Now that all of the excitement from the Super Bowl has died down, we have officially entered the dreaded offseason in the NFL schedule. For a few weeks, we have absolutely nothing to look forward to in terms of breaking news, but that will change in March when free agents start getting big contracts around the league.
There are plenty of big name free agents this year, and it’s perhaps the most exciting part of the offseason (unless you’re a huge NFL Draft fan) to see where established players will now call home. Of course, getting an established name doesn’t come cheap for an NFL franchise.
Free agency often comes with overpaying for talent, and it can blow up in a teams face more often than not, and even set a franchise back a few years like Albert Haynesworth’s contract did in Washington. Here are 15 upcoming NFL free agents that are bound to overpaid, and where they might sign.
15 Olivier Vernon
In his four years in the NFL with the Dolphins, Olivier Vernon has tallied 29 sacks. While that’s an impressive number, it doesn’t really call for a $9.6 million per year salary that many have said he is worth. Nobody would blame Vernon for trying to negotiate a contract of that size since he made just $1.7 million in 2015, but an above average defensive end isn’t really worth the cap hit that he is going to bring. It’s likely that Vernon will be tagged by the Dolphins, but if they use that tag for another player, he could end up with the Jaguars.
14 Lamar Miller
The other player that the Dolphins could use their franchise tag on is Lamar Miller, which would give him a huge pay increase over his $1.66 million cap number in 2015. Miller seems like he has the potential to carry an offense, but wasn’t really given that chance with the Dolphins. If Miller walks, one team is going to pay him a lot of money to find out if he can carry a team.
13 Alex Mack
If you were asked to name two starting centers in the NFL, you would probably only be able to come up with the starter for your favorite team and Alex Mack of the Browns. That type of name recognition will make Mack a lot of money this offseason, and his price was already high in 2015 at $8 million. Mack is expected to opt out of his contract and find green pastures, but does he make enough difference to warrant another $8-10 million per year?
12 Ryan Fitzpatrick
The story of Ryan Fitzpatrick is an endearing one, and he is coming off of a solid season with the Jets, leading them to a 10-6 record. Nobody was expecting much from the Jets before the season, which is why Fitzpatrick will get a lot of credit when free agency season kicks off. A team that is desperate for a quarterback will likely give Fitzpatrick upwards of $11 million, and the Browns seem like a prime candidate to do something like that.
11 Chris Ivory
Another Jet that’s schedule for a big payday in March is running back Chris Ivory. Each passing day, it seems less likely that Ivory is going to return to New York, and will be asking for much more than the $3.25 million he received in 2015. Ivory is a solid running back, but not one that you can depend on enough throughout the season to pay him like a top five guy. If Ivory ends up with the rival Patriots, don’t be too surprised. They are just evil enough to pull that off.
10 Russell Okung
Russell Okung had his best season in 2012, and hasn’t been all that impressive since. However, he’s still a big name at a prime position (left tackle) and will be seeking out a lot more than the $7.28 million he earned in 2015. Okung is still only 28, but he might be asking for Trent Williams or Tyron Smith money. He won’t get that, but he will still be paid too much.
9 Bruce Irvin
There is a lot of hullabaloo this offseason about Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, with many predicting that he will get more than $8 million per year in his next contract this offseason. Why he is bound to get that much is still a bit baffling to me. He’s a solid player, but he’s not the star that some members of the media are making him out to be. Irvin will likely take less than what other teams are offering to come back to Seattle, but if he wants to cash in, the Bears and Giants have plenty of cap room to offer.
8 Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins went from “There’s no way this guy is a starter in the NFL” to “Wait, he might actually be a franchise quarterback” in just a few months. The Redskins, who are desperate for a long term solution at quarterback, will likely franchise him this year and try to work out a deal. If Cousins somehow is able to walk away from Washington, then he is going to get paid a ton of money by a quarterback hungry team, and the Texans come to mind. Don’t count on it, though.
7 Malik Jackson
After having a big game in the Super Bowl, Malik Jackson is definetly going to get paid by somebody this offseason in need of a defensive end. Jackson has been fortunate enough to be a part of the Broncos defense that was historical in 2015, and he registered 5 sacks in his contract year. The Broncos don’t really need him, and it would make sense for the Raiders to try and scoop him up and keep him in the division. The Raiders have a ton of cap room, and they aren’t shy about signing Super Bowl heroes from other teams.
6 Prince Amukamara
The cornerback market this offseason is a pretty good one, but Prince Amukamara will be among the most expensive and said that he wants at least $10 million per year in a long term deal. It’s likely that he won’t be getting that with the Giants unless they want to franchise tag him and try to sort something out. Amukamara’s production hasn’t garnered a salary that large, but cornerback is a prime position that a team like the Lions would be willing to pay for.
5 Matt Forte
After a long career with the Bears, Matt Forte has parted ways with the team that drafted him. Forte is still a productive running back, but at 30 years old, he’s on the wrong side of history at his position. A lot of people have said that the Patriots or Cardinals are the top potential landing spots, but the Patriots would only sign an older running back if he was at the final part of his career and cost next to nothing while the Cardinals have the next Forte in the form of David Johnson.
4 Brock Osweiler
In 2015, Brock Osweiler finally got a chance to start, and did so for seven games. In that span, Osweiler finished 5-2 with 1,967 yards on the season to go with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Osweiler’s sample size at quarterback is much smaller than Kirk Cousins’ but he might get paid in the same neighborhood on potential alone. Osweiler is likely to stay with Denver, but a team like the Browns or Rams could come calling.
3 Alfred Morris
Alfred Morris is a guy that you certainly want in your locker room, but his numbers on the field have been going down since his incredible rookie season in 2012. That’s not all the fault of Morris, though, as Jay Gruden’s offense is much different than Mike Shanahan’s was with the Redskins. All Morris needs for a potential career revival is a system that fits his style, and the Broncos would fit that bill. Denver doesn’t have much cap room left, but they might be willing to fork over money for Morris at the expense of some of their other pieces.
2 Doug Martin
While Morris is likely to be overpaid by a team that fits his system, Doug Martin will be overpaid by anybody that can afford him. Martin is coming off of his best season since 2012, and the only one where he played more than 11 games. Martin picked the right time to improve on his 3.6 yards per carry over the 2013 and 2014 seasons as free agency comes calling. The Buccaneers are looking like they might move on from Martin, who could get close to $8 million from the Cowboys if they haven’t signed anyone else yet.
1 Josh Norman
Josh Norman was a relative unknown before the 2015 season, and is now considered to be among the top cornerbacks in the league, as well as one of the most polarizing. The amount of attention he received in his great 2015 season certainly doesn’t hurt his potential earnings, but you have to be wary about guys playing out of their minds in contract years. Norman is likely to get the franchise tag with Carolina and receive nearly $14 million, and he might end up making that annually in a long term deal. Some will say that’s the right value, but for a guy that has had just one standout year, that’s too much money.
Prediction: The Panthers don't let Norman slip through their fingers and work out a long term deal eventually.
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