Every March, NFL teams enter free agency with dreams of rebuilding a roster or signing the final pieces for a championship run. However, a handful of clubs extend regrettable contracts.
Whether due to a breakout season, being a star on a bad team or a franchise overestimating a player’s value, some available talents are certain to be overpaid on the open market.
No matter if the following players receive the franchise tag or ink a long-term deal, they’re going to sign a contract noticeably larger than their worth — and good for them.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
The Washington fan base is generally a vocal group that supports Kirk Cousins. Although the club shouldn’t let him leave, even his 2015 performance leaves Cousins short of being a franchise savior.
Yes, he set a team record with 4,166 yards and accounted for 34 touchdowns, leading Washington to its first postseason berth since 2012. That accomplishment can be recognized while acknowledging Cousins and Co. benefited from a bad NFC East.
Washington defeated zero teams with a winning record. Still, Cousins is going to get paid with a capital $ thanks to the playoff berth as well as only throwing 11 interceptions.
The organization will likely slap the franchise tag on the Michigan State product, which at nearly $20 million is effectively overpaying Cousins anyway. Nevertheless, that’s quickly becoming the cost of a capable quarterback.
Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver Broncos
Von Miller will soon be an even wealthier man. But if that entails using the franchise tag, Denver must attempt to re-sign Brock Osweiler via free agency. He’ll have options.
Among others, the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams should be targeting a quarterback during the offseason. Adding one before the draft frees up a first-round pick for a different position.
Cousins (Washington) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (New York Jets) will likely stay with their current team, which means Osweiler would be the second-best quarterback actually available.
As long as Peyton Manning retires, though, the Broncos should keep Osweiler. The cost won’t be minimal.
Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Prior to the 2015 campaign, Sam Bradford’s agent asked the Eagles for $25 million per year. If nothing else, that’s a bold strategy and a benchmark for what to expect.
Similar to Osweiler, sensible landing spots include Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles. Bradford is also an option for the San Francisco 49ers, where ex-Philly coach Chip Kelly found a new home.
Bradford — who isn’t a lock to be franchise tagged — is an ideal fit for the Eagles offense under Doug Pederson, but that rings true enough for each of the Browns, Texans and Rams, too.
Instead of reaching for a quarterback in Round 1 of the draft, the club that signs Bradford can address another need. That franchise simply won’t have much money left to spend in free agency.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
When a player of Alshon Jeffery’s caliber hits the open market, teams will scavenge through couch cushions for every last penny.
Chicago would be foolish to not use the franchise tag if it cannot reach a long-term deal with Jeffery, who is a legitimate No. 1 receiver set to enter his prime. After back-to-back 1,100-plus-yard seasons, he tallied 54 receptions for 807 yards in only nine appearances last year.
The New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans should chase upgrades at receiver during the offseason. Each one of those suitors has a superstar-caliber quarterback.
Although the Bears probably will slap the $14.4 million tag on Jeffery before he hits free agency, a contract extension wouldn’t cost as much.
Cordy Glenn, OT, Buffalo Bills
Casual NFL fans might not have heard of Cordy Glenn, but rest assured, opposing defensive linemen and edge-rushers have.
Buffalo’s oft-encouraging season was partially the product of a tremendous trio up front in center Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Glenn. He allowed just two sacks last season.
Acquiring a reliable left tackle is all the rage in the NFL, and Glenn will be the No. 1 guy on the market — unless the Bills use their franchise tag on him.
Ideally for Buffalo, both parties agree to a long-term contract. Otherwise, a franchise like the Titans could pursue Glenn, passing on Laremy Tunsil in the draft and selecting a rookie at a different position.
Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Whichever teams in need of a left tackle miss on the Glenn sweepstakes will probably turn to Russell Okung, who the Seahawks may not pursue with more than a passing interest.
Since Seattle has a tight cap situation and a handful of other notable free agents, it shouldn’t shell out unnecessary millions for an unreliable offensive lineman on an already-shaky unit.
Okung is only 28 years old but has a history of injuries. He’s played in exactly 75 percent of possible regular-season games over six seasons and recently underwent shoulder surgery.
Regardless, free agency is a risk-filled endeavor, and a front office will pursue and pay Okung as its No. 1 target.
Bruce Irvin, OLB, Seattle Seahawks
No one is suggesting the edge-rusher lied. However, when Irvin starts field contract offers approaching $10 million, $4 or $5 million for a familiar situation might not look as appealing as it did in January.
Irvin — as well as Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon — will be a highly sought-after talent for his edge-rushing prowess. The once-shocking first-round pick has accumulated 22 sacks during his career.
If the Seahawks cannot retain Irvin, the obvious destination is the Atlanta Falcons because of head coach and former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Jets, 49ers and New York Giants could also chase Irvin.
Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
From now until the end of the league, franchises can blame Byron Maxwell for screwing up cornerback salaries. Soon enough, though, Sean Smith won’t mind.
The veteran cornerback’s agent said Smith is comfortable testing free agency. Because of Marcus Peters, the Chiefs won’t be a mess at the position. With that being said, there’s no better option than Smith.
While Kansas City has plenty of cap room, it has other players like Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali to re-sign. Smith may not take precedent over that trio.
In all likelihood, the Chiefs will compete with the Bears, Dallas Cowboys and others for Smith’s services.