Biggest NFL free agency studs and duds at mid-season mark

When the 2016 NFL free agency cycle came to a close as the NFL draft neared, hopes were riding high for many teams across the league.

Fans of teams from Oakland to Tampa Bay were giddy with excitement over the high-profile signings executed by their favorite teams.

As the NFL mid-season mark approaches, many fans are beginning to understand whether the big-name player signed by their favorite team was worth it.

As a result, we have decided to gather a list of 10 2016 free agency signing period studs and five duds, including our reasoning behind each pick.

Dud: Olivier Vernon, defensive end, New York Giants

Vernon was considered by many to be the star pass-rushing free agent available in the 2016 offseason.

After recording 11.5 sacks for the Miami Dolphins in a contract year, the Giants attempted to return to the formula that won them multiple Super Bowls — pressure the passer.

With hallowed names such as Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka rushing passers on the same defensive line, the Giants attempted to recreate that magic with the trio of Justin Pierre-Paul, Owa Odighizuwa and Vernon.

Those three have combined for 2.5 sacks on the year, of which Vernon is responsible for one.

When you sign a player to a five-year, $85 million dollar contract, including paying said player $29 million in the first year, it is expected that the player produces more than one sack and 18 tackles in 7 games.

On top of that, Vernon’s lone sack was the result of Pierre-Paul missing his sack.

Safe to say that, unless there is a miraculous turnaround, this signing is a major dud.

Stud: Kelechi Osemele, guard, Oakland Raiders

When Osemele was signed to the largest contract given to an offensive guard in the NFL, reactions were very mixed. While many Raider fans praised the deal, many were left to wonder if Osemele was truly worth it.

With the season Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been having, those fears can be laid to rest.

One key area that Osemele has taken to another level for the Raiders’ offensive line has been the level of nastiness he brings to the game, as evidenced in this video.

Osemele himself has stated just how physical and nasty he is, via the Raiders’ official website

“Right under your chin strap. I’m trying to knock you out,” Osemele said. “They call me ‘KO’ for a reason. They’ve been calling me that for a while, so that really defines who I am as a man. I’m going to look you in the eye and I’m going to take you down.”

Osemele has accomplished this by far, and the Raiders are prospering as a result. Osemele is a stud signing.

Dud: Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Houston Texans

A quarterback is the face of a franchise. One bad draft pick at the position, one bad signing. Either can set a team back years.

From the looks of things, Brock Osweiler is that “one bad signing“.

After signing a four-year $72 million dollar contract with the Texans without taking a visit to their facilities, let alone speaking with the head coach, Osweiler was heaped with the expectations that he was the piece to push the Texans into the Super Bowl.

Week 9 rolls around, and that is far from the case.

From a historically bad Monday night performance to the fact that Osweiler is leading the second-worst scoring offense in the league, this signing has been a major dud, and the Texans would do well to find a way out of it as soon as possible.

Stud: Alex Mack, center, Atlanta Falcons

When it comes to offensive linemen, many of the nuances regarding the position are so subtle that the average fan won’t truly notice it.

Despite this, there is no doubt that Alex Mack has truly been the key to the Atlanta Falcons’ offense, more so than even Matt Ryan.

Be it in the passing game or the run, Mack is making an immediate and obvious impact on every snap.

In the passing game, Mack’s mental ability to diagnose a defense, call out line protections, and get the snap off in mere seconds has allowed Matt Ryan to have a career resurgence, and has helped lead the Falcons to a 5-3 record.

Alex Mack is worth every penny of the five-year $45 million dollar contract he signed this past offseason.

Dud: Ladarius Green, tight end, Pittsburgh Steelers

Green was brought in to fill the void of an athletic mismatch at tight end for Pittsburgh, something the team had sorely been lacking as a complement to a fantastic wide receiver corps.

As of Week 9, that has been far from the case.

After signing Green to a four-year $20 million dollar contract, Green has been on the physically Unable to perform (PUP) list all season due to complications stemming from concussions.

The injury-prone tight end is a mismatch when on the field, but injuries have marred a once promising career.

The one solace in the contract given Green is that he is being paid only $1.2 million dollars this year, and can be released with minimal cap hit if need be.

Stud: Danny Trevathan, linebacker, Chicago Bears

While the number surrounding Danny Trevathan haven’t been eye-popping, the Bears’ linebacker has made his presence felt in other ways.

As a replacement for former first-round bust Shea McClellin, Trevathan has been head and shoulders above anything the Bears have had since Brian Urlacher in terms of mental acuity and coverage ability.

On top of that, Trevathan is fitting in quite well in regards to the hard-hitting mentality that once defined this Bears defense.

Trevathan’s ability to understand coverage, combined with his fantastic athleticism, has been key for the interior of this Bears defense.

Dud: Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns

At one point in time, Robert Griffin III was considered an elite quarterback and was seen as the future of the Washington Redskins franchise following a rookie year that saw him throw for 20 touchdowns to a mere five interceptions.

Fast forward four seasons, and RGIII is now on injured reserve with the Cleveland Browns, another in a long line of failed high-profile draft picks at the quarterback position in the NFL.

After a promising preseason that gave many inside the Browns’ organization hope that they had finally settled on a quarterback, RGIII’s body betrayed him yet again, landing him on injured reserve with a fractured left (non-throwing) shoulder.

While the signing has been a dud in regards to return on investment, we have faith that RGIII can still be a competent quarterback in the NFL under Hue Jackson’s tutelage.

Only time will tell.

Stud: Malik Jackson, defensive end, Jacksonville Jaguars

When Malik Jackson signed his six-year $85.5 million dollar contract, much of the nation was floored.

While there is no doubt that Jackson was a premier defender in Denver, many wondered if he could continue his high level of play away from a defense that includes Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller.

Playing a position where his primary assignment is to defend against the run on a defensive line where he is the primary target, Jackson’s ability to generate pressure and draw multiple blockers has allowed rookie sensation Yannick Ngakoue to flourish.

While one can argue that nearly $90 million dollars over the life of his contract was an overpayment, Malik Jackson plays with a high motor and has helped change the attitude of a floundering defense and his new franchise.

Dud: J.R. Sweezy, Guard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When you sign an offensive guard to a five-year, $32.5 million dollar contract, you expect immediate returns on the investment.

Eight weeks into the NFL season, and that has been far from the case for Tampa Bay free agent signee J.R. Sweezy.

A much-maligned guard in Seattle, the former college defensive tackle was signed by Tampa Bay to a big contract in hopes that he could tap into his potential and become a dominating force on the line for franchise quarterback Jameis Winston.

Despite these hopes, Sweezy has yet to see the field due to an off-season back injury that has sidelined him for longer than originally expected.

Even though the injury has been a major factor, Sweezy is not the player Buccaneers fans had anticipated upon his signing, and it remains to be seen if he will ever have an impact for Tampa Bay this season.

Stud: Casey Heyward, Cornerback, San Diego Chargers

When Heyward was signed from Green Bay on a three-year, $15 million dollar contract, it was expected he would play a complementary role to budding star Jason Verrett.

Fast forward eight weeks, and Verrett is on injured reserve while Heyward plays his butt off as the Chargers’ top cornerback.

First noted by Kyle Posey of Bleacher Report, Heyward has been playing well in all facets of the game and it showed this past weekend against the Denver Broncos when Heyward nabbed his first pick-six of the season.

With the level of play at which Heyward is performing, one can easily say he is outperforming his contract, and is definitely a free agency stud for San Diego.