Evan Silva

Free Agency Update

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Wow, Now That's Rich '13

Sunday, March 31, 2013



7. Titans running back Shonn Greene

Tennessee signed Greene to a three-year, $10 million contract with $4.5 million guaranteed, including a $2.5 million signing bonus. While it's clear that Greene is going to be a backup in Nashville, it's just as clear the team overpaid. There are free agent running backs still out there who can do the same things Greene can. Several late-round draft prospects would be even better.

Despite playing behind a 2012 Jets offensive line that Football Outsiders graded fifth best in run blocking, Greene averaged a career-worst 3.85 yards per carry. Greene, going on age 28, is a plodding runner who lacks vision and passing-game chops. He is not going to help the Titans.

8. Falcons left tackle Sam Baker

Atlanta handed Baker a six-year, $41.1 million contract with $18.25 million guaranteed and a $10 million signing bonus. The guaranteed money is more than the Rams gave Jake Long ($16 million), and Baker's $6.85 million annual average puts him ahead of superior NFL left tackles Andrew Whitworth (Bengals) and Joe Staley (49ers).

Baker is a stocky, short-armed tackle with a history of durability concerns and mediocre-at-best performance. Late in the 2012 season, at least one NFL personnel man described Baker as a "below-average starter." As recently as December of 2011, Baker lost his starting left tackle job to journeyman Will Svitek. Having undergone at least three known back surgeries in his career, Baker has started only 57-of-80 possible games since his 2008 rookie season. In 2012, Baker graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 27 offensive tackle. He ranked 62nd as a run blocker.

9. Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings

Jennings' five-year deal with Minnesota has a $45 million base value, $17.8 million of which is guaranteed. He received a $10 million signing bonus. With a per-year average of $9 million, the deal made Jennings the tenth highest paid wide receiver in the league.

The Vikings, admittedly, were in a difficult spot after trading Percy Harvin. GM Rick Spielman probably knew he'd have to overpay for Jennings, and he proceeded to do just that.

Jennings is entering his age-30 season and no longer possesses the field-stretching vertical speed he once did. He'll play "Z" receiver in Minnesota's offense, aligning on the strong side of the formation and sometimes in the slot. More concerning than Jennings' age, lofty pricetag, and slowly declining on-field skills is his durability.

Knee and recurring groin injuries have cost Jennings 11 games over the past two years. He underwent surgery to repair a rectus abdominal tear last November 1, after missing two weeks of 2012 training camp due to a concussion. Jennings definitely has game left -- he led the Packers in catches, yards, and touchdowns over Green Bay's final four games -- but it's pretty unlikely that Jennings' on-field impact and production in Minnesota will measure up to the contract he signed.

10. Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler

Coming off a career-best season in his one-year stint with the Raiders, Wheeler received a five-year, $26 million payday from Miami, with a $7 million signing bonus. Like virtually all of the Dolphins' 2013 free-agent contracts, the first two years of Wheeler's contract are fully guaranteed.

28 years old, Wheeler is an athletic linebacker with range but has always struggled versus the run. At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, it's difficult to imagine Wheeler giving Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski trouble in pass coverage. Wheeler is a fine player, but how much impact will he really have? And how big of an upgrade is he on the guy he's replacing, Kevin Burnett? Pro Football Focus graded Burnett as the NFL's fourth-best 4-3 outside linebacker in 2012. Wheeler was sixth.

Nevertheless, Wheeler's $5.2 million annual average makes him the eighth highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker in the league.

Bad GMs like Marty Hurney, Gene Smith, Tim Ruskell, and Jeff Ireland pay big money to 4-3 linebackers. Good GMs like John Schneider and Les Snead find them in the second and third waves of free agency, or in the middle to late rounds of the draft.

11. Rams left tackle Jake Long

Despite back-to-back years of declining performance, the Rams signed Long to a four-year, $34 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Though there's little on 2011 or 2012 game tape that suggests Long deserves that much money, he doesn't rank particularly high on the Most Overpaid Free Agents list because St. Louis structured Long's contract smartly. The Rams built a ton of team-protective language into the deal.

