NFL free agency isn’t the way to build a championship, yet every year teams open up their wallets to bring in high-priced veterans. Furthermore, there are many occasions in which players never live up to expectations after joining new teams.
There have been times when adding a big-name player has propelled teams to the desired next level. The 1994 San Francisco 49ers won a Super Bowl, thanks in part to the new addition of Deion Sanders, who dominated opposing receivers that season.
However, more often than not, teams that spend big money on free agents end up with bitter disappointment when it’s all said and done.
These upcoming players were all signed to lucrative new contracts this offseason, but they won’t be the difference-makers their new teams expect them to be.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
One must wonder what Maclin was thinking, choosing the Chiefs this offseason. He signed a five-year deal worth $55 million, but it’s hard to imagine he’s going to earn that money.
Kansas City’s quarterback, Alex Smith, is notorious for his absolute blindness to wide receivers. According to Pro Football Focus (paid subscription), Dwayne Bowe, who was Smith’s top receiver last year, was targeted just 90 times all year long.
That’s a paltry number. On average, Bowe was targeted just six times per game (he played 15 games).
Now, the Chiefs are pushing Smith to be more aggressive this year, which, in theory, should bode well for Maclin and the other receivers on the team.
That said, Smith is an old dog who might be disinclined to learn this new trick after a few interceptions.
Nobody should expect Maclin to put up the same kind of numbers that earned him this big contract. Thanks to Smith’s reliance on tight ends and running backs, the former Eagles receiver will see his stats suffer in 2015.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Every NFL player dreams of signing a huge contract, which is what Thomas did this spring when he received a five-year deal worth $46 million.
But the Jaguars?
Thomas, who had Peyton Manning tossing him perfect passes the past couple of seasons, will now be relying on second-year pro Blake Bortles to get him the ball.
Talk about a downgrade.
While it’s true Bortles has potential, he was the league’s worst passer in 2014 with a passer rating of 69.5. Bortles threw just 11 touchdowns all year, with 17 interceptions. Meanwhile, Thomas had caught 12 touchdowns the past two seasons from Manning.
Thomas might be the catalyst for a big leap forward in development for Bortles, but it’s a long shot. He’s not going to come close to matching the production that earned him the huge contract this year.
Mike Iupati, OG, Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals fans have high expectations for Iupati, whom they view as a key to ammending the team’s offensive-line woes of the past few years. Apparently the team does, too, considering the five-year $40 million contract he signed.
It’s true Iupati is a force to be reckoned with in the power-running game, which Arizona hopes to feature more this year. However, he has always struggled to protect his quarterback on passing downs. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s allowed 10 sacks the past two years and has received a negative rating both seasons.
Quick defensive tackles and blitzing linebackers have had no problem getting past the mammoth offensive guard in the past, as 49ers fans know all too well.
#49ers third series results in punt. after third-down sack. Mike Iupati blocked no one on that sack as Rams blitzed to cause havoc
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) November 2, 2014
With Carson Palmer coming back from an ACL injury, this isn’t good. It’s likely he’s going to be quite uncomfortable in the pocket all year long.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins
There is absolutely no doubting Suh’s status as the NFL’s premier pass-rushing defensive tackle. He is an amazing athlete with talent and skill to dominate the trenches, and he’ll certainly make his fair share of impact plays for the Dolphins this year.
But in no way will Suh propel Miami out of the shadow of the mighty New England Patriots.
He’s no savior, and the Dolphins made a colossal error in judgement when they gave him a six-year deal worth $116 million with nearly $60 million of guaranteed money.
During his tenure with the Detroit Lions, Suh racked up 36 sacks in five years—a staggering number considering he’s an interior lineman.
However, Detroit didn’t win a single playoff game.
Suh can’t block for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and he can’t make the critical pass when the game is on the line.
His impact will be minimal when it comes to wins and losses, especially when it comes to postseason play—if the Dolphins even make it that far. Furthermore, his massive salary will be a millstone around Miami’s neck in the years to come.
Byron Maxwell, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Product of the system.
It’s a phrase that’s often misused when describing quarterbacks who excel even though they aren’t as physically gifted as the elites of the NFL, but it’s one that correctly applies to Maxwell.
A product of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense, Maxwell received a six-year contract from Philadelphia this spring worth $63 million ($25 million guaranteed) after starting just 17 games in his four-year career.
He’s getting paid like a top-tier cornerback, but he’ll soon be exposed without Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas behind him—not to mention Richard Sherman on the other side.
Maxwell, by Pro Football Focus’ standards, was nothing more than an average cornerback last year. No doubt, the Eagles will have buyer’s remorse after he gets exposed this year without his “LOB” teammates supporting him.
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