Seven Riskiest Free Agent Signings

CONLIN POSTMA


Amid mass hysteria and shutdown due to the Coronavirus, the NFL offseason can help with all of that with two words, Free Agency. It has just started and is already full of excitement. Standout TE, Austin Hooper, has agreed to a deal with the Cleveland Browns to make him the highest-paid TE. Former Cowboys CB, Byron Jones, has signed a five-year, $82.5M deal with $57 guaranteed. Don’t forget there have been multiple trades, but only one has the football world flabbergasted. The Houston Texans are sending arguably the best receiver in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins, to the Arizona Cardinals. In exchange, they will get back, David Johnson, and a couple of draft picks.

During these crazy times, coaches, general managers, and owners will all make an erratic decision by signing, releasing, or trading players out of desperation. This article will breakdown the Seven Riskiest Free Agent Signings. It could be due to lack of production, potential contract size, age, overproduction, injury history, or all of the above.

The first person that will lead off this article is probably the best football player ever and the greatest signal-caller in the NFL’s 100 years.

 

1. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After 20 years with the New England Patriots, it’s all over. His journey will continue down in Tampa Bay as a member of the Buccaneers. The two parties have agreed upon a $50M guaranteed contract for two-years. It is a perfect deal for Brady, as he’s reiterated multiple times about playing until 45 years old. The one flaw about this deal is if it’s worth the amount of money Tampa Bay has given him?

Last season, Brady’s stats took a slight drop. Some of that was due to his lack of offensive weapons and poor offensive line. On the other hand, he doesn’t have the same arm strength he once did, which could hurt him in this new high-octane offense. From 2018 to 2019, Brady’s accuracy dropped five percent, he had five less TD’s, his longest pass of 59 yards was his shortest since 2004 (50 yards), and his yards per attempt (6.6) was his worst since 2002 (6.3). Maybe it was his surrounding talent, or perhaps it was the wear and tear and old age catching up to him, but the stats don’t lie. Tampa Bay could either feast of famine due to this deal. 

 

2. AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

A lengthy list of recent injuries is why I have to put Green here. Even though he has already been selected to receive the franchise tag from the Bengals, that doesn’t mean he is worth a new contract. Last season Green missed all 16 games recovering from offseason surgery. If you factor those games in, he has missed 32 games since 2014, only playing two full seasons. 

AJ Green is 31 years old, and after being on the trade block last season, he could be dealt in 2020. Receiver needy teams such as Philadelphia, New England, Green Bay, or Minnesota could all be potential suitors. The biggest concern about Green is and will be his injuries. Only playing two full seasons over the last six, that isn’t a good look at all. Teams need to be careful about giving this wideout too much money when it isn’t a certainty, he’ll play more than ten games nor be available for playoffs.

 

3. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

It could be quite a mistake that the Chargers are using their tag on Henry and not RB, Melvin Gordon. Throughout his NFL career, Henry has been plagued by injuries. Playing in 12 games since 2018 is less than ideal for a “franchise TE.” He has never caught more than 56 passes or surpassed 655 receiving yards. Similar to AJ Green, Henry will be and is a quality trade candidate for teams such as Carolina, Houston, Jacksonville, and many others. 

By many standards, he’s held in the same regard as Evan Engram, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, and Mark Andrews. The difference between Hooper and Henry is that Hooper has played in more 13 games every year, back-to-back 70-plus reception seasons, and back-to-back Pro Bowl selections. As I stated above, the former Atlanta TE is slated to become the highest-paid player at his position, as Henry might be traded this year. Teams need to be wary of not making the injury-prone Henry a top eight paid TE because that could turn out as an unwise decision. 

 

4. Melvin Gordon, RB, Denver Broncos

By sitting out most of last season seeking a new contract, the former Wisconsin Badger did more harm than good for himself. During his absence, his previous backup, Austin Ekeler, had a standout season, which was rewarded with a four year $24.5M deal with $15M guaranteed contract extension. In Free Agency, it has been slow for RB’s signing, with only four backs receiving new deals. Players such as Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman, and Lamar Miller are all still available. Most teams are cautious about Gordon due to his history, but not the Denver Broncos. They have signed the two-time Pro Bowler to a two-year deal worth $16 ($8M annually). 

He entered the league in 2015, but during his tenure, there have been more negatives than positives. Playing only one full season out of five, surpassing 1,000 yards once, and missing 17 games aren’t worth the Le’ Veon Bell sized contract he once desired. However, this new contract makes him the fourth highest-paid back behind Ezekiel Elliot, Le’ Veon Bell, and David Johnson. Take that fact as you want, but this season Gordon will need to prove if he’s worth being paid as one of the elites. 

 

5. Robby Anderson, WR, Free Agent

There have been plenty of wide receivers that got new contracts based on potential, and that is what could happen to Robby Anderson. Two perfect examples are Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks. Watkins got a contract for three year $48M, which is $16M per year. Cooks’ contract was for five years, $81M for an average of $16.2M per year. Anderson has a similar deep threat play style and potential level as both of the other receivers.

Whether it was poor QB play, offensive scheme, or play style, this four-year pro has been hit or miss throughout his career. In two of his four years in the NFL, he has played in less than ten games or more than 15. It should be noted that as the Jets’ number one receiver, he only eclipsed 780 yards one time, but the real concern is his receptions. Having less than 53 catches in three out of four seasons is worrisome, but three straight seasons of 94-plus targets are promising. Anderson has a lot of upside, but teams need to be careful not overpaying him and getting burned like Watkins and Cooks have done in the past. 

 

6. Jameis Winston, QB, Free Agent

There is only one stat that you need to know about this past first overall pick. He is the sole member of the 30-30 club. What that equates to is, 30 TD’s and 30 INT’s. Even though he won the league’s passing title in 2019, his 30 turnovers are highly concerning. Before his career and league record INT’s, Winston had thrown double-digit turnovers in every season. Teams that are looking for a signal-caller could be aided or hindered by this former Florida State Seminole.

Jameis Winston is a risk-taker, which in the NFL can’t be handled by most coaches. The way to win games in the NFL is to not turn the ball over. Take for instance the last game of the regular season. Atlanta was playing Tampa Bay in overtime and as the Buccaneers took the field to try to score, all it took was one pass. That one pass turned into an interception that was returned by the Falcons for a TD, costing Tampa Bay the win. This is just one example of many that Jameis Winston’s carelessness with the ball is why he’s still on the market. 

 

7. Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Last but not least, we have the former Indianapolis Colt and Detroit Lion, Eric Ebron. He has recently agreed to a two-year $12M deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ebron steps into the offense as an unknown. He had shown such star potential, like in 2018 when he was selected to his first Pro Bowl. On the other hand, he has been a disappointment many times during his career.

He was Andrew Luck’s safety blanket in the red zone a couple of years ago, raking in 13 scores. Prior to that, every other year he failed to score more than five times. It’s too early to tell if Ebron can wrestle away Vance McDonald for that top depth chart position, but given his history, it’s not looking well. Since entering the league in 2014, Ebron has only started in double-digit games once (2016). It is looking like more of a backup role because of his contract. With a $6M deal, he’s in the range of Jesse James (backup), Nick Boyle (backup), and C.J. Uzomah (backup). Ebron had a tremendous year in 2018, but now after playing in 11 games last year and starting in just two of them, are the Steelers trying to hold onto that slim chance he can repeat past success?




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