Now past the trade deadline in this year’s NFL season, front offices will now begin looking ahead to next offseason, and start to figure out how they’ll upgrade their roster. Free agency is always one of the most popular methods, and we are beginning to get a sense who and who isn’t going to be re-signed by their incumbent teams. As usual, tons of players are going to be hitting the open market come this March, and there will be plenty of high-profile signings along the way. We can begin to predict a few of them now.
Inevitably though, there will be signings that crash and burn early. Every team thinks they’re getting a productive player at the time they ink the contract, but reality has a way of making itself clear very early on. Free agency has a way of making players look more appealing than they really are, and many teams are invariably fooled by the intrigue these new players present. Let’s see who fits the bill for that in the upcoming 2018 offseason.
Ranked below are 15 NFL free agents who will end up being disappointments in the 2018 season.
15. Jimmy Graham
It’s unlikely that Seattle is willing to pay out yet again for Graham, who is now over the age of 30, and decidedly on the downswing of his career. No doubt he’s been a great player over his career, including his time with the Saints, but you can begin to see signs of regression, and he probably won’t be worth the money come this March. Since his name has value however, you’ll definitely see someone pay a fairly hefty price tag for the former All-Pro tight end.
It’s not that Graham can’t still be productive (and he is), he just isn’t likely to live up to any future contract he receives. His name will drive up the price, but his production won’t match it. For a team with a ton of cap space it could be a decent move, but most should stay away.
14. Vontae Davis
For a long time, Davis was one of the league’s best cover corners, and when he’s not hampered by injury, he still can be. But the odds say that the soon to be 30-year-old isn’t going to be productive throughout any kind of a multi-year deal from here on out. He’s one of the lone good players on a bad Colts defense, but overall, the prime of his career is just about over.
However, cornerbacks come at a premium in today’s NFL, and the intrigue of having a former Pro-Bowler may just be too much to turn down. Davis should ideally go to a team that already has a solid stable of defensive backs, but a team desperate in need of a go-to starter at the position is likely to overpay for him. That will not be to his benefit at this point in his career.
13. Mike Wallace
It seems like Wallace has been a disappointment everywhere he’s been in the league so far, for one reason or another. His counting stats have been very good at times, but his inconsistency, and perceived lack of effort don’t go a long way in making a good case for him on the free agent market. With their general lack of receiving options on the roster, Baltimore actually could be looking to re-sign Wallace, but they could just as easily let him walk, and not think twice about it.
Now getting well into his 30s, any chance Wallace had at becoming a consistent contributor to any one team is pretty much nonexistent now. Someone will take a flyer on him in the offseason, but don’t be surprised when his play is just so-so at best.
12. Isaiah Crowell
Crowell was hoping to prove that he could be the Browns’ running back of the future with a strong campaign this year, but that just hasn’t been the case. His numbers are middling at best, and he’s just been inconsistent for the entire season. With this in mind, it’s difficult to see Cleveland offering him a contract extension, instead opting to let him walk in the offseason.
There will be a market for Crowell’s services, however. Running backs typically get a second chance, so even though it won’t be a blockbuster deal, he’s going to sign somewhere, likely as a backup option to an incumbent running back. While it’s not likely that he breaks out as a starter, he’ll still be in the league, which is all Crowell can hope for at this point.
11. Eric Decker
The Titans took a flyer on Decker in an attempt to give some life to their inept receiving corps. He’s definitely past his prime at this point, and has dealt with some severe injuries the past few seasons. It would be surprising to see Tennessee willing to shell out more money to keep him, when they likely can pick up a younger and better possession receiver elsewhere.
If Decker doesn’t retire following the season, he’ll likely spend the 2018 campaign as a depth option on a talented receiving corps. It’s a far cry from when he was one of the top targets on the Jets and Broncos, but this what his career has come to. He’s probably going to be one and done in Tennessee, and not achieve too much anywhere else until he retires.
10. Jeremy Hill
Now that the Bengals have Joe Mixon in tow as their primary running back of the future, there’s not much chance that they bring back Hill, who has had every opportunity to win that job over the past few seasons. While he’s one of the more intriguing running back options in free agency this upcoming year, there’s no guarantee that he lands a starting job anywhere right out of the gate.
However, there should be several bidders lined up. Hill has shown enough flashes of brilliance to be a candidate to enhance anyone’s backfield. The surrounding personnel will need to be pretty good to elevate his game though. Running backs can burn out early, and Hill’s workload in Cincinnati may have already sunk his career.
9. Taylor Gabriel
Gabriel has been on plenty of highlight reel plays for the Falcons over the past few years. The speedy wideout has proven that he’s able to burn a defense and get behind the secondary. As with many burner-type receivers however, his production is sporadic, and depends on what the defense is giving him. He’s not really a complete talent, and there’s no guarantee he would be as good without the likes of Julio Jones playing around him.
The Falcons probably won’t want to pay considerable amounts of money for a one-trick pony. Gabriel has use in the right offensive, but someone is probably going to bid Atlanta out of the deal. Gabriel will be a stop-start player in most offenses, and not worthy of big money.
8. Terrelle Pryor
What a disaster of a season it’s been for Pryor, who was essentially playing for a long-term deal based of his performance in 2017. After showing flashes with the Browns the year before, he signed with the Redskins for this year, and has promptly been ineffective in Washington’s offense for nearly the entire season. There’s next to zero chance that they’ll be interested in keeping him after his low-quality play of late.
