Evan Silva

Free Agency Update

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Wow, Now That's Rich '13

Sunday, March 31, 2013


The 2013 free agency period has slowed considerably since mid-March, giving us time to reflect fully upon signings that took place over the past three weeks. Let's take a look back at players whose recently-signed contracts don't match their on-field performance.

Bang it here for my Most Overpaid Free Agents column from 2012.

1. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams

On a disappointing 2013 cornerback market, just seven corners reached the $5 million-per-year benchmark with their new contracts. They were Brent Grimes ($5.5 million), Sean Smith ($5.5 million), Keenan Lewis ($5.1 million), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($5 million), Chris Houston ($5 million), Derek Cox ($5 million). And, finally, Cary Williams ($5.67 million).

Not only did Williams receive the biggest annual average of this year's free-agent cornerback group, he got the most guaranteed money ($10.5 million). As Eric Decker, Brandon Lloyd, and Dez Bryant can all attest, Williams is a weak cover man. Pro Football Focus charted Williams as the No. 69 cornerback in football last season, and tied for 78th in pass coverage. Only four corners in the NFL allowed more touchdown passes. According to STATS ICE, Williams' 64.9 "burn rate" was second worst in this year's free-agency class (ahead of only still-unsigned Tracy Porter). No free-agent cornerback allowed more "burned yards" than Williams.

Williams played strictly right cornerback in Baltimore. In the NFC East, Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon, and Hakeem Nicks all run the majority of their pass routes versus right corners. Assuming he's used at the same position in Philadelphia, that trio is going to love facing Williams twice a year.

2. Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is arguably the best in the business at what he does. Newsome identified Ellerbe as a $5 million-per-year player and didn't budge. Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, notorious for overpaying players because free agents don't want to play for his team, swooped in to pay Ellerbe $34.75 million over five seasons, with $14 million guaranteed. The $6.95 million annual average is nearly $2 million more per year than Newsome's evaluation of Ellerbe's worth.

Ellerbe, 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, is a nice young player at 27 years old. He plays fast and physical and emerged last season as a productive inside blitzer, registering 4 1/2 sacks. But Ellerbe struggles mightily in pass coverage, has only been an every-down player for roughly half of one NFL season, and has never been to a Pro Bowl.

Ellerbe is now one of the eight highest paid inside linebackers in the league. He's making more money than far superior ILBs Navorro Bowman (49ers), Daryl Washington (Cardinals), and Derrick Johnson (Chiefs), each of whom received relatively recent contract extensions.

3. Colts right tackle Gosder Cherilus

Matt Millen's final first-round pick with the Lions, Cherilus was benched repeatedly during his first four NFL seasons for missed assignments and penalties. Cherilus finally strung together the first 16-start campaign of his career in 2012, turning in a terrific season as a pass blocker and showing a mean streak in the running game.

But Cherilus turns 29 in June and has a worrisome history of knee issues, dating back to the 2009 season. He had his right knee scoped in April of 2010 and was placed on injured reserve with an injury to the same knee that December. Cherilus ultimately required microfracture surgery on his right knee. In February 2013, Cherilus underwent Regenokine therapy in Germany in an effort to cure the chronic knee woes. Regenokine incubates a person's blood, then reinjects it into the body.

Despite an inconsistent on-field track record and red flags on Cherilus' knee, the Colts signed him to a five-year, $34.5 million deal with $15.5 million guaranteed. With a $6.9 million annual average, the contract made Cherilus the NFL's second highest paid right tackle, behind only Dallas' Doug Free. (Free signed his deal after starting the previous season at left tackle.)

4. Titans tight end Delanie Walker

Walker's four-year contract is worth $17.5 million with $8.6 million guaranteed. In 2012, Walker dropped 11 passes across 19 games, including the playoffs. He only had 26 catches. Walker's "catch rate" of 54.2 percent was third worst in the NFL among tight ends with at least 40 targets, behind only Kellen Davis and Tony Scheffler. I've seen it written that Walker will create "matchup problems" for defenses, which is difficult to fathom because he's only 6-foot-0 and 242 pounds.

Walker is a good run blocker. He has a big name because he played on a Super Bowl team, but he's not a good receiver. The Titans already have blocking specialist Craig Stevens at tight end. If they fancy Walker capable of adding a pass-catching element to their tight end corps, GM Ruston Webster will almost certainly live to regret this signing.

5. Colts linebacker Erik Walden

Many free agents got paid more money, but no contract during the NFL signing period was as shocking as Erik Walden's. The Colts gave him $16 million over four seasons, with $8 million guaranteed.

Signed to book end Robert Mathis at rush linebacker -- replacing future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney -- Walden has nine career sacks across 68 games. He's never had more than three sacks in a season. A 2008 sixth-round pick out of Middle Tennessee, Walden is now on his fifth NFL team in five years. The Packers are famously strong player evaluators and showed little or no interest in re-signing Walden.

Walden will turn 28 before the season. Pro Football Focus graded him as the single-worst 3-4 outside linebacker in terms of pass rush last year. (Connor Barwin was second worst.) Walden was benched in Green Bay for poor run defense. He was also suspended one game in 2012 for violating the NFL's Conduct Policy. Perhaps the Colts know something nobody else does?

6. Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin

Signed to a six-year, $36 million contract by Philadelphia, Barwin managed three sacks across 18 starts in Houston last season, including the playoffs. Dating back to 2011, Barwin has three sacks over his last 21 games.

On tape, it is evident that Barwin lacks threatening edge speed. He's "just a guy." The Eagles have publicly attributed Barwin's poor Texans production to the manner in which Wade Phillips used him. In all likelihood, Philly is going to be sorry if its thinks Barwin will spark the pass rush.

The good news is Barwin only received $8 million in guaranteed money. It's a backloaded deal that becomes year to year after 2014. The Eagles are still locked into paying Barwin $8 million over the next two seasons.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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