2014 NFL Free Agents: Predicting This Year's Worst Contracts

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

2014 NFL Free Agents: Predicting This Year's Worst Contracts

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    Every year big contracts are handed out in the NFL. Every year teams regret big contracts they have handed out.

    The salary cap ballooned to $133 million this season, giving teams a lot more spending money than initially anticipated. Unfortunately, the market isn't flooded with great players. 

    Sure, there are good options everywhere, but there is also plenty of fool's gold out there. Which players are going to get rich at the expense of their new teams? Click through to find out.

Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver

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    Hakeem Nicks is a tantalizing option for receiver-needy teams. The 6'1", 208-pound receiver has the potential to be a solid No. 1 in the right situation. He has flashed his potential in New York in the past.

    But that seems like ancient history now.

    He had just 896 yards and no touchdowns last season, and it was the first year when he didn't spend half the season on the injured list. A checkered injury history and declining play should scare teams away, right? 

    Well, many teams, sure. But the allure might be too great to pass up for some teams.


    Contract Prediction: Four years, $24 million

    Team: Carolina Panthers

Branden Albert, Offensive Tackle

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    Offensive tackle Branden Albert has done a pretty good job for the Kansas City Chiefs since they drafted him in the first round of the 2008 draft. He has given up just 10 sacks over the past three years, and he has consistently rated well over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Good left tackles aren't easy to find.

    So why will this be a bad offseason contract?

    To put it simply, Albert is just not an elite offensive tackle, as Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter recently pointed out:

    When watching Albert play in 2013, my observations matched up with Miller's evaluations and PFF's grades. He was capable—but not dominant—in pass protection, often giving up ground to powerful edge-rushers but rarely being beaten outright.

    Sometimes, playing in front of scramble-ready quarterback Alex Smith bailed Albert out, but sometimes Smith got himself into hot water by not trusting the pocket.

    In run-blocking, Albert was not effective as a drive blocker. As Miller noted, Albert's more often used to seal the backside on run plays to the right, or on zone runs to the left, where he's adequate.

    Schalter goes on to note he will still score a big contract. His match? Why the Miami Dolphins, of course. 


    Contract Prediction: Five years, $40 million

    Team: Miami Dolphins

Eric Decker, Wide Receiver

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    True, Eric Decker is arguably the best receiver option in free agency.

    The former Bronco—assuming he leaves Denver—has built a nice career thus far.

    The problem with giving Decker a huge contract is that he isn't really a No. 1 receiver. Decker has had Demaryius Thomas to take the pressure off him for most of his career.

    Then there is the Peyton Manning factor. The reigning MVP quarterback has certainly helped boost Decker's numbers over the past two seasons, when he has caught 172 passes for 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns.

    Bad receivers generally don't just catch 24 touchdowns over two seasons, Manning or not. But a big contract for a No. 2 receiver could prove problematic down the line.


    Contract Prediction: Five years, $40 million

    Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Donte Whitner, Safety

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    Donte Whitner's career has had its ups and downs. Fortunately for him, it has been on the upswing as he hits free agency.

    Whitner was the sixth-best rated safety in the league over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He has rated well at PFF two of the past three seasons.

    The problem with Whitner is that he is a head hunter, more known for his big hits than his coverage skills. Perhaps more importantly, the hard-hitter might have benefited from his defense more than vice versa.

    The San Francisco 49ers have had one of the league's best defenses for years on the wings of an incredible front seven. A strong front can mask deficiencies in the defensive backfield, making guys like Whitner shine.


    Contract Prediction: Five years, $40 million

    Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Oher, Offensive Tackle

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    It will be interesting to see what kind of market forms for offensive tackle Michael Oher.

    The man of The Blind Side fame finds himself facing free agency. He should find himself with a nice contract.

    The Ravens might try to keep him but how much is he worth? Oher has steadily declined as a pass protector, allowing increasing total quarterback pressures each season except one since coming into the league, per PFF (subscription required). He allowed a whopping 56 last year.

    Right tackles don't bear the same burden of protection as their counterparts on the southpaw side, but they still have to perform. Oher hasn't put on much of a show.


    Contract Prediction: Four years, $20 million

    Team: Baltimore Ravens 

LeGarrette Blount, Running Back

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    True, I spent an entire article discussing the merits of giving running back LeGarrette Blount a big contract just a few weeks ago. The big running back was a revelation in New England last season, outperforming his cohorts in that Patriots backfield and proving the skeptics wrong.

    Blount certainly merits a long look in free agency. But a big contract? That is still debatable.

    The big back is still rather one-dimensional. As good as he can be at times, Blount relies on strong blocking to be as efficient as he was last season. Unless he signs with a team with a good offensive line intent on using him in a committee, Blount is liable to bust.


    Contract Prediction: Three years, $21 million

    Team: Oakland Raiders

Jared Allen, Defensive End

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    Jared Allen just got done with a six-year, $72.4 million contract that was the richest ever at his position at the time. Now he is looking for one last payday.

    The big defensive end still has some left in his tank but how much at 31? Granted, he looked just fine nabbing 11.5 sacks last season. He has achieved double-digit sacks in each of the past seven seasons, in fact.

    Those sack numbers have been on the decline, however. As has his overall play. He was negatively rated over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) last season, continuing a slide over the past couple of seasons.


    Contract Prediction: Four years, $32 million

    Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dunta Robinson, Cornerback

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    Good cornerbacks are in short supply. But does that mean Dunta Robinson should get a new deal?

    The former Kansas City Chief was overtaken by rookie Marcus Cooper last season despite having signed a three-year deal last offseason. Perhaps the fact he gave up a passer rating of 113.8 on passes thrown his direction had something to do with that.

    Declining at 31 years old, it seems Robinson is past his expiration date. Signing him would be a mistake, even if it's a low-key deal. 


    Contract Prediction: Three years, $10 million

    Team: San Diego Chargers