The 2017 NFL free agency period is right around the corner. On March 9th, the floodgates of players looking for a new contract will be opened, and the bidding wars will commence. As usual for many teams, there lies a chance for any given front office to improve their roster, and land a player that will make a significant difference in the upcoming season. We’ve seen signings like this over the years elevate a team into the upper-tier of the league, while others have crashed and burned, not being worth the expense.
That’s always the danger with free agency in the NFL. Given the risky nature of pro football itself, and the fact that careers tend to last a shorter amount of time than any other sport, there’s a thin line between “productive signing” and “absolute disaster”. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of players on the free agent market every year who are overrated, which results in a contract that doesn’t match up with their production. The allure of their perceived ceiling as a player is sometimes enough to convince a front office to shell out the cash for them, when they should have been more patient.
Ranked below are the top 15 sucker moves that will be made during the 2017 NFL offseason.
15. Dontari Poe Will Be Overvalued
With the Chiefs likely applying the franchise tag on safety Eric Berry, Poe will be set to be a free agent, and will be one of the most sought-after defensive tackles on the market for the 2017 offseason. There’s no question that he’s a durable player, and rarely misses games, but he’s also coming off of two down years, after being selected to the Pro Bowl for several seasons before that. It certainly doesn’t mean that Poe is a bad player, but it does mean that he’s likely be valued to highly for what he’ll actually contribute. A team with a large amount of cap space is going to shell out for him, since he’s still a quality player, and will definitely have multiple bidders gunning for him. For most of these teams however, a younger option who would post similar numbers is also available, making a Poe signing questionable.
14. Trade For Jimmy Garoppolo
The intrigue for Garoppolo increased tenfold after he started his first several NFL games in 2016 due to Tom Brady’s suspension. He played quite well, and the Patriots won both games with him under center. He’s still under contract with New England, but knowing the quarterback market in recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising if a desperate team is vying for a trade, despite his limited resume as a starter. It’s the same thought process that landed Brock Osweiler on the Texans, and now they’re wishing they had stayed far away from such an unproven quarterback. This is what is likely to happen with Garoppolo. While he does have some ability, he’s also playing for the Patriots, who have had a winning system entrenched for nearly 20 years, and have allowed mediocre quarterbacks such as Matt Cassel to win big when Brady has been sidelined. Garoppolo isn’t like to produce at such a high level when he’s no longer in Belichick’s grasp.
13. DeSean Jackson Will Be Overpaid
D-Jax has been working the press heavily in the weeks leading up to free agency in order to drive up his value in free agency. Now, it’s true that he can still play when he’s healthy, as he torches defenses on the deep ball with regularity, even as he’s hit the age of 30. Still, he has dealt with some significant injuries over the last few years, and won’t be worth the contract that the upper-tier receivers are getting on the market right now. It’s likely that there will be a few different bidders for Jackson, and that will drive his price up past what he’s worth. This has all the makings of a veteran player wanting one last big payday, and then the output being so-so when it actually comes down to game time. Jackson is still a useful receiver, but his contract will probably fall in a bracket above what he’s worth at this point in his career.
12. Stephon Gilmore Will Be Overpaid
While Gilmore is going to be the best free agent cornerback on the market this year, that also means that he’s going to get a payday that almost no player at his position could live up to, if recent history is any indication. Free agent corners who are considered to be elite players, have a storied history of not living up to their contract. With several teams having an enormous amount of cap space this year, there’s going to be plenty of opportunity for Gilmore to rake in a ton of money, probably in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. It’s difficult for a cornerback to produce enough to make a contract of that size worth it in the long run, especially considering that opposing offenses won’t often be throwing to his side of the field. Most teams should pass on this, but someone will inevitably end up shelling out the money.
