Marquee players out of a significant chunk of change
The NFL recently revealed the projected cap space for next year, and teams with flush cap space must be imagining what they can do this offseason.
The 2019 free agent class is expected to be strong with several breakout players capitalizing in their contract season to set up a big payday this offseason.
On the other hand, some marquee players who were expected to hit it big will now find themselves out of a significant chunk of change after a miserable 2018 season.
Here are the eight NFL players who failed hard in their contract year.
Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
It feels like we haven’t seen Taylor in years. However, he started the year as Cleveland’s starting quarterback, and many hyped him up as the top quarterback in the 2019 free agent class.
Even in an offense that seemed to have plenty in place to help him be successful, the veteran quarterback was simply dreadful. Taylor completed just 49.4 percent of his 85 pass attempts, averaged under six yards attempt and was replaced after 11 attempts against the Kansas City Chiefs early in the year due to injury.
The 29-year-old now finds himself in a very obvious decline and after washing out in Buffalo and Cleveland, Taylor might have seen his last chance to ever be a starting quarterback again.
Tevin Coleman, running back, Atlanta Falcons
When the Falcons placed Devonta Freeman on injured reserve in October, it should have opened the door for Coleman to prove himself as a workhorse back before he hit free agency.
Coleman has been a bust ever since being promoted to the starting role. He has been pedestrian in the running game, especially during Atlanta’s five-game losing streak, and averaged just 2.6 receptions per game over his past seven contests.
The 25-year-old could have entered free agency as a coveted starting-caliber running back for several teams. Instead, he’ll have a few teams bid for him to serve in a secondary role where another chance to prove himself may not come.
Le’Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
There is nothing wrong with betting on yourself and sticking to your beliefs, though you need to be prepared for it to backfire. That’s precisely what happened with Bell this season and it got ugly quick.
This goes beyond the backlash received from fans and media. Bell’s backup, James Conner, came in and dominated from the jump. He rushed for 909 yards with 12 rushing touchdowns and excelled out of the backfield with 52 receptions for 467 receiving yards. Conner made team history and made everyone forget about Bell.
No one should doubt Bell’s talent and he should be just fine to return after being away from football for a year. However, this season showed Pittsburgh could do it without Bell and plenty of teams around the NFL will likely believe they are better off with an inexpensive back then an overpriced running back.
Devin Funchess, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers
In a wide receiver class that desperately needed someone to step up, Funchess folded and will become one of the biggest question marks this offseason.
Coming off a breakout 2017 season with 840 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, the 24-year-old’s production regressed with only 526 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 12 games.
This goes beyond the injuries that at times have hampered him. Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore have surpassed him in the order for targets, leaving Funchess to be Cam Newton’s fourth option. He’s got youth and potential, but teams will find that in the draft.
Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
It says a lot about a wide receiver to fail out of Carolina and then fail again in Buffalo. The Bills were desperate for wide receiver help with the worst corps in the NFL and still decided to move on from Benjamin.
Kansas City might be the 27-year-old’s last chance to save his NFL career. A former first-round pick who flashed promise early in his career then started to pack on pounds faster than statistics, he will hit free agency on the lowest possible note without a late-season turnaround.
Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, Detroit Lions
Few things are coveted more in sports like pass rushers are in the NFL. When a top pass rusher hits the market, numerous teams will put out blank checks and roll out the red carpet with the hope of landing one.
Ansah won’t get to experience any of that this offseason. A year removed from recording 12 sacks, the 29-year-old could only muster four with seven total tackles in seven games this season.
A shoulder injury ruined Ansah’s chances of hitting a mega contract this offseason. He’ll find himself off the radar with several top, productive pass rushers drawing everyone’s eye in free agency. The 29-year-old may ultimately have to settle for a prove-it deal then hope to stay healthy in 2019.
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, free safety, Washington Redskins
When the Green Bay Packers traded Clinton-Dix away for a fourth-round pick, the move drew plenty of criticism for giving away a potential stud safety for a mid-round pick.
Needless to say, things haven’t gone well in D.C. for HHCD. More than a month after being traded, Clinton-Dix has been rotated off the field and its a major liability in the running game.
By the end of the season, two teams will be done with Clinton-Dix and ready to move on from him. That’s not exactly the greatest feather in his cap as he heads into free agency.
Golden Tate, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Acquiring Golden Tate was meant to help fix Philadelphia’s offense. It was meant to help this team compete for the division and also help Tate boost his value in free agency.
The 30-year-old had one good performance in five games with the Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys shut him down twice and he couldn’t muster up much production against woeful secondaries like New Orleans and New York.
Tate will enter free agency out of his prime, coming off his worst year since 2012 and with plenty of wide receivers available in the 2019 NFL Draft. This could have been his last chance to cash in, now his last NFL contract might be pedestrian.