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Predicting 8 NFL Players Who Will Be Overpaid in 2022 Free Agency

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Predicting 8 NFL Players Who Will Be Overpaid in 2022 Free Agency

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The NFL is set to kick off its 2022 edition of free agency in a matter of days. The new league year (and free agency) will officially begin at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 16. Teams can legally begin contacting and negotiating with players at noon ET on Monday.

    As is always the case, a fair bit of cash will be thrown around during the “legal tampering” window and in the first few days of free agency as teams look to outbid one another for the top players.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that every early (or big) signing will be a great one. Players get overpaid on the open market quite frequently—factors like age, injury history, inconsistent production and positional value often make deals look bad in retrospect.

    Last offseason, for example, the New York Giants gave a four-year, $72 million contract to wideout Kenny Golladay. That was an overpay because, while Golladay has proven that he can be a Pro Bowler in the right situation, he previously played with a high-end quarterback in Matthew Stafford and was coming off an injury-plagued season (hamstring).

    Golladay appeared in 14 games for the Giants in 2021 and finished with just 521 yards and no touchdowns.

    Here, we’ll dive into eight impending free agents who will be overpaid in 2022. We’re not saying that these aren’t good players—and we’ll never fault anyone for maximizing their value—but for one reason or another, they’re going to earn more than they should.

    We’ll dive into each individual player and situation below, and players are listed in alphabetical order.  

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Let’s be clear: A bad contract doesn’t mean a bad player or a bad signing. Terron Armstead is one of the league’s best left tackles when healthy, and he’s the third-ranked player on our free-agency big board.

    The 30-year-old Armstead is a three-time Pro Bowler, plays one of the game’s premier positions and should theoretically improve whichever offensive line he joins. The problem here is that New Orleans Saints tackle has a significant injury history and represents a big risk entering the back half of his career.

    Knee and elbow injuries limited Armstead to eight games in 2021—he underwent knee surgery in January—and he missed 21 games between 2016 and 2018 with various lower- and upper-body injuries. He has never played a full season in the NFL.

    It will be virtually impossible for a team to hedge its bet on Armstead with a below-market deal. He’s the best tackle available, and there will be a bevy of bidders. He has an estimated market value of $23.9 million annually, which is way too much for a soon-to-be 31-year-old with injury concerns.

    This price point would make Armstead the NFL’s highest-paid offensive tackle in terms of annual salary. History suggests Armstead won’t be on the field enough for the team that signs him to fully capitalize.

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Pass-rushers are always at a premium in free agency, and this can lead to inflated deals. Last offseason, for example, the Tennessee Titans inked Bud Dupree to a five-year, $82.5 million contract even though he was coming off a torn ACL and had just one season with more than eight sacks.

    Dupree appeared in 11 games and recorded three sacks for the Titans in 2021.

    Philadelphia Eagles pass-rusher Derek Barnett appears poised to be one of this year’s beneficiaries of a hot edge market. Pro Football Focus projects him to land a three-year, $37.5 million deal that includes $25 million guaranteed.

    Now, Barnett isn’t coming off of a significant injury as Dupree was. However, his sack production is even more underwhelming. Barnett has never produced more than 6.5 in a season, and he has just 21.5 over five years. He finished the 2021 season with two sacks and 22 quarterback pressures.

    Sacks aren’t everything, and Barnett is a starting-caliber defensive end. However, he’s about to be paid like a high-end No. 2 sack artist, and his proven production suggests he isn’t that.

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    A dwindling tight end market will likely drive up the demand for 31-year-old pass-catcher Zach Ertz. David Njoku, Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz all received the franchise tag, which leaves Ertz as one of the most notable options available.

    Pro Football Focus projects a two-year, $20 million deal for Ertz that includes $12 million guaranteed.

    Ertz, who was traded from the Eagles to the Arizona Cardinals midseason, finished 2021 with 74 catches for 763 yards and five touchdowns. However, Ertz wasn’t particularly efficient with his production.

    With Philadelphia and Arizona this past season, Ertz caught just 66.1 percent of his targets while providing a passer rating of only 85.5 when targeted. In his last Pro Bowl campaign (2019), Ertz provided a passer rating of 96.4.

    It’s clear that Ertz isn’t the same reliable receiver he once was, and his blocking has never been a standout trait. However, he may still be free agency’s highest-paid tight end thanks to a market suddenly lacking in younger talent.

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is another player likely to take advantage of the NFL’s premium on pass-rushers.