11. Terrelle Pryor Will Be Overvalued
The story of Pryor transitioning from scrambling quarterback to wide receiver last season, was one of the most intriguing narratives in the league last season. There’s no doubt that Pryor showed some ability at the position, and had himself a fine season. But he also did it in a no-pressure situation on the Browns, who were the worst team in the NFL. Pryor has proved that deserves another shot as a starting wide receiver for some team (whether it’s the Browns, or someone else) next season, but his 2016 campaign is probably going to be overrated by most franchises. In 2017, he won’t have the luxury of being an unknown, and with defenses keying in on him, it’s very possible that he takes a step backwards. He can definitely be a useful player, but teams should be expecting to get a true go-to receiver with this signing. Pryor will end up being “good” not “great”.
10. Vikings Will Remain Open Minded On Sam Bradford
What a mess the Vikings are in with their quarterback situation right now. It was recently confirmed that Teddy Bridgewater is going to miss the entirety of the 2017 season, due to the injury he suffered just before the 2016 started, which kept him sidelined last season as well. Minnesota then made an ill-advised trade with the Eagles to bring a perennially “OK” quarterback in Bradford to town in exchange for a first round pick. While Bradford has repeatedly shown that he can’t elevate an offense (despite being a first overall pick), which any of the three teams he’s been with, the Vikings may opt to keep the potential of him as a franchise quarterback open for the 2017 campaign. Big mistake, given that Bradford has underachieved for his entire career. Always just good enough to keep teams interested, but never good enough to be a franchise quarterback. Minnesota may just fall for it if Bridgewater’s career is cut short due to his major injury.
9. Eddie Lacy Will Be Overpaid
After a few years of some great production, Lacy started suffering injuries, and didn’t keep himself in the best physical condition. While he’s only 26-years-old at the moment, he simply won’t be worth the money that he’ll end up getting. While his bidders will assume they are getting the 1,000 yard rusher version of Lacy, it’s likely to be closer to what Alfred Morris is now, and he won’t be capable of being a featured running back anymore. As a change-of-pace, third down, or goal line option, it would be a good signing, but there will be a team that sees Lacy as something more, and it’s probably not going to end well. Lacy has proven that he’s a walking risk at all times, and that outlook isn’t likely to improve in 2017, despite the fact that some teams may think otherwise, and pay him accordingly.
8. Kenny Stills Will Get A Big Payday
At 24 years of age, Stills has spent a pair of seasons with the Saints and Dolphins each, and is in line to get way more money than he’ll be worth during this free agent period. Bottom line, he’s a deep threat, and a decent one at that. However, far too often his touchdowns come as the result of broken coverage, or playing alongside high-quality possession receivers that allow him to slip past coverage much easier. Stills will probably sign with a team who isn’t currently a contender for a deep playoff run, which means that he’ll have a much tougher go of it than when he played with Drew Brees throwing him the ball, or Jarvis Landry as his teammate on the receiving corps. Stills is a good player, but he’s going to receive too much for his one-trick pony style of play.
7. Martellus Bennett Will Be Signed For Too Much
Bennett turned out to be the perfect replacement for Gronk when he went down with an injury in 2016. But he was playing in Belichick’s system, with Tom Brady throwing him the ball which could make a good player out of a broom. The Pats are likely to let Bennett walk after just one season (because they don’t need to hang on to aging players demanding a sizable contract), and Bennett will be overpaid by a team who thinks he can just transfer his production in New England, to a team with a ton more question marks. Bennett is an aging tight end who is past his prime, and his production likely won’t live up to his impending payday, no matter which franchise ends up signing him.
6. Kenny Britt Will Be Undervalued
With all of the talk concerning the upcoming wide receiver free agent market revolving around DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, and Alshon Jeffery, the odd-man out is Kenny Britt. This is probably a better option than all of the others listed above, considering the cost. True, Britt had his first 1,000 yard receiving season just last year, but he’s also played with sub-par quarterbacks in bad offenses for his entire eight-year career before that. He’s a veteran no doubt, set to turn 29 during the 2017 season, but he’s shown that he is still a quality NFL receiver. Instead of going for the big name option, in a high-risk, high reward contract situation, teams would be wise to consider Britt as a more cost-effective option, with a good possibility of several years of peak productivity left in him.
