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3/05/2007 03:08:00 PM

Questionable free-agent signings

Leonard Davis signed a seven-year, $50 million deal with the Cowboys.
Rich Gabrielson/WireImage

Before you get too excited about the money flying around right now, look at how the Colts built their Super Bowl team. They drafted or signed as undrafted free agents 21 of 22 positional starters, and picked up the other one, Anthony McFarland, at last year's trade deadline.

They did sign kicker Adam Vinatieri last year, but you get my point. The financial structure of the NFL has made the pendulum swing toward drafting to build a champion instead of free agency. Good teams are vigilant about keeping their best players so they don't have to overpay in the open market. And if they draft well for their system, they can overcome free-agency losses.

With the bump in salary cap, this market was particularly overvalued and it's easy to spot the questionable deals, even though some of them look bigger on paper then they are in reality.

Here are my top five red-flag signings:

Leonard Davis, OT/OG, Cowboys: It seems weird the Cowboys would give him so much money – an $18 million signing bonus – and they're not even sure if he'll play guard or tackle.

Nate Clements, CB, 49ers: Clements' eight-year, $80 million deal is believed to be the richest for a defensive player in NFL history. Does that mean Clements is the best defensive player ever?

Derrick Dockery, G, Bills/Eric Steinbach, G, Browns: I'll be the first to admit I can not evaluate offensive guard play, but I do know the Vikings' acquisition of guard Steve Hutchinson for record money barely improved their rushing offense. I doubt Dockery and Steinbach will have a great impact either.

Ahman Green, RB, Texans: Green reportedly got more money from the Texans (four years, $23 million) then he was even looking for. Green was a great player at one point, but 30-year-old running backs with injury histories don't have a lot of value in today's NFL.

Dewayne White, DE, Lions: I'm willing to assume this a bad signing just because we're talking about the Lions. Anyone care to argue with that logic?

Let me know who you think was overpaid and who actually deserved a big payday.
posted by SI.com | View comments |  


Posted: 3:29 PM   by Anonymous
Adalius Thomas for the Pats was a steal, he will be very good and have another 10-15 sack season with a few picks as well. Also, he will improve the Pats so much, they will win the Super Bowl next year. Without a doubt. Dont forget they have TWO first round draft picks.
Posted: 3:35 PM   by Anonymous
Clements is not the best defensive player, but he is good. Quite an upgrade for the niners.Plus Clements will never see all the money.
Posted: 3:51 PM   by Anonymous
I wasn't surprised Ahmad Green went to the Texans. 23 Million? Why that's almost $480,000 per fumble. At his age and with bad knees on turf? Not sure what they are thinking.
Posted: 3:53 PM   by Anonymous
I understadn the "over-spending" for players argument but you said it yourself - the salary cap has gone up...why not use the money you have to try and improve your team. Ten-million in cap space during week 8 of the season doesn't improve your team what so ever. Besides, all these contracts are severely back-loaded and 3/4 of these free agents will never see the money promised to them in their contracts. So why not spend, if it turns out to be a terrible signing, you cut the guy and owe him nothing, if he does play up to his contract, well the salary cap has, and will continue to grow every year so teams will have the money to pay the players that are worth the cash!
Posted: 3:53 PM   by Anonymous
I would submit that the $5MM roster bonus to Terry Glenn by the Cowboys should be considered a bad 'free agency' move.

And Fred Smoot back to Washington. Or should we just assume that ALL Free Agency decisions by the 'skins are 'questionable'.
Posted: 3:56 PM   by Josh
Davis probably got such a sweet deal because of the overall stellar offensive line play of the Cardinals last year.

Oh, hold on. No, scratch that. Actually, he got such a sweet deal because Jerry Jones didn't want to come second to Dan Snyder at anything, even if that "thing" is wildly overpaying free-agents with dubious track records.
Posted: 4:04 PM   by Anonymous
offensive linemen tend to be one of the least paid positions- the bills have recently announced they are not spending all their cap money. then they go and overpay for linemen. That's like saying you can't afford the fancy restaurant so you're going to mcdonalds to spend $70 on dinner.
Posted: 4:04 PM   by Anonymous
Dennis Northcutt didn't get one of the biggest deals, but since most people probably didn't know he was still in the league, I'd put his new contract right up there. Apparently the Jaguars didn't have enough guys who could drop the deep ball.
Posted: 4:14 PM   by Anonymous
As a Packer fan, the steady decline of Ahman's game sealed his fate in GB. That is fine--he is over the hill. He may have one more good season in his tank, but it could be two years from now, or even three. Working behind the Texans line can be hazardous to your health--just ask David Carr. Hopefully GB doesn't foolishly grab a back in the first round of the draft as a knee jerk reaction.
Posted: 4:24 PM   by Anonymous
I'm a little surprised by how active the Patriots have been in only the first week of free agency, The Thomas signing is a good one he's the type of LB they like and I also think going after Wes Welker another player that fits their mold is a good signing if it gets done. But Kyle Brady and Sammy Morris I feel is a bit of stretch.
Posted: 4:26 PM   by Anonymous
Are you kidding me? Of course Clements is not the greatest defensive player of all time, and his contract is not reflective of that. What his contract is reflective of is the contemporary free agent market. When Champ Bailey was the highest paid corner, was he the greatest of all time? Not hardly, though I would even argue that he is one of the best contemporary corners. Point being, players' contracts are not reflective of league history, merely the ridiculous free agency that we all contribute to.

