The Schein Nine  

 

Doug Martin, Mario Williams, Chris Ivory among risky free agents

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NFL free agency kicks off Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET sharp. The team-building process in this league can be fascinating. But there's always potential peril in bringing aboard outsiders, especially at hefty prices.

Here's our annual look at the biggest risks in free agency, Schein Nine style:

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1) Greg Hardy, defensive end

Hardy was suspended following a grotesque and serious domestic-violence incident. Upon return, he never showed remorse. In a tone-deaf and clueless fashion, he started talking about Tom Brady's wife and Blake Bortles' significant other.

Oh, and on the field, he wasn't nearly as productive as the Dallas Cowboys had hoped he'd be, recording just two sacks over the final eight games of the season. Not to mention, he was late for work and missed team meetings.

If I were a general manager in the NFL, Greg Hardy's name would not be on my list, plain and simple.

2) Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end

Understand, I had serious questions about Pierre-Paul long before he foolishly decided to play with fireworks on the Fourth of July. JPP seemingly hasn't made a meaningful play in three years. Don't get duped by the 12.5 sacks in 2014 -- nine of those sacks came in the final five weeks of the season, long after the Giants' eventual 6-10 campaign had already been defined.

And now, with a mangled right hand, Pierre-Paul just isn't the same player. There's always drama and distraction with JPP, and he hasn't lived up to the billing in years. His transcendent sophomore season (16.5 sacks and 86 tackles in 2011) is a distant memory at this point.

The Giants should pass on a pass rusher who sacked the quarterback once last year. And other potential buyers must beware.

3) Doug Martin, running back

Here's hoping Martin signs back in Tampa Bay. He's familiar with the Bucs, and they know him. Martin is a good fit in Dirk Koetter's offense.

Martin's career has been a roller-coaster ride: He eclipsed 1,400 rushing yards in his rookie campaign and this past season ... but failed to reach 500 yards in either of the two years sandwiched in between. So where's his body at heading toward Year 5? Can you trust him to play 16 games?

Make no mistake: Martin is a legit No. 1 back ... when healthy. You know what they say: In the NFL, the most important ability is availability.

4) Russell Okung, offensive tackle

The Seahawks' tackle was once considered a rock. Now? Not so much. Okung suffered a shoulder injury in Seattle's playoff loss at Carolina that necessitated surgery. And, as my colleagues Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling pointed out in their ranking of the top 99 free agents, Okung is serving as his own agent. Altogether, that's a dicey equation.

I don't consider Okung a franchise tackle. And nobody else should, either.

5) Mario Williams, defensive end

I'm still a Williams believer, just as a pure football player. It's the potential price tag that turns me off on the 31-year-old.

I thought he was caught in a strange game with Rex Ryan, who, for some reason, thought it was a good idea to drop the pass rusher into coverage. That was foolish.

That said, Williams ran his mouth too much, vocalizing his displeasure to the media and becoming a distraction.

Teams like the Cowboys, Giants, Cardinals and Bucs make sense as potential landing spots. But if Williams commands top dollar, I'd pause. I want to see the numbers on his next deal.

6) Chris Ivory, running back

The running back just rushed for 1,070 yards, a career high. But that's what is scary.

The guy looks like a star at times -- no doubt about it -- but we don't see it consistently. He's a six-year NFL vet who flashes an incredible combo of power and speed, but isn't always available (partially due to his violent running style).

Last season, nearly 30 percent of Ivory's production came in one two-game stretch, when he ran wild on the Dolphins (166 yards) and Redskins (146 yards). In the other 13 games, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry.

7) Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback

The Jets need to bring back Fitz. It's a must. (And then I'd draft a quarterback to develop for the future.) He has a great rapport with Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. He knows Chan Gailey's offense perfectly, dating back to their days together in Buffalo. Fitzpatrick surprised many, including me, by throwing 31 touchdown passes against just 15 picks.

Here's the thing: Fitzpatrick saw the robust two-year deal -- with $26 million in guarantees -- that Sam Bradford received earlier this week. And I imagine he wants the same kind of payday.

OK, like I said, it makes sense for the Jets to bring him back, even if the payout isn't ideal. But outside of New Jersey? Buyer beware. The Texans and Rams have both been there and done that.

8) Adam Jones, cornerback

He enjoyed a very solid season as a cover corner for the Bengals. But it's Pacman Jones, and there's always something.

Jones was an integral part of the Cincy defense, but when you think of his season, you think of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the Bengals' playoff meltdown, as well as the ensuing accusation that Antonio Brown faked a concussion. (Jones went on to tell my "Inside the NFL" colleague Brandon Marshall that he would apologize to Brown if the receiver were to miss the Divisional Round game against Denver. Lo and behold, Jones was forced to apologize.)

There's always stuff. Cincy can handle it. Maybe Dallas, too. But Jones certainly isn't for everyone.

9) Junior Galette, defensive end/outside linebacker

When healthy, the pass rusher can play at a star level. But is he healthy? Plus, he comes with off-field baggage. There are major character questions, as well as concerns with him as a teammate and how he deals with coaches.

I think bringing Galette back to Washington on a one-year, team-friendly deal makes sense. Otherwise? Risky business.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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