5. A.J. Bouye Will Be Overvalued
Bouye is by far the most overrated cornerback on the market this year. In four years as a Texan, he started just 19 games (11 last season), and has never started one full year in the NFL. This has bust signing written all over it. While he won’t be paid the most for his position group in free agency, he’s still going to get enough money that says he’ll need to be an effective starter for all 16 games. That’s just not likely to happen, but he’ll draw interest from a team desperate for help at corner, and convince them that he’s a more cost-effective option than Stephon Gilmore or Trumaine Johnson. This is true in part, but talent-wise they are simply on a different level. Bouye will be a contender for the most underwhelming signing of 2017, for whoever ends up getting him.
4. Kirk Cousins Will Be Franchise Tagged
Word actually just came out that this has happened, and that Cousins has received the franchise tag for the second year in a row; an unprecedented move for a quarterback. This is a rock and a hard place situation for the Redskins right now. They have no better options than Cousins at the position, but franchise tagging him a second time means that eventually, he’s likely to be on his way out of Washington eventually. If the two sides could have come to a long-term deal, they would have done so already. The thought behind it, is that head coach Jay Gruden must think that this is his one year to go on a deep playoff run, and going into his fourth year with the team, he’d like Cousins’ services for one more season. So basically, the Redskins will have one year to win the Super Bowl, then they’ll have to find a new franchise quarterback. Not ideal at all.
3. Adrian Peterson Will Be Signed
With the legendary AP set to hit free agency, there’s almost certainly going to be a team that massively overpays for him, based on the allure of having a future Hall of Fame running back alone. Peterson was a great player in his prime, but he’s shown that he just isn’t the same player that he was a few years ago. That might as well be an eternity for an NFL running back in his 30s. Even so, someone is going to shell out for AP, and it’s almost inevitable. Who that may be though is entirely up in the air. Perhaps the Giants are a suitor, given their completely lack of a run game. Maybe the Panthers? It’s tough to say, but this will be one of the most high-profile signings of the offseason, and also one of the most ill-advised.
2. Alshon Jeffery Will Be Overpaid
With Antonio Brown’s recent contract-signing with the Steelers, the wide receiver market just got raised to another level for the game’s elite at the position. Jeffery is the biggest wide receiver name in free agency this year, and he’s going to get a fortune from whichever team signs him. But the red flags are a distinctive concern with him. Factor in numerous injuries, as well as foolish suspensions, and Jeffery is a risk, no doubt about it. He’s probably going to get in the neighborhood of $16 million per year, and that’s way too much money for a player who you can’t count on to be on the field with consistency. He’s an All-Pro talent without question, and at 27-years-old is still squarely in his prime, but this signing has the makings of a “prima donna wide receiver causes problems with new team” situation. This is going to be a highlight of the offseason, watching the bidding war for Jeffery unfold.
1. Tony Romo Will Be Signed For A Starting Role
Romo has had some of the toughest luck that a quarterback who’s actually talented has ever had to deal with. After years of mismanagement by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Romo finally got a competent offense around him, and then promptly suffered three major injuries in the span of two years from 2014 to 2016. He was then shifted out as the starter in exchange for Dak Prescott, who is now the franchise player at the position. The Cowboys likely won’t be able to trade Romo, which means that he’s going to hit the open market. There then lies an All-Pro talent at quarterback just waiting to be signed for a team with a need at the position, with the caveat being him extensive injury history in recent years. That’s not a recipe for success, but a desperate team is going to make a go of it. Odds are that Romo doesn’t make it through 16 games, and then calls it quits after the 2017 season, effectively meaning a waste of money for the team who takes a chance on him.
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