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Top 10 players who will be overpaid in free agency

  • By Dan Hanzus, Kevin Patra, Gregg Rosenthal, Marc Sessler and Chris Wesseling
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A majority of players near the top of our top 101 free agents available are not going to live up to their contracts. That's just how free agency works.

Veterans often struggle to adapt to new schemes, or their new teams aren't as savvy at hiding shortcomings as their old squads. Since the best players get re-signed before they ever hit the market, many merely good players get paid like stars. Here are 10 players the Around The League crew believes will get overpaid in free agency:

Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver


A long-held NFL truism is "the eye in the sky doesn't lie." Although he was finally healthy in 2013, Nicks' game film showed a startling lack of playmaking ability. Of the 37 wide receivers with at least 100 targets, Nicks was the only one without a touchdown reception. Jerome Simpson was the only other wide receiver with fewer than two. At one point in his career, Nicks easily would have been the most talented of all offensive free agents available this season. Any team that signs him now is taking it on blind faith that Nicks will return to his form in 2010 and 2011 after a litany of injuries sapped the explosiveness from his step.

-- Chris Wesseling

Ben Tate, running back


Tate is probably the best available running back on the open market. That doesn't mean he deserves to be paid like a proven starter, however. Tate showed flashes of ability during his time as Arian Foster's backup in Houston, but his struggles to stay healthy represent a legitimate red flag. Will it be enough to stop a team from throwing money at him to solve its backfield woes? Probably not.

-- Dan Hanzus

Michael Oher, offensive tackle


Oher won't get paid because he's the subject of a wildly overrated movie (and strong book): He'll get paid because he's a physically gifted tackle who was taken in the first round and has started all 80 possible games in his five career seasons. Someone will believe they can turn Oher around, even though he was a huge liability for the Ravens last season.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Eric Decker, WR


This list is cluttered with wide receivers for good reason. Decker is in line to get paid as a No. 1 receiver, even if he is better suited to be a corps player, not a standout. Good receiver? Yes. Eight-to-nine-million-dollar-a-year player? I say no. However, that won't stop someone from opening up the checkbook. Decker to the Indianapolis Colts makes sense, and we know that general manager Ryan Grigson isn't afraid to overpay to get his guy.

-- Kevin Patra

T.J. Ward, safety


He's a ferocious hitter and beastly run-stuffer, but Ward's game is limited. He's a classic in-the-box safety with just five interceptions over his four seasons in Cleveland. It's telling that the Browns opted not to franchise tag the defender amid whispers that coach Mike Pettine would prefer to sign the more versatile Jairus Byrd. Ward can shut down the run, but I'm not in love with his coverage skills. Eleven other safeties rated higher against the pass last season, per Pro Football Focus, and game tape from past campaigns suggests that Ward can be had in coverage. He's still a quality signing, but Ward's Pro Bowl season is bound to trigger a bloated payday.

-- Marc Sessler

Aqib Talib, cornerback


Described by many as the NFL's premier lockdown corner in the first half of last season, Talib understandably wants to be compensated at a "top-of-the-market" level. The problems with a contract of that magnitude are twofold. Talib has battled nagging hip injuries since the 2010 season, including down the stretch last year. He's also a suspension risk, having already served a four-game ban for violating the PED policy. That doesn't include several off-field incidents, one of which resulted in a one-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy. There's no shortage of baggage that comes with landing Talib's obvious talent.

-- Chris Wesseling

LeGarrette Blount, running back


He was a fitting addition to New England's deep backfield, but I struggle to project Blount as a foundation back elsewhere. The Patriots know enough not to overpay for a 27-year-old runner who doesn't help in the passing game, but another team is bound to pounce on him. Any suitor will quickly learn that Blount is best suited not for a lead role, but as the occasional thumper in a committee backfield. He won't be the same outside of Foxborough.

-- Marc Sessler

Michael Vick, QB


Vick wants to start. There are several openings where he could get that chance (Jets, Vikings, Raiders, etc.). Bringing Vick in to compete for a starting job necessitates paying him more than your average tutor. I don't think Vick will break the bank, but to pay him for six games only to subsequently play big brother to your future quarterback is a mistake. Any multiyear, more-than-an-average-backup salary is too much for Vick, regardless of how much some franchise players stomp for his signing.

-- Kevin Patra

Julian Edelman, wide receiver


Edelman broke out with a 105-catch season for the Patriots in 2013, but teams should be wary of the Wes Welker vacuum in New England. Somebody had to eat up all those targets from Tom Brady and -- to Edelman's credit -- he did what Danny Amendola could not. That said, Edelman is unlikely to repeat that production if you take him out of his current system. Riley Cooper-type money makes sense, but we imagine Edeltron will get more.

-- Dan Hanzus

Branden Albert, offensive tackle


Desperation creates front-office mistakes. And there are a lot of teams desperate for a left tackle, notably Miami and Arizona. It only takes two teams to create a bidding war. The Chiefs are willing to let Albert go because he's a decent starter who wants to be paid as one of the best players at his position. And he'll probably get his wish.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

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