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2019 NFL free agency: Eight players who could be overpriced

There's too much salary cap space available this offseason and not enough quality free agents to spend it on. Some big-time trades could help fill the gap, but there are sure to be some regrettable contracts handed out in March because that's what happens every March. Here is Gregg Rosenthal's look at which players could be overpriced:

Trent Brown, OT, New England Patriots

The Patriots acquired Brown last April in exchange for moving down 48 spots in the draft (from No. 95 to 143), moved him from right tackle to the left side and won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady's protector making under $2 million. That's how to beat the system. Signing Brown the season after all that for top-10 tackle money is how to drown.

Brown avoided the injury problems, weight issues and work-ethic concerns that plagued him in San Francisco, but all those red flags remain part of his profile. The Giants probably regret paying Tom Brady's last left tackle, Nate Solder, huge money in free agency a year ago, and Brown is not as strong a player.

Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Los Angeles Rams

Fowler checks nearly every box of a typical free-agent bust. He's a former highly drafted player (No. 3 overall in 2015), so there are plenty of teams out there with incredible college scouting reports on file. He's had off-field issues with his coaches and teammates in his career, with his production (16 career sacks) not matching his talent. He is hitting free agency after playing the best football of his career over an extremely limited (but high-profile) sample size: the NFL playoffs.

I write all this and yet totally understand why some team will pay Fowler huge money. Fowler was as disruptive and valuable as any NFL defender in the postseason -- and it's difficult to look past that, even if the four years previous were more telling.

Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

If the Giants allow Collins to hit free agency rather than place the franchise tag on him, it's worth wondering why. A supernova in 2016, Collins hasn't quite reached that same All-Pro level the last two years. My biggest concern would be about how to use him. Collins wasn't able to play near the line of scrimmage as much in 2018, and the Giants admitted that he was used in coverage away from the ball more often than they would have preferred. But do you really want to pay more than $15 million per year for a safety whose strength isn't in coverage in the year 2019?

UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Kimberly Jones reported Monday that the Giants are unlikely to apply the franchise tag to Collins.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions

Ansah was so raw coming out of BYU yet so productive in his first three NFL seasons that there appeared to be no limit to his career ceiling. That's why the last three years have been so sobering. Ansah's snaps have often been limited when he plays because of nagging injuries, and he missed nine games in 2018. He's struggled with shoulder, back, hamstring, ankle and knee injuries over the last three years. He'll turn 30 years old in May, and there is risk here that Ansah's body is simply breaking down just at the moment where he's hitting his maximum earning potential. With so many other D-line options in free agency and the draft, I'd spend my money elsewhere.

Rodger Saffold, OG, Los Angeles Rams (... or any other top interior OL)

The longtime Rams guard is a fantastic professional. He threw Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch around in the NFC playoffs like they were playthings. The 30-year-old was the reliable rock of the Rams' offensive line for years and deserves all the money coming his way. I just wouldn't want to root for the team paying it.

There was scuttlebutt around Indianapolis last week that Saffold could become the highest-paid guard in football despite never making a Pro Bowl. Dynamic in the running game and on screens, Saffold is closer to average as a pass protector. He's a good player who is about to be paid like an absolute superstar as he enters his age 31 season and changes offensive systems.

There is this strange bromide often repeated at this time of year about guards in the draft being "plug-and-play 10-year starters" or free-agent guards being "safe pickups," but a look at recent interior lineman getting big money in free agency reveals results as mixed as any other position, with Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell, Bucs center Ryan Jensen, 49ers center Weston Richburg, Browns guard Kevin Zeitler, former Vikings guard Alex Boone and Lions guard T.J. Lang among the big-ticket items since 2016.

Saffold is my favorite interior lineman available, but paying him more than $12 million per year is a tell that a team can't develop its own guys. Chiefs center Mitch Morse, Seahawks guard D.J. Fluker and Steelers guard Ramon Foster are also candidates to get paid extremely well despite not playing well enough for their previous teams to keep them. In a league where it's increasingly difficult to find quality linemen, it's worth examining why each of these free agents are available in the first place.

Shane Ray, OLB, Denver Broncos

If he can't produce playing opposite Von Miller, he's not going to produce on your favorite team, either.

Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb, LB and WR, Green Bay Packers

The Packers probably held on to both guys a year too long. Cobb played the game with a frightening ferocity for his size early in his career, but that juice no longer appears present despite his only being 28 years old. Matthews is a classic example of a solid NFL veteran whose name value far exceeds his game at this stage of his career.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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