The NFL's All-Overpaid Free-Agency TeamMarch 18, 2019
The NFL's All-Overpaid Free-Agency Team
NFL free agency is the land of both overpays and bargains, as front offices at various stages of the roster-building process dole out cash to the flood of players on the open market.
Sometimes, differentiating between the two is hard.
Hindsight can be kinder when evaluating overpays. But in the aftermath of deals that began going public as soon as the legal tampering window opened, a few obvious ones stick out.
These mistakes take different forms. Sometimes a bad team coughs up too much in an attempt to compensate for poor drafting or other mistakes. Other times, an organization takes a gamble on limited production or age. In some cases, it follows no discernible roster-building strategy (looking at you, New York Giants).
Let's craft the NFL's All-Overpaid team, comprised of these recent contracts that stick out as the worst at each position group.
QB: Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Just one year ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars coughed up a three-year extension worth $54 million for Blake Bortles because he played a role in getting the team to the AFC title game.
Now Bortles is a free agent, and Nick Foles is the new man under center.
For his playoff efforts with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jaguars front office handed the 30-year-old quarterback a four-year contract worth up to $102 million, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. That's a triple-digit deal for Foles, who hasn't appeared in more than seven games during a single season since 2015, is a career 61.6 percent passer and has now bounced to his fourth team since 2012.
The Jaguars wanted to grab a veteran who could manage the game while a strong running game and defense carry the load.
But 26-year-old Teddy Bridgewater only got $7.25 million over one year. And clutching the seventh overall pick, Jacksonville is positioned for a high-profile quarterback prospect such as Dwayne Haskins, whose rookie contract could have let the team beef up other positions with the leftover cash.
RB: Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints
What, did you expect Le'Veon Bell?
Bell's $52.5 million deal with the New York Jets is big. But he's one of the NFL's better offensive weapons. His one-year absence and attempt to slide into a new offense creates some risk, but his prior production and New York's need to help second-year quarterback Sam Darnold justifies the price tag.
Then we have Latavius Murray.
Murray joined the New Orleans Saints on a four-year deal worth $14.4 million, and he'll replace Mark Ingram behind Alvin Kamara on the depth chart. The problem? Murray isn't as versatile in the passing game as Ingram, and the latter only cost the Baltimore Ravens $15 million over three years.
This swap of 29-year-old backs doesn't make a ton of sense for the Saints.
Losing a rusher with more versatility in the passing game who's averaging 4.5 yards per carry during his career is odd. So is paying this much when options such as Tevin Coleman (two years, $8.5 million with the San Francisco 49ers), Mike Davis (two years, $6 million with the Chicago Bears) and Carlos Hyde (one year, $2.8 million with the Kansas City Chiefs) were available.
WR: John Brown, Buffalo Bills
The wide receiver market doesn't seem to have many gross overpays this year. Golden Tate got a deal he deserved, even if it doesn't make a ton of sense for the New York Giants. Tyrell Williams is one of the league's most underrated players, and he should live up to the $44 million he'll earn with the Oakland Raiders.
But the Buffalo Bills betting this much on John Brown looks questionable.
Brown will turn 29 in April and struggled a season ago during his one-year audition with the Baltimore Ravens, catching 42 of his 97 targets for 715 yards and five scores. The switch to Lamar Jackson didn't do him any favors, but he's still got only one 1,000-yard season to his name over five years in the NFL.
Ideally, Brown, aboard for $27 million over three years, gives sophomore quarterback Josh Allen a reliable deep threat. And he does average 15 yards per catch on his career. But it's not like he was the only deep threat on the market. The 25-year-old Jamison Crowder, for example, got a similar deal with the New York Jets.
Plus, Robert Foster made a name for himself a year ago as Buffalo's deep threat. The undrafted Alabama target averaged 20 yards per catch and scored three times, so it seemed the Bills had an in-house solution and could have avoided overpaying to lure someone to town.
TE: Nick Boyle, Baltimore Ravens
The rest of the NFL can't be happy with the Baltimore Ravens.
They dished Nick Boyle an $18 million deal over three years—an average annual value of $6 million for a 26-year-old player who has failed to catch a single touchdown pass during any of his four professional seasons.
Touchdowns aren't the only important number, of course. But Boyle missed five games as a rookie, sat out 10 as a sophomore and hasn't topped more than 213 yards receiving in a season.
The Ravens will justify the contract by pointing to Boyle's prowess as a blocker and emphasizing how his presence will help Lamar Jackson. But last year, they also drafted Hayden Hurst in the first round and Mark Andrews in the third. Though Boyle is a good blocker, this sort of money usually goes to producers. Even players such as C.J. Uzomah and Jesse James got comparable deals based on offensive upside during the first week of free agency.
Unless Boyle works some magic and changes his game, the price tag for tight ends just rose.
OL: Trent Brown, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders made sure no one could compete for the top spot here.