Only the first year of Long's contract is fully guaranteed. If Long lands on injured reserve in his first season with the Rams, his $8 million guarantee for 2014 drops to $4 million. St. Louis can revisit the deal again by March of 2015, and cut ties with the contract free of further payment if Long disappoints on the field or gets injured.

The Rams gave Long a small $5 million signing bonus, so they won't be on the hook for large amounts of salary-cap proration ("dead money") if they cut the cord on Long at any point. The $8.5 million annual average does make Long the NFL's seventh highest paid left tackle, which is more than his recent play is worth. But he'll only collect the large majority of the money if he stays healthy and plays well.

12. Titans guard Andy Levitre

Levitre is a good football player and will help the Titans at a needy position, but they paid an awful lot to get him. Levitre's six-year contract averages $7.8 million annually with a $10.5 million signing bonus. The market's other top young free-agent guards -- Louis Vasquez (Broncos) and Donald Thomas (Colts) -- were far better values at $5.875 million and $3.5 million, respectively.

The Titans are essentially paying Levitre left tackle money. Indeed, he's making more per season than Tennessee's own left tackle, Michael Roos. (Perhaps Roos should request a raise.) Levitre has never been to a Pro Bowl and goes 6-foot-2, 303 -- small for a guard. Here's hoping he doesn't get physically manhandled in the AFC South.

13. Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline

Hartline's five-year, $30.775 million contract contains $12.5 million guaranteed with a $7 million signing bonus. The annual average is $6.155 million, while superior playmakers Wes Welker and Danny Amendola settled for $6 million and $5.7 million per year, respectively. Hartline gets $7.715 million in the first season, and his 2014 base salary of $4.785 million is fully guaranteed, as well.

Hartline posted career highs in catches (74) and yards (1,083) as Ryan Tannehill's No. 1 receiver last season, but isn't quite an ascending player. While Hartline runs solid routes, he's not a smooth separator and lacks playmaking ability. He scored all of one touchdown in his "breakout" year.

Re-signing Hartline and bringing in Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson cost GM Jeff Ireland a combined $46.25 million in guarantees. Hartline is a mid-range to low-end No. 2 possession receiver. Gibson is just a guy. Wallace undoubtedly gives Miami's offense a new dimension and got paid market value, but the Fins probably wouldn't have been any worse off letting Hartline walk.

14. Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito

DeVito is scheduled to receive $12.6 million over three seasons, with $6.2 million guaranteed. The Chiefs gave him a $4.2 million signing bonus. DeVito is a strong run-stopping 3-4 lineman, but he's a thoroughly one-dimensional, early-down end with 2 1/2 sacks across 82 career games.

Kansas City ranked a lowly 27th in run defense last year, also permitting the NFL's eighth highest yards-per-carry average (4.50). So the Chiefs can definitely use a player like DeVito. They just paid a surprisingly handsome sum to get him.

15. Colts defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois

The Colts gave a four-year, $22 million contract to an undersized (6'3/295) defensive lineman who's never played more than 300 snaps in a season. Jean-Francois was a solid utility player in San Francisco, but he's not big enough to man the nose full time and offers next to nothing as a pass rusher (three career sacks in 51 games).

The good news is Jean-Francois only received $5.5 million in guaranteed money, none of it extending beyond the first year. The contract is essentially a one-year, $6.5 million commitment. GM Ryan Grigson will decide whether Jean-Francois is worth his scheduled $4.5 million non-guaranteed base salary next offseason, and could get out of the deal free of cost.

Semifinalists: Colts safety LaRon Landry (four years, $24 million), Titans defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (three years, $11.4 million), Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod (five years, $36 million), Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (two years, $8 million), Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson (three years, $9.8 million), Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (two years, $7.25 million), Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery (three years, $8.55 million), Eagles nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (three years, $11 million), Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers (three years, $9.5 million).



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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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