For most, Free Agency in the NFL is a crapshoot. There are always a number of big name players set to make their way onto the market, but in the end only a handful actually become free agents. With the NBA and MLB having these of spectacles year after year, it’s understandable to get a little frustrated as a football fan. You really have to know the league and its players well to get a proper appreciation for NFL free agency. As it stands, there are a good deal of well known names heading for the open market. Though that’s likely to change in the months following the 2017 Regular Season Kickoff, some will still be there.
There are always going to be bad deals that teams regret made in the offseason. Some are trades, some are free agent deals and some are re-signings. You always have those signings you look back on and have a laugh about. They can cripple a team when they were supposed to boost them to the next level. While some players go under the radar others come in red hot – some deservedly so, while others are just the NFL equivalent to fool’s gold.
Here are 8 NFL players who are going to get paid in 2017 and 7 who aren’t worth the money.
15 Paid: Nate Solder
Being a member of the New England Patriots is always going to put you in the spotlight, but a championship season only amplifies that. Though not one of the biggest names on the Patriots’ roster, Nate Solder is a solid tackle and looks to be approaching his last chance for a big pay day. His 2017 campaign will greatly affect just how big of a payout he’ll get, but Solder is a solid talent at his position and many teams would kill to have someone like him protecting their quarterback’s blind side. As of now his market value stands at around an $11 million yearly salary. That would put him up there with names like Russell Okung and King Dunlap. You could make the argument that Solder is better than those two so his chances of getting paid next year are pretty good.
14 Not Worth It: Larry Fitzgerald
Well, we know that this sounds a little egregious at first but hear this out. Yes, Larry Fitzgerald is still a solid receiver in the NFL despite his age, and yes he’s proven that he can still be a reliable target, but at this point in his career, Fitzgerald isn’t worth the big pay day some might expect him to get next season. He’s a big name in the league, and so we assume he’d be compensated as such, but we’re not even sure he’ll come back after 2017. At 33, Fitz is nearing the end of his career and while the thought of adding him to their roster might interest some teams looking for veteran leadership, he’s just not worth the huge pay day.
13 Paid: Eddie Lacy
This is entirely based on him having a successful 2017 campaign with the Seahawks, but Eddie Lacy should really shine in Seattle this year. Word so far is that Lacy has looked like a steal for Seattle, and while the fantasy owners out there might be groaning at the thought of hearing this old song once again, Lacy is still young and can very well turn it around this year in a new environment. There were times in Green Bay where he looked like a solid thumper. If he can work on keeping his weight in check and improve his vision, his mixture of size, power and acceleration would be a sought after commodity once free agency hits next year. With an estimated value of $3 million a year going into the season, he’d be a steal.
12 Not Worth It: Aldon Smith
Aldon Smith is a tricky player to gauge at this point in his career. He’s shown us that he can be a beast, disrupting passes, penetrating running lanes and forcing turnovers. But at the same time he’s left many teams and fans weary for his conduct off the field. For a time, Smith looked like he’d be one of the premier pass rushers in the league while he was with the 49ers. But suspensions and off the field madness put that on hold. He’ll look to once again prove himself this year with the Raiders and while he could very well go and have a great season, investing elite pass rusher money on him would be a terrible idea given his character concerns.
11 Paid: Matthew Stafford
While no one would go so far to call him one of the best passers in the league, Matt Stafford is certainly a top 10 or at the very least top 15 quarterback in the NFL. Stafford had his best year in 2011 and while he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success, has still managed to establish himself as one of the more solid veterans you can have leading your offense. Stafford still has a solid chunk of time before his age starts to affect his play, and being a quarterback it’s more than likely that he’ll receive a huge payout from the Lions to keep him in Detroit. Loosing guys like Stafford to free agency is pretty much unheard of.
10 Not Worth It: Vontaze Burfict
A talented linebacker, most would expect Vontaze Burflict to get paid next year, and he very well might given how great of a force his is on the field. But much like Aldon Smith, Burflict carries too much baggage to justify a long term investment. Though his career hasn’t been marred to the same extent Smith’s has, Burflict has shown that he’s a ticking time bomb. It’s not a question of if he’ll do something detrimental to himself or his team – but when. The Bengals have been known to take these kinds of players under their wing and groom them for success, which likely signifies that Burflict stays in Cincy. He’s a heck of a player but will more than likely slip up again in the near future.
9 Paid: Dontari Poe
The defensive tackle market was kind of lackluster this past offseason. Not because of the talent available, but more due to how teams approached signing that talent. Just a few months ago, Dontari Poe was expected to get a huge deal but had to settle for a one year deal with the Falcons. Poe is one of the best nose tackles in the NFL, so don’t expect that to happen again next year. What happened this past offseason was an oddity that we’ll likely not see repeated in 2018. Poe should thrive with the Falcons hard hitting defensive unit. If he keeps up his high level of play then he’ll be one of the highest paid at his position next year.