Still, somebody is going to have interest. There’s no doubt that Pryor is a freak athlete, and there are coaches who are always willing to take on reclamation projects. Despite this, Pryor has shown that he’s not able to be a major piece to any receiving corps on a competitive team. As he’s nearing the age of 30, it’s not going to get any easier for him.
7. Jordan Matthews
There’s really been no word on whether the Bills are interested in re-signing Matthews, but there’s been little production to give any kind of an incentive. Buffalo acquired him from the Eagles in a trade just before the start of the season, but so far the bigger return has been the draft pick involved instead. Matthews has been only a marginal part of their offense so far, with just a so-so rapport with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
The smart move would be to let him walk, and let him collect an overpay from another team. With the wide receiver market looking fairly slim this offseason, Matthews will get more than he’s worth, and probably won’t figure to be much more than a decent slot receiver at the end of the day.
6. Eddie Lacy
The Seahawks wanted Lacy to help solidify their shaky backfield, but all he did was make the situation more complicated. Seattle truly can’t run the ball with anybody, but Lacy’s struggles are likely from his own doing. With injuries and his weight control being an issue in recent years, it’s probable that he wasn’t going to succeed this season no matter where he went.
Now, there’s not much of a chance that he’ll be re-signed in Seattle. There’s no incentive to keep an over-the-hill player, even though he’ll come on the cheap. As is the case with running backs, Lacy will get another chance, but it will be an uphill battle for him to get a significant amount of snaps barring injury, anywhere he goes.
5. Sam Bradford
There’s no telling what’s going to become of Bradford after the season. The Vikings put the veteran quarterback on IR recently, and there is no indication that they have plans to re-sign him. With Teddy Bridgewater ostensibly back from his long-term injury, Bradford could simply be shown the door, and be looking to land a new starting job in the offseason.
But there’s a premium placed on quarterbacks around the league, and Bradford will likely be given another shot based solely on a team’s desperation. The former 1st-overall pick hasn’t really lived up to expectations in this career, but he’s been good enough to warrant becoming an option for a team in need. We can expect Bradford to vie for starting time outside of Minnesota, we just can’t expect the results to be much better than what he’s shown so far.
4. Carlos Hyde
Hyde would no doubt be res-igned by the 49ers if had been able to stay healthy and consistently productive. There’s no questioning his talent, and there’s still a chance that San Francisco would be willing to re-sign him. However, with a new coaching staff in the mix, and Hyde’s up-and-down nature to his play, this is far from a likely possibility at this point.
And unless he’s able to go to a system that doesn’t require him to be a consistently good player, there are major questions as to how well he’ll be able to live up to a multi-year deal. Even though he’s possibly the most talented running back available in free agency this year, Hyde has a plethora of issues attached to his game that could spell disaster with a new team, although his upside is certainly still present as well.
3. Kirk Cousins
Now that the possibility of Cousins going to the 49ers seems to be off the table, the speculation mounts as to where exactly he’ll be playing in 2018. The Redskins sure haven’t made much of an effort to lock him up for the long-term, so there’s little reason why they would start doing so now. That leaves a handful of teams who will be in need of a legitimate starting quarterback next year, and Cousins will be the most ready-made option available in free agency.
The problem is, we don’t really know how good Cousins can really be. He hasn’t been able to elevate a Redskins team that’s been in playoff position for the past few years, but he also has posted ostensibly good numbers. There’s going to be a bit of estimation involved in this signing, from whichever team shells out the money, but indications say that Cousins strays closer to “good” rather than “great” as far as quarterbacks go. That’s not always worth a premium contract.
2. Trumaine Johnson
Perhaps the most talented defensive player that will be available in the offseason, Johnson an the Rams have been playing tag on his contract negotiations for a while now. With the likelihood that the team won’t be willing to franchise tag him again, Johnson is probably going to be playing in a new uniform for the 2018 season. He’s the kind of corner that can solidify an entire secondary.
The only problem is that cornerbacks generally aren’t worth the money that they garner on the free agent market. Moreover, they are more effected by scheme changes than almost any other defensive position. Johnson could be a productive corner elsewhere, but he could also crash and burn, leaving some unfortunate team accountable for his hefty price tag.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
It was the headline news of this year’s trade deadline; Garoppolo to the 49ers in exchange for a 2nd-round pick. This left many scratching their heads in confusion, and rightfully so. To give up a premium draft asset (on a team that still needs to rebuild most of its roster) to acquire a backup quarterback is slightly mind-boggling. Combined with his general lack of in-game experience, Garoppolo has also had the advent of playing on the Patriots, who have made many players look like world-beaters just because of Belichick’s system.
So understandably, there’s a lot of questions surrounding Garoppolo in San Francisco. He’ll have very few games in this season to prove he can be a franchise quarterback, unless the Niners want to resign him to a long-term deal in the offseason regardless. Either way, they’re going to have to pay to keep him, as he’s off his rookie deal after the end of this season. So they’ll be basing their decision off of an extremely small sample size. Not ideal in the least.
This is shaping up to be a disaster of a move for the 49ers, all things considered. There’s a good chance that Garoppolo isn’t a franchise quarterback without the Belichick bubble aiding him along the way.
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