6 free agents about to be overpaid

Mike Renner identifies six free agents likely to receive contract offers next week that outweigh their on-field production.

| 1 year ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

6 free agents about to be overpaid

Now past the deadline to tag players, NFL teams turn their attention to free agency next week. Not every deal is justifiable, however, with some players receiving offers that outweigh their previous production.

Here are six players who will likely cash in next week, despite underwhelming on-field production in the past.

1. Mark Barron LB, Rams

Barron (74.8 overall grade) is a player that fits in nicely with NFL trends. It seems like every team wants a hybrid linebacker/safety, and Barron was one of those who played the position competently last year. Some team is going to mistake competency for proficiency, though, and give the former top-10 pick a healthy second contract. The problem is that Barron graded out around average in that role last year, and his struggles in coverage over his career weren’t alleviated by playing more in the box.

2. James Laurinaitis, LB, Rams (cut)

A second Rams player, but this time it certainly won’t be the Rams that are overpaying. It’s certainly possible that Laurinaitis (39.3) was hampered by injury all throughout 2015, but even if he had been healthy all year long, no one should be paying him starter-type money. He’s always been a below-average defender against the run, but last year he took it to another level. Any time an offensive lineman found him at the second level, Laurinaitis was stuck on it like flypaper. His 3.8 run-stop percentage was the worst in the NFL.

3. Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals

Jones (79.0) figures to be the beneficiary of an extremely weak free agent receiver class. After Alshon Jeffrey got tagged, Jones was the only young, productive receiver left on the market. Jones has been a solid No. 2 option to A.J. Green over his career, but outside of the 2013 season where he made a handful of circus catches, there is little reason to think Jones can be a No. 1 target. With a weak receiver draft class—and even weaker free-agent crop—don’t be surprised if someone gives Jones No. 1-receiver money, though.

4. J.R. Sweezy, G, Seahawks

At times, Sweezy (46.0) will make some of the best blocks you’ll ever see. But playing guard in the NFL is about consistency more than the highlight reel pancakes. Sweezy has simply been extremely erratic, especially in pass protections, where he’s been 41st and 46th among starters in pass-blocking efficiency the past two seasons. Someone figures to pay this fringe-starter like a quality one.

5. George Iloka, S, Bengals

The importance of age in free agency cannot be overstated. For most positions, an average player at 26 will get a more lucrative deal than a slightly above-average player at 32. Illoka (82.6) has consistently been out-graded by fellow Bengals safety Reggie Nelson over the course of his career, but at 26 years old, Illoka is the one who figures to be paid like a top-10 safety. Obviously teams will bank on further development from the young safety, but he’s yet to grade out as a top-10 player at his position in any season of his career.

6. Brock Osweiler, QB, Broncos

The thirst for a quarterback in the NFL today is real. The Redskins tagging Kirk Cousins is really all you need to know about the desperation teams feel. If Peyton Manning does indeed retire, the Broncos will be experiencing a similar squeeze. This could very well lead them to splurge on their former second-round pick, whom they have spent four years developing. Outside of the Patriots game though, Osweiler (71.3) has shown little indication that he’s a quarterback that should be starting in this league. His 26.7 deep-accuracy percentage was second-worst in the NFL.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The NFL only has itself to blame if average QBs are now getting paid a king’s ransom. They were the ones who changed the rules that made the passing game predominate today.

    • Mike J.

      And they have made a ton of money ever since; this coming from someone who was depressed for weeks after Jim Brown retired.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Jim Brown dominated defenders so thoroughly that there really wasn’t much of a challenge there for him, so in that sense his retirement was understandable.

        • Mike J.

          Lord knows that’s true. And amazingly, the guy never missed a down due to injury IIRC.

    • The Mysteries of Bob

      They have Joe Flacco to blame.

      Ridiculous contract that set the market because of a fluke Super Bowl.

      • aaron

        A fluke super bowl is hard to say he did the joe Montana’s record with 11 tds and 0 ints kinda hard to say it was a fluke he also has 10 playoff wins and 7 of the game were on the road which is also a nfl record in not saying he should be making that’s much money because he shouldn’t but look up the start before you call it a fluke

        • The Mysteries of Bob

          He never approched that level of play before it or after ot, today he is a mess with a terrible footwork.

          He has all these wins because of massive defensive support, other than 2012, career-wise, he is Matthew Stafford with a ring, he gave up on his mechainics a long time ago.

          • Northman

            You’re talking out your ass. He’s the best clutch QB in the game. The SB win was on his back. There’s a reason they gave him the MVP. Try looking at the team around him lately. You must be a Steeler fan

          • The Mysteries of Bob

            “He’s the best clutch QB in the game” – based on a 4 game sample size?

            The SB was 3 seasons ago, since them he has posted mediocre stats, the Ravens have had one winning season, including a disastrous 2013, the team around him doesn’t make him throw dumb interceptions and have happy feet, he gave up on his mechanics since he can always be regarded for that Super Bowl despite subpar play.

            I would actually be happy with him if I was the Steelers fans you claim I am, Baltimore has basically lost its entire defense who gave him support to win playoff games throwing 10 passes because they allocate a lot of their cap to a mediocre QB and the same the Steelers allocate to Roehtlisberger, an elite one.

            Meanwhile, much maligned Andy Dalton got a team friendly deal thanks to the perception on him, better pay a mediocre QB average money if you want to win, something the Bengals have done much better lately, playoffs be damned.

          • Mike Presley

            Missing the playoffs by one game is “disastrous”? That must make teams picking inside the top 10 feel better that their season wasn’t disastrous because they didn’t miss the playoffs by one game?

            Not a Ravens fan by any means but Flacco’s contract hasn’t hurt them like you and everyone else tend to think. They went back to the playoffs in 2014, beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh(first time they ever did that) and only loss by 3 to the Patriots. In which the Ravens under Flacco are still the only team in the AFC who can walk into Foxboro in January and beat the Patriots. In 2015, they were the most competitive 5-11 team the NFL ever seen. Flacco’s contract hasn’t hurt them at all, contrary to what people say.

            Want to see a team hurt by a QB contract…See New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. They keep releasing guys and refuse to restructure Brees’ contract and are losing their team year by year.

      • crosseyedlemon

        So your saying the players that are responsible for winning a championship shouldn’t be rewarded? That’s the perfect recipe for killing team morale and creating an atmosphere where players don’t want to perform.

        • The Mysteries of Bob

          Rewarded is different than overpaid.

          • crosseyedlemon

            The guy at the top of the money list is always considered overpaid until the other elite players get their contract extensions and move past him.

  • Bruce Locis

    I am a Seahawks fan – Calling JR Sweezy erratic infers that he has been competent at times. To my eyes, he is supremely consistent in his awfulness. I will be happy if he winds up on some other NFC teams roster.

    • Brandon

      PFF is right, he can flash dominances very briefly in the run game. He will take a tackle to the second level on one play then get wiped out on the next play. He has potential down the road, but not to be paid anything more than fringe starter money right now.

  • The Mysteries of Bob

    Laurinaitis sounds like the typical free agent the Saints will overpay, make their defense even worse and release the following year as a result of their purge due to being in cap hell.

  • bobrulz

    I don’t know if Osweiler is a franchise QB or not, but it’s a shame to see so many people writing him off after half a season.

  • Anthony

    Correct about 4 out of 6 so far. Still waiting to see what happens to Laurinaitis. My guess is 3 year 17 million deal to the Saints.