Dane Van der Nat
Posted: 4:27 PM   by Glenn
As a Cowboys fan, I'm skeptical of the Leonard Davis signing. I mean, yes he's a big man who can play OG or OT, but he never really did anything in Arizona. Then again, it was Arizona, where football careers go to die.
Posted: 4:30 PM   by Anonymous
the lions definitly overpayed white. he isnt a stand out defensive player in any sense. just another normal lions move.
Posted: 4:32 PM   by Anonymous
It seems rare to find a player that actually performs at a higher level after he accepts a high dollar contract with a new team. The criticism leveled at the Owner/GM of the Cowboys seems justified given his track record before Bill Parcells precided over the talent. On the other hand, Leonard Davis deserves to have some slack given to him given the long-standing problems of the Cardinals. To the extent having a team committed to winning means anything, Leonard Davis might finally have an opportunity to demonstrate his talent and potential. Dallas Cowboys fans who long for the return of the dominant offensive lines of the 1990's hope so.
Posted: 4:36 PM   by Anonymous
clements will definitely improve their defense on paper, but he is surely not worth $80 m. In my opinion, the redskins underpaid london Fletcher (5yrs, $25m). he has consistently lead his team in tackles and has always been one of the league leaders in tackles, just like donnie edwards. these two guys don't get enough credit.
Posted: 4:43 PM   by Anonymous
With the way the Cowboys have been recently aquiring personnel with no real certainty as to how they will fit in, does the Leonard Davis signing really seem that strange?
Posted: 4:43 PM   by Anonymous
sammy morris and K brady are bit players. Look and learn. Brady replaces d Graham, who got 3 mill + more from the Broncos. K Brady knows Bellichek because he played under him with the jets, and he is still considered one of the BEST blocking TE's in the league. Sammy morris fills in for the loss of Dillon, but everyone including dillon knew that maroney would take most snaps this year. For anyone to question suck cheap moves that also makes sense is just another attempt to trash talk the Patriots. they are hands down the best team in football, and did what the Colts couldnt, and thats wina superbowl and still leave cap room to compete. The thomas signing makes the patriots alot better, and with a draft that should bring a big play CB top the pats, it looks like New England is superbowl bound again...
Posted: 4:44 PM   by Anonymous
Since they returned in 1999, the biggest weakness on the Browns team has been their offensive line. They tried to get it repaired last year with LeCharles Bentley, but he suffered a career ending injury the first week of training camp. So they're spending big money now to fix the line, while drafting o-linemen to replace the higher priced guys in a few years. It's not over-spending, it's investing. If Steinbach prevents some sacks and rushed passes, he's more than worth it.
Posted: 4:48 PM   by Anonymous
Rumor has that the Pats who have been very active in free agency thus far are now trying to work out a trade with Oakland for Randy Moss. If Bill Belichick can get him to be the team player Corey Dillon became in New England this would have to be his masterpiece.
Posted: 4:50 PM   by Anonymous
As a Ravens fan, I am going to miss AD. The Pats just picked up a heck of a versatile defensive player. But also as a Ravens fan, I am puzzled because we are making no moves to sure up our backfield. Cutting Jamal Lewis was a great decision, but what's next? Who's out there?
Posted: 4:50 PM   by Anonymous
Yes -- those who watch him closely know that Nate Clements is one of the top 5 defensive players of all time. Right up there with LT, Reggie White, Butkus, Ronnie Lott, etc.! A steal for 8 years.
Posted: 4:56 PM   by Anonymous
As a Browns fan, I don't believe there are many guards worth that type of $$, but it sure gives Browns fans a small sigh of relief.
Posted: 5:01 PM   by Anonymous
I don't know how you can dsiparage the Dallas Davis Deal. I count it as their greatest triumph since last year's signing of Mike Vanderwhatsit. It wouldn't surprise me if Jerry Jones was able to talk Deion Sanders into coming back for only fifty million, per year.

