Free agency is always a big gamble. Big contracts are doled out in hopes of landing a game changing performer, but more times than not decline in performance or injury makes the investment a disappointment when the dust settles. This offseason will be no different, of course, but there’s 10 players in particular where the investment seems clearly misguided. Here are ten signings moves will live to regret:
Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos (6 years, $57 million): It’s one thing when you’ve got a one year low risk investment in an excellent player like the Patriots did, but when you commit to a contract of that length and magnitude (although let’s be serious, there’s no way he’ll be a Bronco for 6 years) this is a very questionable commitment to a guy with a significant history of off the field issues.
Michael Vick, QB, New York Jets (1 year, $5 million): This is a short term move and a stopgap solution at quarterback, but it will create unnecessary controversy in New York. Let’s face it, if Geno Smith struggles again he’ll be looking over his shoulder and the media will be clamoring for Vick. Problem is, Vick doesn’t have it in him anymore. Reading defenses and accurately delivering the football were never his strong suits and now that health and speed are starting to decline he’s no longer a quality quarterback. The last three seasons he’s had 35 touchdowns, 27 interceptions and he’s been plagued by constant injuries from the hits he’s taken. The reality is he is partially responsible for those hits because of his slow release, so regardless of the line he plays with they will happen. The Jets needed to have someone in the mix with Smith still developing, and a veteran makes sense, but $5 million is an awful lot to spend on a backup. If they view Vick as the unquestioned starter, then it’s going to be another long season for Jets fans.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets (5 years, $36.25 million): The Jets opened the vaults for Decker, who definitely hit free agency at the perfect time. That said, Decker was a #2 receiver with Demaryius Thomas protecting him, Peyton Manning throwing to him, and Wes Welker in the slot. No more will he have that luxury. The Jets brought him in to be “the guy” and it’s going to be tough for him with Michael Vick and/or Geno Smith throwing the ball to duplicate any kind of numbers he put up in the Bronco offense. He’ll also likely often be facing the opponent’s top cover guy. Hard to see him producing to the tune of over $7 million per season.
Malcolm Jenkins, S, Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $16.5 million): That is an enormous contract for a safety that was, quite honestly, below average with the Saints. Jenkins has struggled with consistency in his career and while he’s made plays here and there, he’ll never be confused for a ballhawk. He’s had just 6 interceptions in 5 seasons as a pro. Not only does he lack play making instincts, he will over run in pursuit and miss touchdown saving tackles. This signing reeked of desperation by a team with dead last ranked pass defense.
Donte Whitner, S, Cleveland Browns (4 years, $28 million): Whitner is a good football player, but he comes with the baggage of flagged hits, fines, and possible suspensions. When you’re the 49ers and you have tons of talent around him and a sound football team you can live with those things. When you’re the Browns and you’re already struggling to be competitive, those are the type of things that kill games for you. That’s a lot of coin to pay a guy that has been a liability at times. Meanwhile, the Browns lost T.J. Ward who was a much better player.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 years, $10 million): Hard to see him coming anywhere close to duplicating the lighting in a bottle season he had a year ago in a new environment with much weaker weapons.
Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (transition tagged at 1 year, $9.754 million): Worilds is a promising young player that has shown some great potential, but there’s no way he should be taking up almost 8% of a team’s salary cap. The Steelers have put him in a position of power with long term negotiations now and have set his worth much higher than what an open market would otherwise bear. The transition tag averages the salary of the top 10 players at that position, and while Worilds has potential, I’m sorry but he’s not a top 10 player at his position.
Donald Penn, T, Oakland Raiders (2 years, $9.6 million): His pass blocking can be suspect when going against speed edge guys and Matt Schaub struggles to stand up straight. Bad news: the AFC West has a few excellent speed rushers.
Michael Oher, T, Tennessee Titans (4 years, $20 million): Clearly the Titans put more emphasis in the offseason in watching the Blind Side than they did in player evaluation.
Karlos Dansby, ILB, Cleveland Browns (4 years, $24 million): He got paid serious coin for having a fantastic contract year season, but he’s 32 and that kind of investment will be tough to prove right.