Five Signings That Make No Sense

Sam Monson chimes in with his thoughts on these five head-scratching deals from the first few days of free agency.

| 4 years ago
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Five Signings That Make No Sense


Everybody loves free agency. The main reason of course is because people love to be angry at things, and some of the deals that surface in the NFL’s silly season have that exact reaction.

Money will be spent wisely, and usually the market will take care of itself, but every now and then there is a deal that comes along that just makes you want to start hurling expletives at the senselessness of it all.

So here are five such deals from the first few days of free agency that had me scratching my head.

Erik Walden to IND: 4-year, $16m

Everybody likes to perpetuate the myth that the NFL is run by genius scientists weighing every possible variable before committing a single extra dollar to their prized rosters, but some signings show you that simply isn’t the case. The Green Bay Packers have been crying out for an outside linebacker to play opposite Clay Matthews for years now, and they wanted Erik Walden to be that guy. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to, and that was shown no more clearly than the playoff encounter between Green Bay and the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers in which Walden was turned inside and out by the read-option and Colin Kaepernick, to the point I suspect he still has nightmares of a QB in red and gold scampering past him like a spooked fawn.

Walden has propped up the foot of our 3-4 OLB rankings for the past three years running and handing him $4 million a year seems simply mind-bending given the market for pass-rushers at the moment. So why did they do it? Well, Walden graded in the green twice last season on his way to a -30.4 overall year. The best of those games by a distance came against… the Indianapolis Colts. There is no substitute for really doing your homework.

Sam Baker to ATL: 6-year, $41.5m

One of the great fabrications in the NFL is that you need a franchise left tackle. The book and movie The Blind Side made the position into something it wasn’t, a glamor spot on the roster, and contracts given out to these stud pass protectors began to perpetuate the myth. The only problem is that we’ve seen recently you don’t need a great left tackle to win if you have a great quarterback. We’ve also seen that the best left tackle in football won’t make a bit of difference to your fortunes on offense if you can’t find a legitimate quarterback.

Sam Baker is like most starting LTs in the league, a former first-round tackle, but only one year has he really been able to look anything other than a major liability; 2012, his contract year. Even last year, the best we have seen from Baker, he was only our 27th-ranked OT, surrendering six sacks and allowing Matt Ryan to hit the deck another eight times on the year. The Falcons took this improvement as a signal to throw $20 million of guaranteed money at him rather than risk moving on without him and potentially disrupting Matt Ryan’s pass protection. Senseless.

Shonn Greene to TEN: 3-year, $10m

This is another from the section of ‘presumably didn’t get as far as actually watching tape in the evaluating process’. The Titans want to add a legitimate running option alongside Chris Johnson, and given the way Johnson runs, a bigger, more punishing back makes sense. The problem is that Greene just isn’t any good. Behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in New York he couldn’t average four yards a carry. He averaged just 2.1 yards per carry after contact (Adrian Peterson almost doubled that at 3.9!) and forced just 15 missed tackles from 276 carries. In truth, it’s hard to believe that the Titans don’t have a runner to rival Greene on the roster already, and if they don’t, simply throwing darts at the lower rounds of the draft would likely achieve the same thing, but instead they chose to hand him a 3-year contract worth $10 million. Well, OK.

Chase Daniel to KC: 3-year, $10m

This is a strange move in that I don’t hate the idea behind it. Kansas City need quarterbacks, and Alex Smith might be the answer to start for the short term, but they’ve seen more than enough of both him and Brady Quinn to be aware that having a backup upgrade might be no bad thing. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have proven that being 6-foot or under isn’t the debilitating QB handicap people always assumed it was, and what better place to spend your formative years than in New Orleans behind Brees and working with Sean Payton. I get why you want to go after Chase Daniel, and apparently so did at least five other teams, but what I don’t get is how that market soars to the price it did for a guy who has played exactly 70 snaps in the regular season in his NFL career and attempted a sum total of nine passes. Are we really committing that kind of money on the basis of a few preseason outings and some blind faith?

Michael Bennett to SEA: 1-year, $5m

I can’t fathom how this was the market for Michael Bennett. Don’t get me wrong, this is a move I think is great for Seattle, but it makes no sense to me from the part of Michael Bennett, or from the state of the market. After the Seahawks signed Cliff Avril, and already with Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons on the roster, I think they made this move simply because of the value they found for a guy that really should have been setting the top of the market when it came to edge defenders. Bennett is a great run defender, the prototypical DLE in a 4-3 formation, and while he might not be hailed as a great pass-rusher, his 71 total pressures were topped by just eight other players in the league last year. Usually players don’t start taking ‘prove it’ deals until much later in free agency, and I wonder if Bennett just grew frustrated at the lack of immediate offers and signed when he would have been better served being patient and waiting for the market to come back to him.

 

Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Mauha Deeb

    Bennett for $5 mil…. The steal of free agency.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tommy-Gosling/1641583167 Tommy Gosling

      Not when he will most likely sit out for the season LOL.

  • George McDowell

    “I don’t get is how that market soars to the price it did for a guy who
    has played exactly 70 snaps in the regular season in his NFL career and
    attempted a sum total of nine passes.”

    Isn’t that just a bit less than Kolb had before Arizona gave him $21M guaranteed (on a $62M deal)?

    • http://twitter.com/C_Joseph_J CJ

      Exactly. It may be questionable, but it is not surprising in any way.

    • PFF_Pete

      Kolb wasn’t that raw. He had 7 NFL starts under his belt, throwing for 300+ yards in 3 of them. Still, he had more INTs than TDs. What baffled me at the time is that they immediately gave him that massive extension, rather than waiting to see how he adjusted.