Posted: 5:04 PM   by Anonymous
I really think Leonard Davis will help the Boys O line. He had been playing out of position for the last three years. Plus when you play with a very very poor line like the Cards this will effect his overall performance. The worst FA siging was London Fletcher.
Posted: 5:11 PM   by Anonymous
Clements is outstanding, one of the few who can shut down anybody. I have to agree with a previous poster that london fletcher makes little sense to me.
Posted: 5:12 PM   by Anonymous
I wasn't trash talking by questioning the Pats singings of Kyle Brady and Sammy Morris as I am a Pats fan myself. I just don't see even as cheap as were getting them how a soon to be 36 year TE with David Thomas and Garret Mills in the fold could even be remotely a viable replacement for Graham or how Sammy Morris who has done much of nothing in Miami is going to pick up Dillons 800 yards and 13 touch downs, T.J Ducket might have been a better option even if he would have cost a little more.
Posted: 5:13 PM   by Anonymous
The Drew Bennett signing by the Rams may look foolish but think about how great a season Bulger will have with Holt, Bruce, and Bennett. Also you can't underestimate the continued emergence of Steven Jackson as a pass catcher to complement his running.
Posted: 5:20 PM   by Anonymous
Sammy Morris 7 year career stats.
(Rushing)374 carries for 1469 yards and 14 TD's (Recieving) 112 receptions for 792 yards and 1 TD. How on earth at any price could anyone think that this guy could even come close to Replacing Corey Dillons production in the Pats offense should have their head examined. This guy won't make the 53 man roster.
Posted: 5:24 PM   by Anonymous
The Lions have to overpay if they want anyone to come play. Its not like they have a history of winning. Costs alot for someone to lose for 5 years.
Posted: 5:26 PM   by Anonymous
As a lifelong Bills fan to even suggest that Nate Clements is one of the all time greats is a joke. Deion Sanders was a great corner, even Champ Bailey is a great corner. Hell, Dre Bly is a great corner. But Clements is wildly erratic, and just happened to play well over the last two months of the season. Trust me when I say that people will be talking about how horribly everyone overestimated his talent for years to come.

Free agency is destroying football and contracts like these are the beginning of the end of small market franchises. Mark my words, in twenty years either the NFL will have half the teams it does now, or it will have franchises spread out across the continent, and possibly even Europe. So say goodbye to the Bengals, Bills, Jaguars, etc...

This is the beginning of the end.
Posted: 5:26 PM   by Anonymous
How could you have missed Langston "turnstile" Walker? He wasn't exactly a rising star on Oakland's line last year...
Posted: 5:29 PM   by Anonymous
Oh yeah...and as a Bills fan, paying Langston Walker $25 million for five years with $10 mil guaranteed is ridiculous. Put it this way, the Raiders had the worst line in the entire league, really can't stand to lose any talent, and yet they made no effort to resign the guy.