    While Gregory has never had more than six sacks in a season, he showed quite a bit of upside in 2021. He spent time on injured reserve with a calf injury but appeared in 12 games, finishing with six sacks and 29 quarterback pressures.

    Pro Football Focus projects Gregory to land a two-year, $32 million deal with $21.5 million guaranteed. This is a high price point for a 29-year-old who lacks proven production and has a notable suspension history.

    Gregory was the 60th pick in the 2015 draft but has been suspended multiple times for violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. In all, he missed 54 games over his first six years. Gregory has just 12 starts on his resume and has never played more than 55 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in a season.

    The potential to be great is there, and Gregory will get paid for it.

    “The sky’s the limit for Randy Gregory,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said, per ESPN’s Todd Archer.

    However, Gregory—who will turn 30 in November—has yet to reach that potential and may be running out of time to do so.

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Cordarrelle Patterson was an All-Pro return specialist four times prior to the 2021 season. Then, he reinvented himself as an all-around offensive weapon with the Atlanta Falcons.

    Atlanta took full advantage of Patterson’s skill set, unleashing him as both a runner and a receiver. He finished the year with 618 rushing yards, 548 receiving yards and 11 combined touchdowns. 

    “This is a good example of when a coach understands the scheme—which he does, Coach Smith—and he takes an athlete like this and can use him in a variety of ways I think you see the kind of production that he can have,” franchise owner Arthur Blank said, per Scott Bair of the team’s official website.

    Patterson enters free agency with an estimated market value of $9.1 million annually.

    While Patterson has shown that he can be a valuable contributor, this is a high price point for a soon-to-be 31-year-old (March 17) who faded down the stretch last season. He averaged less than four yards per carry in his final five games.

    Patterson’s value also hinges on him returning to the Falcons or landing with a team willing to use him in a similar manner. Patterson can be an asset, but he’ll have a hard time replicating his 2021 statistical success.

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    Like Armstead, Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff is one of the top free agents on the market this season. No one will fault a team for overpaying to land the five-time Pro Bowler.

    Scherff, though, will be overpaid. He’s one of the league’s top interior linemen. However, Scherff has regularly missed time because of injuries. He hasn’t played a full campaign since the 2016 season, and he’s missed 22 games over the past four years. He was hampered by a knee ailment this past season and missed six games.

    While Scherff is only 30 years old, he may already be breaking down physically. He can still be a high-end starter, but durability is a legitimate concern. Yet, Scherff will be paid for his on-field performance, not his availability.

    Scherff has an estimated market value of $12.9 million annually. That’s a fair price for the talent, but it’s an overpay for a player who can only be counted on to play two-thirds of a season. That’s what teams can expect from Scherff, who hasn’t played more than 13 games in a year since 2017.

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    Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

    Like Ertz, Buffalo Bills quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is going to see a boost in value because of a shrinking market.

    Aaron Rodgers has announced that he plans to return to the Green Bay Packers in 2022. The Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts have already traded Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz, respectively. This means that teams seeking a veteran quarterback will largely have to wade into an underwhelming free-agent player pool.

    Trubisky, who was taken second overall in the 2017 draft by the Chicago Bears, is himself an underwhelming option. He has a career passer rating of only 87.0 and failed to pan out as a quality starter with the Bears.

    However, some team is likely to take a chance on Trubisky as a bridge quarterback or as starting competition because of his age (27), draft status and win-loss record (29-21).

    And while there’s still time for Trubisky to turn his career around, someone will overpay to give him an opportunity in 2022. Pro Football Focus projects him to land a one-year, $14 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. That’s $4 million more than veterans Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick made a year ago to fill similar roles, and it’s far more than a team should be willing to (but will) pay Trubisky this offseason.

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Guard Connor Williams will be coveted in free agency because of his age (24), starting experience (51 games) and status as a member of the long-respected Cowboys offensive line.

    However, it’s worth noting that the Dallas line wasn’t elite in 2021—it surrendered 33 sacks during the regular season. Williams, meanwhile, was notably mistake-prone.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Williams allowed just a single sack but was responsible for a whopping 15 penalties. This means that Williams could pretty much be counted on to draw a flag once per game.

    That’s the antithesis of dependability, which should (but probably won’t be) a red flag for prospective employers. Williams has an estimated market value of $13.2 million annually. That’s even more than Scherff, who is older and has durability concerns but has proven himself to be a top-tier player when healthy.

    Williams is not a top-tier guard, but he’s poised to earn more than all but seven other guards are currently making annually.

    *Contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. 

original source: Predicting 8 NFL Players Who Will Be Overpaid in 2022 Free Agency

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