5. Bills defensive end Mark Anderson
After re-signing Stevie Johnson, the Bills turned all of their attention to upgrading the front seven, and that aggressiveness was honorable. They made Mario Williams the highest paid defender in NFL history, and then followed it up by signing Anderson to be Mario's weak-side bookend. Buffalo had a plan, and it executed. But Anderson was overpaid in the process, and there are likely people in the Bills' organization who would acknowledge as much. He isn't worth $5 million a year.
Anderson is going on age 29. He's been in the league for six seasons, and in just two of them recorded more than five sacks. Anderson is consistently washed out in run defense and is essentially a one-down end. The Bills will give him a chance to be an every-snap player, but it almost certainly won't end well. While Buffalo's team sack total will rise in 2012, offenses will know exactly which front-four member to target on running plays: Mark Anderson.
6. Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon
Garcon became the NFL's ninth-highest paid receiver on March 13, when the Redskins handed him a five-year, $42.5 million blockbuster with $20.5M guaranteed. Seven of the eight players ahead of Garcon in the receiver-contract rankings have made the Pro Bowl (Santonio Holmes is the other outlier), and so have the three wideouts just behind Garcon in the top 12. In other words, Garcon has the contract of a decorated NFL receiver. He's just not a decorated NFL receiver.
Pro Bowl berths don't tell the whole story, of course, and the Skins are banking that Garcon has some in his future. He's only 25. Since Garcon cracked the starting lineup in 2009, however, he has been an inconsistent, inefficient receiver in whom Peyton Manning often showed distrust. Garcon's career-best 2011 campaign came during a year that saw Indy constantly play from behind. Continuing to lack consistency, Garcon racked up 421 of his 947 yards (44.5 percent) and all six of his TDs in three games. Two of them were against pass defenses that ranked in the NFL's bottom dozen. In the Colts' other 13 games, Garcon averaged under 41 yards per contest.
7. Rams center Scott Wells
Wells is a good football player, and the Rams need as many of them as they can get. But what is the value of an undersized, 31-year-old center? St. Louis deemed it to be $24M over four years with $13 million guaranteed, making Wells the league's fourth-richest center. (For the curious, Carolina's Ryan Kalil is No. 1, the Jets' Nick Mangold is No. 2, and Houston's Chris Myers is 3.)
The Rams certainly need line help, and a pocket that collapses from the interior is the quickest way to kill a passing game. In Green Bay, however, Wells was a player the Packers were annually trying to replace. And Pack GM Ted Thompson knows a thing or two about talent evaluation. Will Wells be a system fit? He's spent the past six seasons in Mike McCarthy's zone-blocking scheme.
8. Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne
"Wayne will finish his career a Colt." "Luck gets a veteran receiver." They're nice storylines, and they've both been trumpeted by a media that prefers fluff pieces to football film. What about last year, when Wayne rounded his routes and quit on assignments? Wayne is going on 34, and his playmaking ability is in swift decline. He hasn't cleared 13 yards per catch in four years, devolving into a late-career possession receiver. Press coverage with a safety over the top cancels him out of games.
The Colts wanted Pierre Garcon over Wayne, but settled for the latter when they were outbid for the former. Wayne stayed on for $17.5 million over three years, with a $7.5M signing bonus. Would anyone else have paid that much? The guess here is no. Wayne is a shell of his old self.
9. Cardinals offensive tackle Levi Brown
Brown has fallen well short of expectations accompanying the fifth pick in the 2007 draft, but re-signing him was a move the Cards felt they had to make. Tackle was the thinnest position in free agency, and Brown strung together the best half-season of his career down last year's stretch. Arizona won seven of its final nine games, due in no small part to improved pass protection.
After cutting Brown to avoid a $16.9 million cap number, the Cardinals took just three days to re-sign him for $30 million over five years. The contract made Brown only the 14th-highest paid left tackle in the game, but he shouldn't be a left tackle. Brown is a heavy-footed drive blocker, and his ideal position is on the right side. If the Cardinals draft a Riley Reiff or Jonathan Martin to protect their quarterback's back side, Brown would become the league's fourth highest paid right tackle.
10. Cowboys guard Mackenzy Bernadeau
Bernadeau couldn't crack the lineup for a Panthers team that got average to below-average guard play last season. The Cowboys paid him to be a starter. While Bernadeau's $11 million over four years and $3.25 million signing bonus aren't overwhelming, Dallas projected him as an upgrade perhaps only because Bernadeau is young with perceived potential. When the 26-year-old made 12 spot starts in 2010, Pro Football Focus graded him as one of the worst guards in the league.
Bernadeau has youth on his side and will be tutored by one of the best line coaches in football in Bill Callahan. But is he any good? Two coaching staffs in Carolina didn't think so. Ron Rivera's unit let Bernadeau ride the pine, and John Fox benched him in October of the previous year. The blind faith in Bernadeau may also steer Dallas away from Stanford's David DeCastro in the draft.
Semifinalists: Alex Smith (three years, $24 million), Red Bryant (five years, $35 million), DeSean Jackson (five years, $51 million), Nate Livings (five years, $19 million), Brodrick Bunkley (five years, $25 million), Ronde Barber (one year, $3 million).