Friday, March 8, 2013

Which Free Agent Will Sink Your Favorite Team?

Receiver Mike Wallace is certainly talented, but he has the tell-tale signs of a free agent headache.

By Joe Parello

Free agency is nearly upon us in the NFL and rather than building through the draft, it's so much more fun to throw a ton of money at the free agent flavor of the month. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles and former coach Andy Reid how easy it is to assemble a "Dream Team."

So, with that in mind, here are the top-flight free agents that could ruin your team. Please remember that, obviously, players like Mike Wallace and Jake Long are talented, and could help many teams get over the hump. This is simply a "buyer beware" section.

Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

Wallace is one of the fastest receivers in the league, and his big play ability (Over 17 yards per catch career) has scouts drooling over the thought of signing him. Add in the fact that he's only 26 and has already made a Super Bowl appearance, and there's a lot to like about Wallace.

But wait, with all those positives comes the traditional prima donna receiver baggage. Namely, Wallace said that he lost focus last year when he wasn't getting the ball. What?

He also has severe alligator arms when he goes over the middle, is reportedly not a great locker room influence and grew jealous of fellow "Young Money" receiver Antonio Brown when the Steelers chose to extend Brown during Wallace's 2012 hold out. Last year saw him post an unimpressive 13.1 YPC on 64 receptions, totaling only 836 yards as he finished third on the team in receiving.

And he did it all with a pouty face.

If two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can't keep this guy happy, good luck Ryan Tannehill.

Jake Long, Offensive Tackle, Miami Dolphins

Long was once the only bright spot on a dismal Miami team, but he has missed time the last two years with biceps and triceps injuries. He is also looking a little slower these days, and his pass protection has fallen off a bit. That being said, Long is still easily the best tackle on the market, and will demand an insane amount of money from whoever signs him.

Be wary of a guy who's greatest strength is pushing people around, especially when he's coming off two arm injuries.

Cliff Avril, Defensive End, Detroit Lions

Avril has posted nearly 30 sacks the past three seasons, and is generally regarded as a pretty good pass rusher. What he is not regarded as, though, is a stout run defender and, while he has the speed to be a rangy defender, he rarely made stops if he didn't get to the quarterback.

If your team needs an extra pass rusher, this could be a great signing. He would probably also be a nice fit for a 3-4 team as an outside linebacker. But, if you're looking to build an entire defensive line around Avril, beware.

Wes Welker, Wide Receiver, New England Patriots

Welker has put up insane numbers in New England, mostly working out of the slot with quarterback Tom Brady. But, be honest, how confident are you that a short white guy, that is "quicker" than he is "fast," can really be a go-to guy on your team?

Greg Jennings, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers

Jennings could have made a legitimate claim to be a top-5 receiver after Green Bay's Super Bowl run, but an injury plagued 2012 and a few Old Spice commercials later, and he's just another dude. Another dude that is going to demand top dollar, despite most likely having his best football behind him.

Charles Woodson, Safety, Green Bay Packers

Speaking of the Packers and having your best football behind you… This guy.

Brian Urlacher, Linebacker, Chicago Bears

Urlacher used to stand out because of his speed sideline-to-sideline against the run, and ability to cover the deep middle in a "Tampa 2" defense. Now, he's lost a step and the "Tampa 2" is just as much of a dinosaur as he is.

On a positive note, here are some free agents I think could really help a contender, if used properly.

Sean Smith, Cornerback, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins really want to bring Smith back, but the impact corner will demand a ton of cash on the open market, and some contender will be sure to scoop him up. God help us all if the Patriots re-sign Talib and bring in Smith.

Reggie Bush, Running Back, Miami Dolphins

Hear me out on this one. Bush has gotten better and better as his role has expanded in Miami, and he's been remarkably durable the past few years. If you're a playoff team that needs to replace a "solid back" with a true "playmaker," why wouldn't you take a long look at Bush? Oh, that just sounds dirty. But seriously, the Falcons would be foolish not to spend some cash upgrading from Michael Turner (Recent cap casualty) to Bush.

Dustin Keller, Tight End, New York Jets

Nobody will confuse Keller with a great blocker. In fact, I don't think he even really knows what blocking is, he just occasionally runs into people that line up across from him. Still, Keller is an explosive receiving threat that would make an excellent No. 2 tight end/H-Back on a contender. As the Patriots have shown, you can never have too many good pass catching tight ends, and Keller could certainly be the Aaron Hernandez in somebody's offense.

Shane Lechler, Punter, Oakland Raiders

If the Raiders don't re-sign the punter that has been their best player since the turn of the century, every team in the league should go after him. Lechler doesn't just punt, he flips the field, and his career net punting average of 41.5 literally flips the field, assuming the Raiders got to at least their own 30. Ok, that's a big assumption with that team.

Keenan Lewis, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers

Lewis came on strong at the end of last season and, with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor battling injuries, was Pittsburgh's best defensive back. He's not the most physical corner, but he has the versatility to play both man and zone well, and has excellent quickness in and out of breaks. With the Steelers in cap hell, and their recent signing of corner William Gay, I would expect Lewis to catch on somewhere outside of the "Burgh.