeared poised to have.

    Safe to say, that season did not occur in 2011. As he creeps closer to 30, Benson's chance to cash in on his talent is slipping away.

Indianapolis Colts Center Jeff Saturday

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    Jeff Saturday is, at the very least, a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate right now. He has made plenty of money calling out Peyton Manning's pass protections for the last decade.

    However, there was still a chance for Saturday to grab one last large paycheck. He probably could still get a very nice offer from a team, but his priorities will likely be placed elsewhere.

    His best move would be to make himself a package deal with Peyton if the Colts decide to move their franchise quarterback.

Atlanta Falcons Defensive End John Abraham

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    John Abraham's situation is not much different from Jeff Saturday's. He has been playing for 12 years and is just finishing a lucrative contract.

    His production has waned slightly, but is still worthy of employment. However, at 33 years of age, no team is going to be willing to pay him highly or agree to multiple years.

    The Falcons would do well to keep him on a cheaper short-term deal and draft a young talent to rotate with him.

Detroit Lions Linebacker DeAndre Levy

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    DeAndre Levy came into the season with aspirations of making the leap into the next class of linebackers. He has been slightly above average, so entering his third year seemed like an appropriate time for him to excel.

    Levy has remained marginally better than mediocre. While he is second in tackles for the Detroit Lions, his tackle factor of 1.09 doesn't scream elite. 

    The Lions will face difficult decisions when determining what to do with their linebackers. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch was only signed to a one-year deal and they probably can't keep them both.

Tennessee Titans Safety Michael Griffin

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    Michael Griffin is another player who wished he was a free agent in 2011 instead of 2012.

    Griffin had a career year in 2010. However, his numbers have slipped considerably this season as he only has one interception and 62 tackles.

    Considering the Tennessee Titans aren't known for paying high prices to keep their players, Griffin should follow Stephen Tulloch's lead and sign a one-year deal.

    It's obvious that he has the talent to cash in.

New Orleans Cornerback Tracy Porter

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    Inconsistency has plagued New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter for years. He has shown flashes of superb ability followed by head-scratching efforts.

    The Saints and Porter had hoped this would be the year he elevated himself to the next level.

    He hasn't.

    Porter has notched only one interception while defending eight passes. He has played a large role in one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

    Barring a sensational playoff run, Tracy Porter won't be bringing home the large check he had hoped for.

Chicago Bears Safety Brandon Meriweather

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    Brandon Meriweather must hope that the rest of the league doesn't know what the New England Patriots determined prior to the season. He isn't that good.

    He put together a couple Pro Bowl years in New England, but hasn't been able to maintain that level of play. His reckless style has too often left the defense vulnerable to long plays.

    Since signing with the Chicago Bears, Meriweather has yet to prove himself worthy of a lucrative multi-year contract. He must improve his discipline before he garners that type of interest.