Here are five players that are going to be wildly overpaid when free agency gets going next month. This isn’t to say that any of these players aren’t starter-caliber or above-average at the positions they play. Instead, it’s all about teams overvaluing them on the open market.
1. Byron Maxwell, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
We see this often on the free agent market. A pretty good role player on an elite defense getting paid elite money to be expected to play an elite role on a less-than-average defense. Anyone remember the contract that Dannell Ellerbe signed with the Miami Dolphins a couple years back? That’s a prime example of a player cashing in on team-wide success.
This isn’t to say Maxwell won’t be a good player moving forward. He did allow just an 81.1 quarterback rating when targeted this past season. The biggest issue here is the near 64 percent completion rate quarterbacks boasted when targeting him. If Maxwell goes to another team — say the Oakland Raiders — he will be asked to do more than he was in Seattle. That could be problematic. Maxwell could be looking at something similar to the five-year, $35 million contract Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed with the New York Giants last March.
2. Rahim Moore, Safety, Denver Broncos
Moore’s sample size is greater than some of the other players in this article. He has started 48 games in four seasons with the Broncos. And for the most part, the UCLA product has been a pretty darn good safety. This past season saw him record 51 tackles with six passes defended and four interceptions. He also graded out favorably in coverage from the free safety position.
The issue here is that teams tend to value safeties way more than they are worth in today’s NFL. It’s the idea of acquiring a player they can groom to be the next Earl Thomas or Harrison Smith. Unfortunately, there are very few players of that caliber in the league today. While Moore is an above-average safety, there’s a strong chance that he will get paid to be a Pro Bowl-level player. Through four NFL seasons, that’s just something we haven’t seen from him. The likeliest scenario here is that a team deficient at safety will throw out a deal similar to what theIndianapolis Colts gave LaRon Landry back in 2013. It’s called overvaluing a position based on specific need.
3. Mike Iupati, Guard, San Francisco 49ers
Iupati entered the NFL like a star ready to be born back in 2010. He’s earned three Pro Bowl trips and All-Pro honors once in five seasons. Back in 2011, this former first-round pick actually graded out as the second-best run-blocking guard in the NFL according to official Pro Football Focus metrics. He was destined to become one of the great guards in league history.
Unfortunately for Iupati and the 49ers, he just hasn’t been the same since. His overall performance fell off the map back in 2013 prior to injuring his ankle in the NFC Championship game. A long recovery process during the offseason culminated in a horrendous performance this past year. Despite earning a phantom Pro Bowl honor, Iupati gave up seven sacks and 22 hurries from the guard position. Needless to say, that’s not indicative of an elite interior lineman. And while Iupati remains one of the best run-blocking guards in the NFL, that has to be cause for alarm.
Some say that the guard position is undervalued in the NFL today. This might very well be true, but we have seen some ridiculous cash thrown out to this position in free agency over the years. That’s likely going to be the case with Iupati, especially if teams look for him to regain his 2012 form.
4. Torrey Smith, Wide Receiver, Baltimore Ravens
Considering the passing era we are witness to around the NFL today, the wide receiver position will quickly become one of the most overvalued in the league. When it comes to the speedier receivers who can take the top off defenses, this will only be more magnified.
Smith may be averaging 17 yards per catch during his four-year career. He may have scored 11 touchdowns on 49 receptions last year. But one thing is mighty clear when it comes to this Maryland product. Simply put, he’s not a consistently good threat on the passing game. This past season saw Smith average just over three receptions per game and catch just 55 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Even more incredible to look at, Smith dropped 12 percent of the passes thrown in his direction.
Now imagine Smith going to a team that doesn’t possess a quarterback with an elite arm like Baltimore has with Joe Flacco. Taking into account his inability to produce on a weekly basis and high drop percentage, Smith’s production will see a deep decline. This won’t stop teams from lining up to sign Smith to a lucrative long-term deal should Baltimore let him hit the open market. I can easily see Smith signing a deal that rivals the five-year, $36.3 million contract Eric Decker signed with the New York Jets last season.
5. Brandon Graham, Defensive End/Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
Over the course of his five-year career, Graham has started a total of 13 games and racked up just 17 sacks. This past season saw the Michigan product tie his career-high with 5.5 sacks. Always an intriguing talent, Graham’s ability to play both with his hands down in a 4-3, and as an EDGE player with his hands up in a 3-4, will make him a highly-sought after commodity on the open market. This despite the fact that the former first-round pick averaged just 33 snaps per game in 2014.
To combat pass-heavy offenses, teams are lining up to sign players that are perceived to have elite-pass rush skills. While Graham did grade out as the third-best pass-rushing 3-4 linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, he has never been more than a situational pass rusher. That makes a contract north of $7 million per season, which is something Graham will receive, a bit too rich.