5 free agents NFL teams should avoid
However, for every top-end free agent capable of changing the trajectory of a team, there is a landmine sitting around the corner that could derail an organization financially. So with that in mind, here are five free agents — some of them controversial — who teams should avoid.
5. Tyler Eifert, tight end
Tyler Eifert was finally healthy in 2019 and played all 16 games, so a team should be willing to take a high-priced flyer on him now, right? Wrong. While Eifert deserves a pat on the back for appearing in all 16 games for the first time in his career, teams looking for a tight end cannot ignore the fact that he had played in just 14 games over the previous three seasons (2016-2018) and just 43 games over his first six seasons, with 15 of those coming as a rookie. Not only that, but despite being completely healthy for the first time in his career, Eifert didn’t produce. His 10.1 yards per reception was the lowest of his professional career, while his catch rate dropped to 68.3 percent. Once a potential star, Eifert has been reduced to a quality depth tight end and should be paid accordingly.
4. Ronald Darby, cornerback
A year ago at this time, Ronald Darby was considered one of the best free agent cornerbacks available. That will not be the case in 2020 with names like Byron Jones and Chris Harris hitting the open market, but teams will still likely view Darby as a second-tier free agent. However, cornerback-needy organizations may want to think carefully before throwing money at Darby, whose injury history is a major red flag. When he’s on the field, Darby can be dominant, but the problem is that availability. Over the past three seasons, Darby has appeared in just 28 games, missing 20 others due to injury. And since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2015, he’s missed a total of 23 games.
You can collect a check from the cold tub, but you can’t help your team from it.
3. Ndamukong Suh, defensive lineman
Somehow, Ndamukong Suh continues to land substantial deals and will again be looking for one here in 2020. Will a team bite? They shouldn’t. Despite playing 77 percent of the team’s defensive snaps a season ago, Suh recorded a career-low 2.5 sacks, while mustering just 10 QB hurries. His 41 tackles were the fewest he’s recorded since 2012, while his Pro Football Focus grade plummeted from 80.2 in 2018 to 69.7 in 2019. Could it have been a scheme issue? That undoubtedly played a part in the regression, but Suh also just turned 33 years old and after 10 years in the league, it’s clear he’s headed downhill. Oh, and did we forget to mention the other wild card that comes along with signing Suh? Yeah, you never know when he’s going to explode and get suspended. Buyer beware.
2. Melvin Gordon, running back
Admittedly, I waffled over adding Melvin Gordon to this list simply because he’s two seasons removed from a 1,000-yard campaign and one season removed from averaging over 5.0 yards per carry. Still, when a running back begins to fade in the NFL, they are rarely able to course-correct. And let’s be honest, Gordon has shown signs of fading. Not only was his 2019 season highlighted by a holdout that the Chargers refused to give in to, but when he did finally return to the field, Gordon averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, while his production in the receiving game dipped substantially. No longer is he an all-around dominant back, but Gordon will still likely be seeking a substantial deal in free agency. It’s just not worth it in today’s NFL. Short of being an Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley in their prime, productive running backs are a dime a dozen (and yes, it pains me to admit that).
1. Tom Brady, quarterback
This choice will be controversial for an abundance of reasons, but at some point or another, someone has to address the elephant in the room. Yes, Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play professional football and could be placed on the NFL Mount Rushmore if such a monument ever came to exist, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s still worth the dollar amount he will command at age 42 (will be 43 when the season starts). Throwing his age out the window, Brady has seen a three-year decline in his completion percentage; his touchdown rate has fallen off; and anyone who cuts the film can clearly see a player on the downward slope of his career. It’s not an insult, it’s a fact and it’s why NFL teams — even those who feel they are one player away from winning it all — should pause and consider the ramifications. And none of that even takes into account what Brady might look like outside of New England, where everything had fallen perfectly into place for him. Signing Brady would be a risk — a huge risk — and one that is not worth taking.