Dockery (while a lot to pay) is at least a relatively proven commodity with a good track record. Whittle was cheap. But to pay $25 millions dollars for a project is ludicrous.
Posted: 5:30 PM   by Anonymous
As a Texas fan here goes - I am stunned that Jerry Jones would give such a huge amount to someone from Texas; Dallas does not have another player on their roster from Texas and as a rule they stay away from recruiting from Texas. And, ever since they passed on Vince Young, I do not even try to pretend to understand what the Texan's are up to.
Posted: 5:37 PM   by Anonymous
I think New England made the best moves so far but The best move could be by the teams holding back and letting the dust settle. None of these guys will make a huge change in the league or power. That only comes from drafts and practice players finally getting opportunity to play. Welker for 2nd and 7th great deal for miami not so good for N.E. but other than that solid off season so far
Posted: 5:45 PM   by Anonymous
Well - For anyone who actually knows how good White is (he has been understudy to a HOFer since he hit the ground in Tampa)it'll be interesting to see teams trying to defend against Kalimba Edwards on one side and Dewayne on the other. Their combined speed will be frustraiting to contain on passing downs. And give Marinelli a break - didn't Tony Dungy (Tampa) and Lovie Smith (Chicago) get a chance to build their teams when they started out? we're tried of the "Lions bashing".
Posted: 5:47 PM   by Anonymous
I'm from Phoenix and i'll tell you that i'm not going to miss Leonard Davis at all. I think he was one of the main reasons that the Cardinals offensive line has been horrible for years, since he was the longest reigning lineman on the team. I would rather pay two guys a combined $7 million to get the production that Leonard gave us.
Posted: 5:48 PM   by Anonymous
A 2nd and a 7th for Welker was actually a better deal for N.E. than you think. They were orginally offering $38.5 millon for 7 years and would have lost their second round pick anyway. Now they get him under contract at $1.3 millon for 2007 and could always work out a better deal with him later.
Posted: 5:54 PM   by Anonymous
Being a diehard Patriot's fan, I'm very surprised by there recent moves in free agency. I do believe that Adalius Thomas was a great move, it was a position of need. I'm however not sold on Kyle Brady. Brady is over the hill, and even though he won't be counted on to catch many passes from the other Brady, I felt they should have used the money on a younger and more dynamic tightend like Daniel Graham. The jury is still out on Sammy Morris since he will not be counted on to do much behind Laurence Maroney. Overall though the Patriots are back and look to them to have a great season.
Posted: 6:03 PM   by Anonymous
You guys are missing the point of the Morris and Brady signings - Morris is not going to replace Dillon entirely, Maroney will get the majority of the playing time and make up at least 50% of Dillon's workload leaving Morris to pick up the rest which he should be able to do. Brady is strictly there to block and catch the odd pass only.
Posted: 6:03 PM   by Anonymous
Clements was the right move for the 49ers. What if they had let both Thomas AND Clements slip away? Nolan could kiss his chances at a winning season, and his head coaching job, goodbye. So they had to give Clements a big pay-day, so what? They can afford it, and more importantly, no other DB in this market comes close to Clements' proven talent. You don't draft DBs in any case, you look for the proven performers, and Clements was it. Good move by coach Nolan. It's the only move he had, really.
Posted: 6:07 PM   by Anonymous
Sammy Morris isn't a replacement for Dillon. Dillon was replaced by Maroney. Sammy Morris is an eventual replacement for Kevin Faulk who's contract is up next year. Maroney, Evans, Faulk, and Morris will all make the 53 man roster. Patrick Pass is the odd man out.
Posted: 6:31 PM   by Anonymous
the poor performance of the o-line continues to haunt the browns since their return. they are not drafting quality lineman so they have to pay $$$ to get them. not a great strategy but they are trying to stop the bleeding where it counts on offense.
Posted: 6:38 PM   by Anonymous
Here's the problem with assuming the Clements deal is bad - he'll never see 8 years or $80 million. Realistically it was more like a 3-4 year deal worth somewhere in the mid $20 million range. Overpaid? Yes, but the Niners knew they would need to overpay to get some talent. I think it was a good signing and if he lasts 3 good years then I'm happy.
Posted: 9:41 AM   by Anonymous
The Lions signing might work for them this time. The signing might equate to transform the closes losses to close wins. 8-8 finally this year
Posted: 10:31 AM   by Anonymous
Clement deal horrible because:

1) He averaged less than 4 int's the last 6 yrs.

2) He averaged barely 2 forced fumbles the last 6 yrs.

Like the Broncos discovered with C Bailey it only protects 1/3 of the field and good OC's can game plan around you.