After drafting Kolton Miller 15th overall and adding Brandon Parker at No. 65 in the 2018 NFL draft, they thought it wise to bring Trent Brown to town on a deal worth a record-setting $66 million over four seasons.
Normally, that would suggest Brown is guaranteed to serve as a lockdown tackle on the blindside who will keep Derek Carr clean so the offense can repeatedly spam the ball at new arrival Antonio Brown. But is it really that simple?
Brown, the 244th selection in 2015, was an erratic presence with the San Francisco 49ers for his first three NFL seasons. He joined the New England Patriots for one campaign and had a solid year before hitting the open market.
The Raiders are gambling quite a bit here.
Their coaching staff is already looking to replace a pair of rookies drafted just one year prior. They're betting on those same coaches to keep Brown's career steady while hoping Carr can get the ball out fast enough to limit his exposure in a division featuring Von Miller, Melvin Ingram III and more. Previously, Brown had a softer division, and Tom Brady fired the ball out quickly.
Oakland paid a bad-team tax here while gambling on a player with one solid year under his belt, which is about as risky as it gets.
DL/Edge: Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers
Paying up for one year of production is a dangerous game.
The Green Bay Packers were content to do so with Za'Darius Smith, throwing four years and $66 million his way. He had a breakout year with the Baltimore Ravens a season ago and recorded 8.5 sacks. But over the three years prior, the number never ticked north of 5.5.
By comparison, the Packers also brought on Preston Smith for the same number of years and only $52 million. He's had eight sacks twice over the last four years and created pressure with more consistency.
In theory, the two will work wonders together for a defense that wasn't getting much from Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. But the new and aggressive Packers seem to have misstepped with Smith, who will turn 27 next season.
This isn't like moving for Dee Ford and his 10-plus sacks in two of the last three years, where the outlier came when he missed 10 games. It's not like the Detroit Lions signing Trey Flowers, who's one of the league's better overall defenders.
The Packers sit on the Nos. 12 and 30 picks. Drating a complementary rookie rusher alongside Smith might have made more sense, allowing the front office to push more money to other areas of needs—like the supporting cast of skill-position players around Aaron Rodgers.
LB: Preston Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
The linebacker class provided slim pickings this year, with C.J. Mosley and Kwon Alexander getting contracts they deserve.
Then we have the Cincinnati Bengals throwing $21 million at Preston Brown over the next three years and overpaying for a run-stuffing thumper who, unless he dramatically changes his game, figures to come off the field with regularity. This contract feels like an overreaction after they boasted one of the NFL's worst linebacker units.
Brown arrived in Cincinnati one year ago following four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, for whom he never missed a game. Then he promptly missed nine.
This is the crux of the problem: The Bengals added the 26-year-old on a one-year deal worth $4 million before the 2018 season. After he appeared in just seven ho-hum games, they rewarded him with a $21 million deal for no justifiable reason. (They did a similar thing with right tackle Bobby Hart, who also cashed in for the magic number of $21 million.)
To make this decision even stranger, the Bengals sit 11th in the draft order—a prime spot for someone like LSU's Devin White. They also threw a large number at Brown with linebackers such as Zach Brown on the open market and the Los Angeles Chargers only paying Denzel Perryman $12 million over two years.
CB: Justin Coleman, Detroit Lions
On one hand, third and fourth corners are becoming more important than ever in today's NFL, which would naturally lead to those salaries catching up to those earned by boundary corners.
On the other, Justin Coleman isn't the guy many figured would push the numbers closer together.
Coleman is now the NFL's highest-paid nickel corner, checking in at $36 million over four seasons. That's a huge amount of money, considering a breakout player such as Pierre Desir only got $22.5 million over three years from the Indianapolis Colts.
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia knows a thing or two about Coleman because they spent some time together with the New England Patriots before the once-undrafted player joined the Seattle Seahawks. The 5'11" cornerback is a quick-twitch defender who can help counteract divisional foes like Adam Thielen, but he wasn't exactly the leading name expected to reset the market.
S: Landon Collins, Washington Redskins
Landon Collins is a good player, but a six-year, $84 million contract is too much money.
The Washington Redskins are only the latest example of a team that falls into this trap on the open market. They aren't rebuilding or in contention, so the front office goes shopping.
Collins is a productive box safety who will make the team's defense better. But is he an $84 million player? Probably not.
Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs landed the versatile Tyrann Mathieu for three years and $42 million. The impeccable range of Earl Thomas earned him a four-year, $55 million contract from the Baltimore Ravens. Eric Weddle got $10.5 million over two years with the Los Angeles Rams. Adrian Amos? Four years and $36 million from the Green Bay Packers.
Collins didn't seem like a contender to lead a deep free safety class in cash earned. But this is also the product of a struggling franchise having to overpay in order to land quality players. Washington did so, and now this 25-year-old has a long way to go before the investment will seem worthwhile.
All contract info courtesy of Spotrac.