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Torrey Smith, C.J. Spiller, Nick Fairley among free agency risks

They don't hand out Lombardi Trophies for winning the offseason.

And there's a reason why: Free agency is very risky.

That's especially true this year, with activity already moving at a breakneck pace. While the market doesn't officially open until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, we've already seen plenty of action during the NFL's three-day negotiation window. And it's in this kind of environment where people inevitably throw caution (and large sums of money) to the wind. These are dangerous times.

Thus, in the midst of all this madness, I wanted to identify some players who give me pause in this free agency cycle. Some of them have already been linked to teams, some of them remain free as can be, but all of the players listed below have one thing in common: uncertainty.

So, without further ado, here are nine players who seem like risky business:

1) Pernell McPhee, outside linebacker/defensive lineman

When Jerry West was general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, any player he allowed to leave the building always carried significant question marks. If West opted against bringing back a free agent, it was buyer beware for the rest of the NBA. If West called to offer up a player via trade, rival general managers would wonder why. Same deal with John Schuerholz during his GM heyday with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s: If he called to offer you a pitcher or let somebody hit the open market, you had to know something was up.

Enter Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome has a keen eye for talent. And most importantly, he and his Ravens cohorts know when to say when on their own players -- they know who must be kept and who can be set free.

The precedent has been set, from Ed Hartwell to Michael Oher, from Dannell Ellerbe to Paul Kruger. In hindsight, Ozzie and Co. typically appear pretty darn savvy.

While some think McPhee can break out with more playing time and reps, one AFC general manager texted me over the weekend, "He's a part-time player and might command in the 8 mil range. I like him. The price scares me."

Welp, on Monday, a report broke that McPhee is headed to the Chicago Bears on that exact kind of salary.

Personally, I think McPhee can play. But I simply cannot ignore the fact that Newsome is allowing him to walk out the door. Will his new team -- if it is indeed the Bears -- regret giving him substantial dough? Will he be able to play up to the expectations that come with being a big-ticket free-agent acquisition?

On a related note ...

2) Torrey Smith, wide receiver

I like Smith. Always have. He's a solid player and truly a great guy/teammate.

But in four NFL seasons, he has surpassed 50 catches just once. Smith isn't an elite wideout. And the Ravens know that.

One AFC personnel director told me that Smith will be joining the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday. He won't be a star there, either. But there will be big expectations and a bulls-eye on his back when the contract details are eventually revealed.

Before Ravens fans lament these likely defections, understand the brilliance of your organization. Baltimore will be just fine. The questions will lie with these players' new teams.

3) Nick Fairley, defensive tackle

Whenever there are legit concerns about a player's motor, that's a major risk. Yes, Fairley has the raw ability to be a Pro Bowler. But the former No. 13 overall pick also has weight issues and questionable drive, making him an easy bust candidate. That's too wide a range for teams that need answers, not questions -- teams that need to win now.

4) C.J. Spiller, running back

I'm not anti-Spiller, but his potential price tag, lack of consistency and injury history are all valid causes for concern.

Last year, the running back didn't score a single rushing touchdown. That's kind of a huge deal. In his five-year NFL career, Spiller has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark once.

Sure, platooning with Fred Jackson minimized opportunity. But can you plan on starting him 16 games and giving him 20 to 25 touches an outing?

The talent is tantalizing. The production makes you skeptical.

5) Mark Sanchez, quarterback

After taking a day to survey the open market during the negotiating period, Sanchez decided to stay in Philly. And three NFL executives I polled on Sunday night believe this could be a precursor to Chip Kelly going all in on trading up in the draft to grab Marcus Mariota, and having Sanchez serve as his veteran backup. In that scenario, Nick Foles would be used either as part of the trade-up or in another deal to recover draft picks lost in a Mariota move.

And while I love what Kelly is doing in general this offseason, there's risk with Sanchez potentially being one hit away from the field.

Kelly has dealt with numerous quarterback injuries during his two years in Philly. Thus, the backup QB is a vital position in his system. And as Eagles fans saw during a three-game losing streak last December, Sanchez holds you back in a big spot.

This was a risky signing in an otherwise shrewd week for Kelly's Eagles.

6) Jake Locker, quarterback

The list of free-agent quarterbacks is filled with journeymen and jokers.

Locker has talent ... but he simply cannot stay on the field. Oh, and he has trouble with the forward pass. Two legit problems for an NFL quarterback.

While he could wind up being a decent backup in the right offensive system, don't ever bank on him being a viable No. 1 option.

7) Greg Hardy, defensive end

Though Hardy's still on the Commissioner's Exempt List after facing disturbing domestic violence charges, league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed that the defensive end will be eligible to sign a new deal on Tuesday. Yes, charges were dismissed after the prosecution couldn't locate the accuser, but it goes without saying that a taint remains on the former Pro Bowler.

8) Antrel Rolle, safety

These days, Rolle runs his mouth to the media better than he mans the safety position. At Rolle's peak with the Giants, you didn't mind him being the pulse of the team. But in 2015, with his play declining, teams shouldn't want a role player (pun intended) speaking -- loudly -- on behalf of the organization.

9) B.J. Raji, defensive lineman

Raji missed the entire 2014 campaign after suffering a torn right biceps in the preseason. The year before that, he didn't play up to par. The versatile big man was once one of the better defensive linemen in the league. Will he ever be that guy again?

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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