What did the Broncos get for their investment - they missed the playoffs and they made getting someone of talent on the other side impossible.
Posted: 10:53 AM   by Anonymous
Hey come on now give the Lions some love. They needed and end and got one very early on and besides Marinelli really likes him and did coach him for all those years in Tampa. I think it was a good call.
John, Detroit
Posted: 11:22 AM   by Anonymous
Patriots are definetly better by adding Adalius Thomas....And they still have 2 1st round picks...2 1st round picks.....that is scary...For me as of now PATRIOTS are the on track for their 4th SUPER BOWL.
Posted: 11:47 AM   by Anonymous
OK first of all we aren't even to the draft yet and Millen is shelling out cash like White is a future hall of famer... But ok I get it the Marinelli connection "whatever" hes just another BELOW AVERAGE player. As far as everyone else goes good luck and good job because as long as "fat boy" Millen is in the driver seat for the Lions they will be messing up top 5 picks for years to come...
JC OUT...........
Posted: 11:58 AM   by Anonymous
I have to disagree with you on two of the signings. While I do think they over paid a bit, Cleveland signing Eric Steinbach was a solid signing. He is a quality young gaurd who will improve an poor offensive line. I also disagree with Dewayne White. While I again think they overpaid, the Lions needed a defensive End, and got one that will fit their system, which is more important that just getting the best guy. I would add to worst signings the niners and Ashlie Lelie, and Tampa Bay signing 18 veteran quarterbacks to above 2nd string money.
Posted: 12:27 PM   by Anonymous
Clements is a joke. Doesnt have the speed to play downfield so he leaves a ridiculous cushion on almost every play. Not much or a tackler and not a leader either.
Posted: 12:51 PM   by Anonymous
Leonard Davis is a very good guard. If the Cowboys would just realize that he'd make a great addition. Jones is almost falling into the same trap Dennis Green did and playing him at Tackle because of his draft status and disregarding his inability to play at position.
Posted: 12:59 PM   by NYC Harley
The Pats' signing of Thomas was a good job, but will amount to little since he will fail to tackle new Jets HB Thomas Jones all season, helping Gang Green win the AFC East. Remember, you heard it here first!
Posted: 1:32 PM   by Anonymous
I can't really speak to 'over' paying as this is the state of affairs for this league but being a niner fan for the past 20 yrs, I find it totally refreshing that they are competing for the best available. I also find, your comments with Don Bank's so hypocritical that it may irritate me more than either the current FA market or SIs collective love of everything that comes out of the NE Patriot's organization. For the past 5 yrs the only news coming from the national media in regards to the niners was their 'cheapness'.
Posted: 1:49 PM   by Anonymous
For those who think a 2nd round pick for Wes Welker is too expensive, I pose this question: How many first round picks have 67 receptions in their first season? How many top 5 picks have 67 receptions in their first season? The first 3 WRs taken in the 2006 Draft combined for 67 receptions. The Patriots are getting a PROVEN wide receiver who most probably hasn't met his full potential catching passes from Joey Harrington and Cleo Lemon and he has superior return skills. Find me a second rounder in this year's draft with that type of resume.
Posted: 1:59 PM   by Anonymous
Everybody loves Adalius Thomas (same here) but he is 29 years old! Do you all know that? Is that kinda old for a LB who has to hit people all day? Please correct me. Thanks
Posted: 2:04 PM   by Anonymous
I think the best free agent signing so far was the Chiefs signing of LT Damon Macintosh. He is a solid player with upside and they did not over-reach and overpay like the Cowboys for Leonard 'false start' Davis. I also like the Browns moves, upgrading the O-Line is their best bet to succeed in their division. Now if they grab Quinn instead of Peterson they will be on their way.
Posted: 2:08 PM   by Anonymous
Kyle Brady is there to block. Essentially becoming a 3rd tackle. Not signing Graham was a smart move because that also gives Thomas some more playing time (the guy is a PLAYER). We Maroney will take the bulk of the carry and Morris will only be called to spell him now and again. Don't forget that Faulk is our third down back. For someone earlier who said that Morris will replace Faulk eventually, I think Mills might be that guy. He's not a prototypical TE (smaller frame) but he's got good speed and can block. Plus he can catch the ball and was a great playmaker in college. I love the Welker trade. Even though it looks like we gave up too much for him (comparing with the Jets/Bears trade), he is going to be a great addition to the team. We already know he can play. I think Belichik was wary of picking WR since his last two 2nd round WR picks (Bethel and Chad) have been rather disappointing. The Adalius signing doesn't need to be explained. That guy will be MVP next year.
Posted: 2:38 PM   by Anonymous
football careers do not go to die in Arizona. They (S.Rice, J. Plummer, T. Jones, etc) spend time in AZ and then flourish elsewhere. As for L. Davis PLEASE and GOOD LUCK!! Overpay does not even begin to explain this.
Posted: 2:46 PM   by Anonymous
Anyone that the Lions sign is stupid because they will not get any better until Matt Millen leaves town, or until the Lions start winning a few games. I think the Clements signing was just ludicris. He'll be cut by the 3rd year because the 49ers will be sick of him giving up big plays to big receivers in the NFC West.
Posted: 4:02 PM   by Bryan
I think one thing you have to look at in terms of dollars spent is the player's value to that particular team. As a Niner fan, I was MORE than happy to see them willing to open up their checkbook and pay that kind of money to Clements. They had the WORST DEFENSE IN FOOTBALL last year, and STILL won 7 games. Every penny they've spent on upgrading their defense has been money well used.

Sure, Clements might not command that money on a team that has Champ Bailey already...but to a team whose options were Walt Harris (granted, he had a great year last year - but will he be able to do it again?) and Shantae Spencer as your options...the Clements contract was well worth it.
Posted: 4:32 PM   by Anonymous
Andrew. With all the talk about top free agents remaining. Why isn't Donnie Edwards included in the lists, the man had 98 tackles, 3 INT's, 2.5 sacks,etc last year. He is a leader on defense and a run stopper and I'd say better in pass defense than Urlacher. So Someone tell me what the deal is.
Posted: 8:35 PM   by Anonymous
Leonard Davis for $49 million??? You have a known underachiever who doesnt work hard when he has so much upside. So much for improving the Cowboys locker room
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