Some of the big NFL free-agent deals that are about to be signed won’t end well
NFL free agency will get off the ground shortly, with a multitude of players from every position possible negotiating for a new contract. In some cases, competition will be fierce, as teams vie to retain their own players or shore up their squad by bringing somebody new on board. History tells us that some of these deals will work out just fine and others will end up being regretted once the amount of money spent is weighed against the production received on the field. Here are five impending free agents who are most likely to be overpaid in their next contract.
Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback: After six solid but unspectacular years with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill had the best season of his career in 2019 with the Tennessee Titans. Taking over the starting role six games in, he threw for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He led the NFL in passer rating and yards gained per attempt and completion. The Titans also made it to the AFC Championship Game, which was a loftier end result than most had envisioned for them.
Clearly, Tannehill is an NFL starting quarterback. The question heading into free agency is whether teams will covet and pay him according to the way he played this past season or to his more middling version from earlier in his career. Anything is possible, but he is about to turn 32 and there is nothing concrete to suggest his recent success was anything more than a flash in the pan instead of sustained improvement. With a number of teams entering the market hungering for a signal caller, he may be the subject of a bidding war that could be difficult to live up to.
*Right on cue, it’s been reported that Tannehill and Tennessee agreed on a four-year, $118 million extension.
A.J. Green, Wide Receiver: There is perhaps no available player as tantalizing and volatile as Green. In eight seasons, he has totaled 8,907 receiving yards and 63 scores with the Bengals. On the other hand, he is about to turn 32 and didn’t play a single snap in 2019 after missing seven games the year before. Big and fast when healthy, there are few wideouts that can change the dynamic of a game like he can. If Cincinnati doesn’t put the franchise tag on him, which they have indicated they might, he could have quite the market despite the red flags.
If Green is retained on the franchise tag, that will be a big financial layout for a team likely starting over with a new quarterback most likely obtained with the first overall pick they hold in the upcoming draft. If he does indeed hit the open market, a team desperate for help with their receiving corps might really open up their checkbook to entice the distinguished veteran. Of course, if he returns to the level of play he has proved capable of in the past, that will be a moot point, but having missed so much time of late that will likely be an uphill battle to accomplish.
Joe Thuney, Guard: On the plus side, he is just 27, weighs in at 308 pounds and is versatile and incredibly durable. In his four years in the NFL he has played in all but a couple of possible snaps. He is capable of playing up and down the line and has seen his play improve annually. He has been called for just 18 penalties in his career, including none in 2019. That being said, despite a 2019 All-Pro second team nod, his style of play would likely be described more as lunch pail or workmanlike instead of being a star. That is certainly no knock on him, as just about any team would be lucky to employ him on his next contract.
Effective available linemen often seem to become the new flavor of the moment, drawing ever-rising salaries. It’s possible Thuney could land a deal that includes record money for his position. If that happens, good for him, but it’s more unclear if he could live up to such lofty expectations that would accompany that.
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End: Coming out of College at South Carolina, Clowney’s freakish size, strength and athletic ability propelled him into being the first overall selection in the 2014 draft. In six seasons since then he has accumulated 32 sacks and three Pro Bowl nods. Those are nothing to sneeze at, yet simultaneously are disappointing given what many expected of him as a possible generational talent.
Still just 27, Clowney is coming off a three-sack year with the Seattle Seahawks. However, he is also reportedly seeking a “market-setting contract” on his next deal. He has the talent to live up to such a commitment if a team is willing to throw their bank account at him, but he also has a track record of some length that shouldn’t inspire a high level of confidence of that happening.