  • river

    I do agree that Walden is a very strange business and football decision, but surely Indianapolis’ management would have studied Walden in all his games? I would have thought that after January, the management and or scouts would study all the free agents and then come up with a ‘big board’ type of list with them all ranked.

    Surely nobody involved professionally in football only judges players from the games their team has played against?

    • Phresh

      aside from pass rushing Walden is a very well rounded OLB… Good tackler, solid in assignments, and can sniff out a play… Dnt blame him for Green Bay’s coaching staff lack of preparation against San Fran for tha read option, every defender looked lost… He is a good 3 down OLB PFF juss gloifies sacks & pressures from all 3-4 OLBs, when thats clearly not his game…

      • Leo

        Have YOU seen a Walden game? He’i awful against the run, if there something that is misleading in Walden’s performance is his sack number. He can’t set the edge at all gets sucked in in every play action fake. I am a packer fan I’ve watched almost every snap Walden played in his career. And his game is every ounce of bad that PFF says it’s.

        • Phresh

          I have to watch his games cause tha Packers are prime time football favorites… I dnt think he is bad at all… Not great, but not trash either…

          • http://twitter.com/coy_combs Coy Combs

            Why slander the site if you don’t know any better. They chart every snap and your opinion is better from watching MNF? Sports is one of the only subjects where everyone pretends to be an expert.

      • PFF_Pete

        If you think PFF “just glorifies sacks and pressures” then you don’t know us very well. Read our recent list of overvalued DEs and OLBs. Chock full of productive pass rushers who struggled vs the run.

        https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/03/07/performance-based-value-edge-rushers/

    • PFF_Pete

      I’m sure they took a look at all his games, but firsthand impressions can be hard to break. Maybe after that game the offensive staff chatted about all the trouble Walden caused them, and the offensive linemen said “yeah, he was unblockable!” If the GM sets his mind to targeting him, some scout’s report may not change it.

      It’s the same reason that, when it comes to Pro Bowl voting, a great game on MNF can outweigh 4 Sunday 1pm stinkers. Neil elaborated on this in our Google hangout:

      https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/03/15/the-first-pff-google-hangout/

      • river

        I don’t believe GMs would be as dumb as a lot of pro bowl voters, it’s their jobs and millions of dollars on the line. Most teams have had 10 weeks to study free agency, so that’s not the same as expecting an ordinary person to accurately judge 1,500 players performance in the NFL each week.

        • PFF_Pete

          Yes, but until two days ago I also didn’t believe that a GM could fall for a prank call because he didn’t have another GM’s phone on file.

          Just because the stakes are higher, doesn’t mean that these men aren’t exempt from the same fallacies (stubbornness, arrogance, laziness) that the rest of us have.

          • river

            Though Green Bay thought Walden was good enough to make their roster 2 years running and Kansas City and Oakland also wanted to sign him recently. Goodness knows why he’s thought of as 4 years/$16m but I don’t think it was a decision that was taken on the basis of 1 or 2 games v Indy. Those 4 teams just see something in Walden that the rest of us don’t.

            Not to say they aren’t above making mistakes but I certainly think that when players are evaluated. they go about that process in a professional way.

    • posmoo

      The colts also spent big money on a thumping SS that can no longer thump because of the rule changes, and has never been good at coverage (when that is more important than ever) presumably because he made the probowl, when we know the probowl is fairly poor indicator of play.
      I don’t think the colts have a rational player management strategy at all.

  • Christova

    It makes sense if Michael Bennett’s goal is solely to win a Superbowl. After free agency, what team outside of the 49ers has the best chance of winning in 14? And we know history has not been kind to the Superbowl loser the next year…Win the SB this year, monster contract in 2014- a move now called “The Flacco” or “Pulling a Flacco”…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tommy-Gosling/1641583167 Tommy Gosling

      How is he going to win a SB in Sea? History shows what?

      • cbats

        lol

  • http://twitter.com/coy_combs Coy Combs

    Thought he was goin to Miami. But they already have the best LDE in the league. Too bad Wake doesn’t thrive when on the right. They would have had one of the best lines in football.

  • http://twitter.com/DementeDiabetic Dalton Meek

    Yaaa, as a chiefs fan I like the Chase Daniels signing, but at the same time I feel we payed way too much for him. Understandably there’s a need for quarterbacks this year, which I assume drove up the price for Daniels, but 10 mil? I’d rather take a risk on G.Smith being our backup answer

  • P. Zed

    Re: Chase Daniel. Yeah $10 million is a lot of money, but look at it this way: Tebow, Ponder, Locker, and Gabbert got contracts north of $11 million as untested and unheralded rookies. Kyle Orton got $10 million for 3 years in Dallas, and Matt Moore got $8 million for two years in Miami to be the clear-cut backups. Daniel had great production in college and will likely have a chance to compete for the starting job before his contract is up.

  • Matt

    I agree with everything written here except the assertion that “The Blind Side” has anything to do with over valuing the LOT position. That’s just not true. Look at guys like Ogden and Orlando Pace in the 90s and what they got paid. There were some great edge rushers in the 3-4 and 4-3 rushing the blind side in the 80’s/90’s and that is when it began. If you want to blame one thing, I’d say Lawrence Taylor breaking Joe Theisman’s leg is the point where it really started to inflate. But it’s definitely true that the position is overpaid. Unless you are talking about the elite LOTs. But there is really only 3-4 LOTs in my opinion that deserve being called elite.

  • http://twitter.com/JRehmel Jamie Rehmel

    Signings are not inconceivable because of your shoddy formula; rather, your formula is deemed untenable based on how NFL management values these players. It’s called construct validity.