The Schein Nine  

 

Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall lead list of risky free agents

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Teammates Rashard Mendenhall (left) and Mike Wallace likely have played their last games as Pittsburgh Steelers.

At this time next week, there will be a lot of stupid money being thrown around the NFL with free agency well underway. And you just know some teams are going to make mistakes. Let's get a head start and lay out the nine riskiest free agents about to hit the open market:

1. Mike Wallace

My man Gregg Rosenthal has him ranked as the No. 1 player in free agency. My guy Jeff Darlington reports the Miami Dolphins covet Wallace and could be in a potential bidding war with the Minnesota Vikings for the speedster's services. And both teams certainly are in desperate need of a No. 1 wide receiver.

But I don't think Wallace is the guy. He's too inconsistent and unreliable -- just not worthy of the mega bucks he will receive.

Think about it. The Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the smartest and classiest organizations in sports, are about to let Wallace walk away. They've had enough. That should be a major red flag.

Wallace is all about the money. I don't think he prioritizes winning. He selfishly held out last year, didn't make an extra penny and helped derail the Steelers' season. Wallace wasn't part of the offseason programs and didn't learn new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's playbook. He then had an underachieving season filled with a case of the yips.

The San Francisco 49ers needed a receiver last year. They passed on Wallace, then a restricted free agent, and instead used their first-round pick (what would've been the compensation) on a project receiver who never played. The New England Patriots also needed a wideout. They wouldn't do it.

At times, Wallace can be flat-out majestic, with a knack for taking a short pass to the house or streaking down the sideline for a score. But he wants top dollar, and I wonder aloud if he will take the money and just be too satisfied with his paycheck.

2. Cliff Avril

I think he's a good player. But is he simply a product of a talented Detroit Lions defensive line? While he will be better than Charles Johnson and Ray Edwards, paying top dollar to the "other" defensive lineman always scares me. And it would scare me that Detroit, which has had a lot invested in Avril and franchised him last season, would let him walk.

3. Paul Kruger

I like Kruger a lot ... at the right price. He had a dominant postseason with a knack for getting to the quarterback. He's a great teammate with an Energizer Bunny playing style. And you certainly can argue that he hasn't reached his potential yet. But here's the rub: I don't think he is a three-down player. I believe he will get more money than he deserves from a team with cap room (think: Cleveland Browns). I root for Kruger. He's a good player. But if your team signs him, don't expect him to be someone he isn't.

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4. Jake Long

Bill Parcells made the offensive tackle the face of the Dolphins in 2008, passing on Matt Ryan. Oops. Jake Long is a good player and legit leader. But injuries are a major concern. He missed the final quarter of last season with a ruptured left triceps. Also, Long has had shoulder and knee surgery, plus he had a biceps injury in 2011.

Dr. James Andrews just gave Long a clean bill of health. Timing is obviously superb. But you can still color me concerned.

I'm a huge fan of Long. I hope he goes back to Miami to finish the job. But I think another team will outbid the Dolphins. And that's risky.

5. Danny Amendola

He's a good player in the slot. But availability is a huge issue, as he cannot stay healthy. He should sign a one-year deal with the Rams.

6. Aqib Talib

For the record, I think he will re-up with New England. And he should. Talib is supremely talented, but troubled. Bill Belichick can handle him and coach him up. Tom Brady and the locker room can police him. And he fits an area of need at cornerback.

However, if for some reason he leaves New England, buyers beware. There's a reason why the cornerback-needy Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to ship him out of town.

7. Rashard Mendenhall

I'd rather play with 10 men on offense than put Mendenhall at running back. He's been a bust as a player. He was suspended in 2012 for being a bad teammate. Mendenhall can't hold on to the football and can't stay healthy. Otherwise, it has all worked out.

The Steelers will let him go. Another team shouldn't get duped by where he was drafted. You can't bank on this cat.

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8. Osi Umenyiora

You can credit Umenyiora for sipping out of the fountain of youth in the late stages of 2011 to help the New York Giants win the Super Bowl. But last season, his play was down and his ability to rush the passer was inconsistent. He's a big name, but no longer a big player. He's a third-down rusher and nothing more. And Umenyiora seemingly is never happy, which is a problem for a declining player.

9. LaRon Landry

Make no mistake: Landry had a great season for the lowly New York Jets. He stayed healthy, delivered big hits and made plays. He's in line for a solid contract with another team. And therein lies the risk. Landry's aggressive style is not conducive to playing a full season. Many around the league believe 2012's success was a blip and not a trend. He has never stayed healthy in the past. I wouldn't give him a big-money deal.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein

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