The Most Overrated 2020 NFL Free Agents Available

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2020

The Most Overrated 2020 NFL Free Agents Available

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    NFL free agency offers plenty of fool's gold to teams, sometimes at a steep price. 

    The 2020 market won't be any different, even while only a year removed from plenty of cautionary examples. The Jacksonville Jaguars thew $88 million over four years at Nick Foles last offseason, only for a sixth-round rookie quarterback to be more reliable. The New York Jets gave Le'Veon Bell more than $50 million over four seasons, only for him to average 3.2 yards per carry. 

    This year's most overrated free agents will present similar trappings based on a combination of past and projected production, age, injury history and the likelihood of outperforming massive contracts. 

    These are the most overrated free agents set to enter the 2020 market. 

         

Joe Schobert

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Joe Schobert is one of the bigger names entering the market at linebacker this offseason, and that means he's about to get paid.

    As one of the two prominent coverage linebackers (the other being Cory Littleton), he could end up making in excess of $10 million per season with his new team. The Cleveland Browns aren't willing to pay him at or above that mark and are letting him hit the market, according to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot.

    That says it all, right? The Browns allowed 24.6 points per game last year and have $61.8 million in cap space, yet they don't want to pay up. 

    Schobert graded at 59.1 at Pro Football Focus in 2019, largely because of his struggles against the run. On top of that, he allowed a 69.1 completion percentage in coverage with three touchdowns surrendered on 55 targets. He also missed 10.7 percent of his tackles. 

    Generally billed as a top coverage linebacker, Schobert didn't excel in that area last year and is a bit one-dimensional, yet the open market could push his number well beyond what even his former team, which originally invested in him, wants to pay. 

Bryan Bulaga

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Bryan Bulaga is a recognizable name, and the consensus tabs him as the best right tackle not named Jack Conklin in free agency this year. 

    But there are a few asterisks surrounding his stock. 

    Bulaga has been a good player when he's been able to get on the field, hence the 77.8 grade at Pro Football Focus last year. But attendance has been a problem as the 2010 first-round pick has played in just three 16-game seasons over the course of his career. One of those was 2019, but he suited up in just 19 over the prior two years combined. 

    The veteran right tackle will also turn 31 right around when the market opens and played less than 90 percent of the team's snaps last season. He still coughed up four sacks. He's also been called for six or more penalties in each of the last two seasons. 

    Spotrac estimates an average annual salary of nearly $11 million for Bulaga. But after looking past the name alone, the surrounding factors are causes for concern. 

Austin Hooper

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Austin Hooper, at face value, looks like a high-upside player ready to make big bank. 

    After all, he's a 25-year-old tight end who managed 75 catches and 787 yards on the same offense that sent plenty of targets to Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones

    But there's a catch: Hooper did most of his damage against zones. According to Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, 75.5 percent of his production came against holes in the zone or underneath, and that was "by far the highest percentage in the league." 

    Written another way, Hooper isn't some mismatch-creating athlete like Hunter Henry. Yet he's probably going to get paid like one, with Spotrac estimating an average annual salary of $9.9 million. That sort of cap hit would immediately put him in the upper AAV echelon at his position. 

    That's a huge investment for teams that don't necessarily have a quarterback like Matt Ryan or other pieces like Ridley and Jones to free up Hooper so he can go to work. That doesn't mean he can't succeed elsewhere, but a team will likely be paying him to produce even more than he has, which isn't a guarantee. 

Robby Anderson

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Is Robby Anderson a role-playing deep threat or a potential No. 1 wideout? 

    Evidence seems to suggest the former as Anderson has caught just 207 of his career 382 targets, and he's averaged 14.8 yards per catch in the process. He's still easily been one of the most productive deep threats in the league over his four seasons, which include 20 touchdowns. 

    But his overall game is why Pro Football Focus graded him at a 68.6 last season.

    His numbers aren't exactly efficient, and while last year was the first time he played more than 90 percent of his offense's snaps, he didn't post career highs in catches, yards or scores. He was credited with a 4.2 percent drop rate, and just 193 of his 779 yards came after the catch. 

    A team banking on Anderson would be hoping he can be more with an uptick in talent around him, but it would have to do so at an estimated cost of $12 million annually, per Spotrac. In terms of the cap hit for 2020, he'd be right alongside names like Keenan Allen and Adam Thielen, just under the DeAndre Hopkins bracket. 

    In other words, Anderson could fizzle like fellow deep threat Paul Richardson Jr. as opposed to justifying the money dictated by the open market. 

Jack Conklin

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Jack Conklin stands as one of the consensus top linemen available and arguably the top right tackle. 

    But such a consensus means exorbitant money and a very high expectations bar. 

    Unfortunately, the eighth pick in 2016 hasn't seemed the same since his January 2018 ACL tear in the playoffs.

    He was a first-team All-Pro as a rookie in 2016, but he's tapered off since. While still productive in the running game, Conklin has earned a grade that ranks 49th on true pass sets over his last two years, according to Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus.

    Whichever team signs Conklin to play the right side is probably paying him more to run block than pass block, but it's a weakness opposing teams in increasingly multiple looks can continue to exploit. As the PFF writeup notes, he's also among the tackles who have received the most help from double teams and chips over the last two seasons. Feel free to add in that he had a career-high eight penalties in 2019. 

    Spotrac has Conklin earning an average annual value of $15 million over six years. While that would take him through his prime, it would be a huge cap ask—one usually reserved strictly for left tackles. 

Philip Rivers

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Philip Rivers is a tough sell. 

    While still one of the NFL's bigger names, he is now 38 years old and can be reasonably viewed as fading fast. 

    Rivers collapsed last year for a five-win Los Angeles Chargers team, throwing his lowest touchdown total since 2007 (23) and tossing at least 20 interceptions for the third time in his career. 

    One can't blame the Chargers' failings all on Rivers, sure. But there are plenty of reasons Pro Football Focus graded him at 74.3 last year, down from 90.8 the year prior. His touchdown percentage of 3.9, for example, was the lowest of his career as a starter. 

    Is there a locale out there that can offer a better cast of weapons than Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry? Surely, better offensive lines exist somewhere, but at an estimated cost of $24.3 million per season, according to Spotrac, Rivers has big potential to backfire. 

    He's increasingly risky compared to the rest of the market, where there appear to be more sure veterans (Tom Brady) and safer, less expensive bets (Teddy Bridgewater, maybe Marcus Mariota), never mind potential trade candidates like Andy Dalton