Despite the sports world coming to a standstill last week, the NFL has decided to forge ahead with its league year. That means the start of free agency. This league year has already seen a flurry of activity from some huge names. While teams are likely to drop a lot of coin in the coming days ahead, that doesn’t mean all of the money they spend will be wise investments.
Who were the most overpriced free agents in this year’s class of candidates? There are three players who have all signed deals that come to mind. While all three are actually very good players, that doesn’t mean the teams that sign them will come away with a good deal.
Tom Brady shocked the football world when he announced he was leaving the only NFL team he’s ever known, the New England Patriots, after 20 years. Before Patriots fans could pick their jaws up off the floor, reports began to circulate that Brady was headed to Tampa Bay to join Bruce Arians.
You’d have a hard time convincing anyone that Brady doesn’t deserve a hefty raise. He took $0.75 on the dollar for years to give the Patriots cap flexibility. It worked — the team and quarterback won six Super Bowls, making beautiful music together.
But the Patriots weren’t willing to pony up the big deal Brady felt he earned and the Buccaneers are left with the bill. While Brady is still darn good for his age, he’s 43 years old. His best days are behind him, and the odds of a resurgence in Tampa isn’t likely.
The most impactful player of last year’s playoffs was undoubtedly Derrick Henry. Henry destroyed the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Both he and the Tennessee Titans came up short against the Kansas City Chiefs, but they went much farther than anyone expected.
Henry was scheduled to hit free agency this offseason and the team has yet to commit to a long-term extension for the powerhouse back. The team opted instead to hit him with the franchise tag.
It’s not an easy call. As great as Henry has been, running backs don’t age well. Henry likely has at least a few good seasons left, but there’s no telling when a running back’s body will break down. Investing a significant chunk of your salary cap in a running back seems like a foolish gambit when it’s the position most easily replaced. Henry got the franchise tag but the odds are low they’ll commit to a longer deal for him.
Last season was a breakout year for Shaquil Barrett. He totaled an amazing 19.5 sacks in his first year as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. There’s no question Barrett was a high-octane pass rusher last year. The numbers don’t lie: anyone with almost 20 sacks is clearly a difference-maker at the line of scrimmage.
The problem with Barrett comes down to three words statisticians love to use when it comes to sports analysis: small sample size. Barrett’s stats last year were outstanding, but it is also an outlier when you compare it to his previous levels of production.
He never came close to double-digit sack totals before last season. Barrett was never a bad player before this, but his 2019 numbers are out of this world. A return to Earth should almost be expected.
Like Henry, the Bucs smartly applied to the franchise tag to Barrett. They’ll see if he can duplicate this year’s effort before committing long-term. Perhaps he can, but until he proves it, he’ll be more of a gamble than anything.