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Five most overrated NFL free agents

Matt Johnson
NFL Week 16: Titans-Packers
Jan 19, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) shoes a touchdown against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) during the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The start of NFL free agency is just around the corner with teams and fans buzzing about the talent available this offseason. There are plenty of talented players flying under the radar this offseason with many of the top free agents gathering all the attention.

However, not all of NFL’s best free-agent talents deserve the level of attention they are getting. NFL teams are focused on paying players for what they’ll do in future seasons rather than what they’ve achieved in the past. That is bad news for many of the veteran players that are hitting free agency hoping to be swarmed with offers.

There’s also plenty of young, talented players headed for free agency for the first time that are receiving tons of hype. In many cases, they are the best player available at their position and that drives up the interest and leads to them being overhyped. Either way, a few players are just receiving too much attention and will likely be overpaid this offseason.

Here are the five most overrated NFL free agents available this offseason.

Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots

He’s being talked about more than any player to hit the open market in recent memory. It’s understandable as a future Hall of Famer and arguably the best quarterback in NFL history, but the hype has some flaws. The 42-year-old showed alarming signs of regression this past season and many fail to recognize just how far he has fallen.

Brady posted the third-worst rate of bad throws (20.6%), led the NFL in throwaways (30) and ranked 22nd in on-target throws per attempt (73.1%), per Pro Football Reference. He also started the season strong by averaging 7.3 yards per attempt, but fell off in the second half by averaging 5.6 yards per attempt and completed only 56.9 percent of his attempts. While there can be blame placed on his offensive line and supporting cast, those numbers also fall on Brady’s aging shoulders. Whichever NFL team Brady signs with in free agency, he’ll need his teammates help far more than ever in his career.

Derrick Henry, running back, Tennessee Titans

Henry might be one of the most beloved running backs in the NFL and he’s coming off a dominant stretch at the end of his 2019 season. The 26-year-old racked up 896 rushing yards in his final six games in the regular season to push the Titans into the playoffs and then exploded for 377 rushing yards in his first two playoffs games. Those are outstanding numbers and he’s been the best player at his position over the past year, but the negatives are even more overwhelming.

The recent history of NFL teams signing their top running backs to massive contracts shows the mega deals always backfire. Furthermore, all of those star running backs could actually be consistent pass-catching weapons. Henry caught 57 passes over four seasons, an alarming number in an era when top running backs are multi-dimensional threats. Henry will be massively overpaid this offseason, while Austin Ekeler’s deal will prove to be an overwhelmingly better value. While the Titans will almost certainly re-sign Henry, the best move for this team’s long-term future would be letting him walk.

Philip Rivers, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers

An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Rivers is closing in on 400 touchdown passes and 60,000 passing yards in his career. The 38-year-old’s resume at the end of his NFL career will put him in the Hall of Fame consideration and his role in the locker room is incredibly valuable. But far too many people are looking past the obvious signs of decline he showed in 2019.

Rivers posted the third-worst interception rate (3.4%) this past season and his 20 interceptions could have been even higher if not for some drops. Additionally, Rivers needs to land in a situation with an outstanding offensive line to even have a chance at being an above-average quarterback. Any NFL team that signs him should know the star talent is gone and their offense will need to be geared more towards the run to take the stress off Rivers’ arm.

Jadeveon Clowney, edge rusher. Seattle Seahawks

Clowney heads into free agency seeking a market-setting contract and he is already drawing interest from NFL teams with plenty of money to spend. The 27-year-old edge rusher is certainly talented, but his reputation and future contract will almost certainly exceed what he’ll actually bring to the field.

He racked up just three sacks this past year and he recorded only 17 quarterback hurries and 10 knockdowns in 13 games. He is excellent against the run and makes for a nice complementary pass-rush piece, but he’s already at his ceiling and injuries are starting to take a toll. While he is unlikely to be a free-agent bust, the attention and contract Clowney will receive in free agency isn’t worth it.

Austin Hooper, tight end, Atlanta Falcons

Given that the Chargers plan to place the franchise tag on Hunter Henry, Hooper will be the best tight end available this offseason. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he already hinted that he’ll leave the Falcons in free agency and the list of suitors is growing.

The simple fact that he’s the best tight end available to sign this offseason, paired with the 2020 NFL Draft class being weak at the position, will inflate Hooper’s value. He’s a reliable pass-catching weapon that set career-highs in receptions (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six) this past year. He’s not a great blocker and much of his success comes on eating up open space created by talented receivers. He’ll be a solid addition for the team that signs him, but he’ll likely cost more than $10 million per season and Hooper simply isn’t worth that.