Here are eight free agents who seem bound to get vastly overpaid during NFL free agency when the tampering period opens on Monday.
Case Keenum, QB: He showed he can take a team into the playoffs. But did he really take the Vikings deep into the playoffs? Helped hugely by a great defense and the most underrated receiving corps in the NFL, Keenum played above himself. The Vikings manufactured Keenum’s candidacy as a good quarterback. If he goes back to Minnesota, he should enjoy another good season. He’s a good fit there. But buyer beware. In the wrong system, Keenum won’t shine like he did in 2017. And someone is going to pay him for his playoff play.
Sammy Watkins, WR: He’s young, he’s fast, he’s big, he’s gifted. He’s everything that you want in No. 1 receiver – except that he hasn’t proven he can be a No. 1 receiver. DeAndre Hopkins, for example, made a statement to the league by putting up production, no matter who was at quarterback (except for under Brock Osweiler). Watkins, on the other hand, looks greatly impacted by his signal caller. And even in the Rams system, he didn’t explode.
Cameron Fleming, T: Who? Exactly. Fleming started at right tackle for the Patriots during their playoff run. He’s probably the second best tackle on the free agency market. He may not get a monster deal. But whatever he gets paid, he’s probably going to get more than he’s worth.
Tyler Eifert, TE: When he’s on the field, he’s a very good tight end. But the truth is that because of his injuries, he’s had only one good season in the league. In 2015, he had 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s a lot of touchdowns, but his stats are otherwise underwhelming for a career-year. He averages 307.4 yards and four touchdowns per season. Some say he could present good value. But I’d say the opposite. He’s got a big name with little production. Someone’s going to pay for the name and the 2015 season, and that bill comes with a huge risk.
Trey Burton, TE: You’re not getting Zach Ertz when you sign Burton. But something tells me teams are going to chase him with hopes of bringing a piece of Ertz to their team. Burton will be behind Jimmy Graham in terms of earnings, but Burton’s price tag will likely be too high because 1) he won a Super Bowl, and 2) he’s new to the position and appears on the verge of breaking out. People love the idea of harnessing raw talent. They’re willing to pay for it. In reality, however, Burton had 23 receptions for 248 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. He wasn’t a huge part of the offense. That won’t stop teams from thinking they can make him a huge part of their offense.
Trumaine Johnson, CB: He’s the best cover cornerback available, but he won’t be worth the major contract he’s about to get. He’s 28, but will get a contract that spans into his early 30s. He’s never been a Pro Bowler, but will get paid like one of the top corners in the league. There’s a reason why Los Angeles decided to add three cornerbacks before free agency. They’re completely comfortable with losing Johnson, which doesn’t speak well to their evaluation of the cornerback’s skills against his contract demands.
Prince Amukamara, CB: Cornerback is the only defensive position I’m picking on in this column, mostly because the best edge rushers have already gotten grossly overpaid on the franchise tag (see: Ziggy Ansah and Demarcus Lawrence). Amukamara, a former first-round pick, had an excellent season in Chicago’s secondary, the only redemptive group on that bad team. He’s going to get paid for his successes.
Jerrick McKinnon, RB: Am I the only one who thinks McKinnon isn’t a good player? He’s an off-the-charts SPARQ athlete, who does well with the ball in his hands. But every running back who touched the ball for the Vikings was exceptional in 2017. So were they all actually excellent? Or did it have to do with the offensive line and playcalling? McKinnon will probably get paid like one of the best backs on the market. But he’s far from it. He’s an elite athlete who played in one of the NFL’s best offensive systems, and who the team has never wanted to give a large workload. He won’t excel in his next destination.