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#pounditThursday, July 29, 2021

5 of the worst NFL free agent deals this offseason

Andy Dalton

NFL free agency has come and gone, with most of the attention turning to the draft. To say there were a few surprise signings would be an understatement. In fact, most of the signings came as a surprise because there were far more multi-year deals handed out than the one-year deals so many people expected to see.

Even with the league’s salary cap dropping for the first time, teams were handing out big-money deals. That also means several players landed much larger contracts than they likely warranted.

Here’s a look at five players who received unreasonably large deals.

5. Nelson Agholor, WR, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick and the Patriots went on a wild and unexpected spending spree, but did all of that money really need to be spent? Or, perhaps the better question is: did all of that money have to be spent in the way it was? Enter wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who inked a two-year, $26 million contract that included $16 million fully guaranteed. At a max potential value of $13 million per season, Agholor essentially reset the market and drove up the price for other wide receivers in what had briefly been a depressed market. The $11 million annual average value (AAV) is fourth among all free agent receivers. If Agholor maxes out the deal, the $13 million AAV will be second to only Kenny Golladay (New York Giants). That’s a lot of coin and a lot of guarantees for a wideout who has never had more than 900 yards in a single season.

4. Devontae Booker, RB, New York Giants

The Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman have received their fair share of criticism for the contracts handed out to wide receiver Kenny Golladay, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, but that feels misplaced. All three are top-end players when healthy and come at positions of need. Another area of need the team addressed was at running back. After two straight injury-plagued seasons for Saquon Barkley, the Giants signed Devontae Booker to a two-year, $5.5 million contract, which is a large chunk of change for a backup running back. In fact, it was the sixth-largest RB contract handed out this offseason based on AAV and comes with the third-largest cap hit. Mark Ingram, Marlon Mack and Mike Davis all came cheaper, which makes you wonder why the Giants were in such a rush to commit such big money to Booker.

3. Cameron Erving, OL, Carolina Panthers

Although Cameron Erving was a first-round pick in 2015, he’s become somewhat of a journeyman who has failed to live up to expectations (and has been part of some bad highlights). He’s never graded out above a 58.0 and had a string of five consecutive seasons in which his grade rested in the 40s. In fact, Erving doesn’t even really have a position — he’s played across the offensive line and stuck at a single post in back-to-back seasons just once. He’s also only ever played a full 16-game slate once, which came as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns. That’s a lot of uncertainty to throw big money at, but that’s exactly what the Panthers did anyway. The two-year, $10 million deal doesn’t look horrible on the surface, but it’s that $8 million guaranteed that leaves you scratching your head. Carolina is locked into Erving for two years no matter what.

2. Andy Dalton, QB, Chicago Bears

The Bears signed Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract that includes two voidable years to spread out his salary. That seems a little excessive for a backup quarterback, and that’s because Chicago doesn’t view Dalton as a backup. Despite Nick Foles being slated to account for $6.67 million against the cap in 2021, the Bears are going to ride things out with the 33-year-old Dalton instead. That seems like quite the gamble for an organization that has found themselves in a terrible spot with quarterbacks for nearly a decade. There’s very little upside to putting Dalton under center and paying a combined $16-plus million at the quarterback position. And if they do end up trading for another quarterback, then what? Dalton’s dead cap hit would be $7 million in 2021, and Foles’ would be $10.33 million. Yikes.

1. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals

Trey Hendrickson has appeared in 45 games (18 starts) over the first four years of his NFL career, but is he worth $60 million over the next four years? After a 13.5-sack season in 2020, the Bengals certainly thought so. But throw out those 6.5 sacks over his first three seasons and ignore his early pass rush grades of 62.7, 64.5 and 62.8 courtesy of PFF. The Bengals are completely banking on that breakout season and a PFF grade of 72.1 (pass rush grade of 78.0). Could Hendrickson be the guy we saw in 2020? Absolutely. But is it a sure thing? Not by a longshot. Cincinnati is playing the lottery, and their odds are poor. It was a curious decision to invest so much in Hendrickson, and the chances of a solid return are minimal. Factor in that Hendrickson is an essential replacement for Carl Lawson and, well…

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