8 Not Worth It: Sammy Watkins
There were five receivers selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, one of them is already with a new team. Sammy Watkins was the first selected and by far the most disappointing of the group. In a draft class that contains names such as Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Bradin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin – Watkins is the underachiever. Injuries have led to inconsistent play and have mucked up Watkins’ future in the NFL. 2017 will be a make or break season for him. His rookie year was the last time he was able to stay healthy for 16 straight games. Injuries have to be a major concern for any team looking to sign him and while a young talent like hi does usually command a high salary, the injuries make this a risky proposition.
7 Paid: Drew Brees
Drew Brees is one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL. Unlike any other passer on this list, he’s a Super Bowl winner, has made multiple Pro Bowl and holds a bunch of NFL records. When all is said and done he’s going to be in Canton. But Brees is currently working on a one year contract and his time with the Saints might be coming to an end. Nearing 40, Brees still looks like he has a good year or two left in him. The rules of age don’t tend to apply to Hall of Fame calibre quarterbacks. Barring injury, Brees will be in the league in 2018, and he’ll collect a nice little paycheque regardless of what uniform he’s wearing.
6 Not Worth It: Sam Bradford
The Sam Bradford situation in Minnesota is one we’ll have to keep our eyes on. Bradford was brought in to salvage the Vikings’ 2016 campaign after Teddy Bridgewater went down following a freak injury during training camp. Bradford played good football and looked like he’d curbed the injury bug that’s been known to plague him. While he’s not a top talent in the league, Bradford is more than serviceable as a starter. But the thing with quarterbacks in the NFL is that they get paid regardless of their actual talent level. Look at Mike Glennon. Bradford will likely command top dollar in 2018. While that might be a risk some teams are willing to take, that money could be spent on better things.
5 Paid: Alshon Jeffery
The Eagles might’ve gotten themselves the deal of the offseason with their signing of Alshon Jeffrey. Jeffery was once thought of as one of the leagues up and coming receiving talents. But his play has been pretty mediocre over the last couple of years. That didn’t stop the eagles from taking a chance on him, and while it could very well fail to work out, Jeffery should have a great 2017 campaign in Philadelphia. Whether or not he stays with the team past that is another question, but should he re-establish himself he’ll be making top dollar. There aren’t all that many teams out there that can say they wouldn’t take a potential top 10 receiver and throw him into their offense.
4 Not Worth It: Le'Veon Bell
You might think this is crazy, but hear us out on why one of the best running backs in the league simply isn’t worth the huge pay day he’s likely to see come 2018. We already know that Bell is a beast. As a runner he’s shifty, has a good deal of power and excellent vision and breakaway ability. He’s also a great receiver and can move to the line of scrimmage, working in the slot. But Bell has a bad case of the injury bug. Pair that with some suspensions and you have a very talented liability on your team. Paying him the $10 plus million annual average he’s likely to make could seriously hurt your team should he miss a significant amount of time at any given point.
3 Paid: Ezekiel Ansah
You might not think of him as such after the abysmal year he had in 2016, but Ziggy Ansah is still one of the best up and coming pass rushing talents the league has to offer. The Lions’ fifth year man had a break out campaign in 2015 that saw him put up 14.5 sacks following some pedestrian efforts in his first two seasons. Ansah recorded a meager two sacks last year – both came towards the end of the regular season – and didn’t make as much noise as he had in his first three campaigns. We’ve seen pass rushers get paid pretty nicely in recent years, and so long as he can put up some average numbers this season, he’ll get a nice pay day in 2018.
2 Not Worth It: Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins is fine with playing throughout the 2017 NFL Season on the franchise tag. Why wouldn’t he be? The Redskins passer is going to take home over $20 million for the second straight season and is poised to make all that and more regardless of whether or not he stays in Landover. While he’s likely to be paid as a superstar, Cousins has yet to show that he’s anything more than a serviceable starter in the NFL. He has solid stats on his side, but is nearing 30 and doesn’t look like he’ll suddenly emerge as one of the league’s top tier passers on a whim. Wherever he ends up, Cousins will get one of the largest contracts we’ve seen in a while. But is he really worth it all?
1 Paid: Kam Chancellor
Kam Chancellor very well may finish his career as a Seattle Seahawk, but if Chancellor and the Hawks can’t work something out by next year, and if the franchise tag isn’t an option, then there will be plenty of teams lining up to recruit the All-Pro safety. Chancellor will be 30 by the time the 2018 NFL Regular season kicks off, but he still has some serviceable years left in him, and there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t be as dominant he is today three or four years from now. Seahawks fans would love to see him come back and in all likelihood he will, but should he hit the market the list of potential suitors could get long.