Position Power Rankings  

 

Saints' Jairus Byrd leads list of top 10 free-agent flops

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Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position or attribute.

So far, we have covered running backs, safeties, red-zone threats, throwing arms, quarter-pole surprises, quarter-pole disappointments, franchise cornerstones and players deserving of Pro Bowl consideration.

Since we covered the best free-agent pickups last week, we are turning our attention to the top free-agent failures this week:

1. Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints safety: Of all players who changed teams this offseason, Byrd earned the most guaranteed money. A major red flag emerged shortly thereafter when Byrd underwent back surgery in May. He was limited in training camp and exposed as a liability during the Saints' disappointing September. After missing tackles and surrendering big plays, the three-time Pro Bowl selection managed just four games before a torn lateral meniscus ligament ended his season.

2. Dimitri Patterson, New York Jets cornerback: General manager John Idzik shot down Rex Ryan's wishes for Darrelle Revis, Vontae Davis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, settling instead for journeyman Patterson as the top veteran in a cornerback-reliant scheme. Patterson went AWOL for a preseason game, was suspended by the team and subsequently released before ever seeing regular-season action. The Jets' patchwork secondary featured undrafted former North Dakota State star Marcus Williams as the No. 1 cornerback in his first career start last week.

3. LaMarr Woodley, Oakland Raiders defensive end: When Woodley signed a $12 million contract in Oakland, then-coach Dennis Allen suggested the Steelers had been using him out of position as an outside linebacker for the better part of a decade. Woodley managed three tackles in five games with the Raiders before landing on injured reserve with a torn biceps. Reggie McKenzie's plan to rebuild a depleted roster with paycheck veterans was a head-scratcher from the get-go.

4. Champ Bailey, New Orleans Saints cornerback: The Saints had financial incentive to keep Bailey on the roster after handing him $500,000 guaranteed in April. Instead, they released him before the season once it became obvious that last year's nagging foot injury wasn't going away. Perhaps a more rigorous medical screening is needed in New Orleans.

5. Anthony Collins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle: Pass protection has been a season-long problem for a team that went window shopping for Collins, Logan Mankins and Evan Dietrich-Smith on a refurbished offensive line. Collins has been disappointing enough that there's talk of moving him inside to guard. Check the honorable mention list below. The Bucs dug deep in their pockets for a slew of veterans and came up with a handful of lint.

6. Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver: Nicks wisely chose the Colts on a one-year, make-good deal to rehab his market value. Unfortunately, a multitude of early-career leg injuries have robbed him of the ability to separate from defensive backs. Standing in the way of a better player in rookie Donte Moncrief, Nicks is no better than the seventh or eighth option in Andrew Luck's top-ranked aerial attack.

7. Chris Johnson, New York Jets running back: For a few brief flashes in last week's game, Johnson and Michael Vick finally met Dan Hanzus' offseason hopes. It's more telling, though, that Johnson has spent the majority of the past month on the bench of a 1-8 team after being outplayed by Chris Ivory. Looking down the barrel of age 30, Johnson's starting days are over.

8. Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars running back: The Jaguars spent the offseason hyping Gerhart as a workhorse back who would be the focal point of their offense. After attributing his disappointing September to run-blocking woes, it quickly became obvious that he was the problem when Denard Robinson rushed for 329 yards in a three-game span.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Oakland Raiders running back: The Raiders are on pace for the worst rushing attack since 1946. From here on out, any Jones-Drew carry is a wasted carry. The end is nigh for one of the NFL's most fun players to watch from 2006 through 2011.

10. Donald Butler, San Diego Chargers linebacker: The Bolts shelled out $28 million in guarantees to re-sign Butler as a nucleus player in their front seven. Through nine weeks, they rank 31st in Football Outsiders' defensive metrics, with Butler missing too many tackles and struggling in coverage.

Honorable mention: Josh McCown, Alterraun Verner, Michael Johnson, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Tate, Michael Oher, Dennis Pitta, Geoff Schwartz

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from an action-packed Week 9. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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