Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

5 players teams should be wary of in free agency

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A wrong move during the NFL’s free-agency period can leave an ugly stain on the resume of the erring general manager.

Teams can often be set back or left in the lurch by a miscalculated signing they expected to be a key piece of their success in a coming season, whether it comes at a significant cost or not. Even inexpensive deals can prove costly if the player was expected to serve an important role, or if they cause headaches throughout the rest of the team.

Here are five players teams (and their fans) should be wary of negotiating with when the new league year begins on March 14.

AJ McCarron, QB

The range of potential outcomes for McCarron’s upcoming free-agent deal spreads from Mike Glennon to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Glennon will be released by the Chicago Bears just one year after being sprung from his role as a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Garoppolo was freed from his role behind Tom Brady and used a five-game winning streak to conclude the 2017 season to become the NFL’s highest-paid player.

McCarron, who made just three career starts in four years with the Cincinnati Bengals, presents plenty of risk on a long term deal as an unknown quantity. Interested teams should be offering contracts with a low monetary guarantee and plenty of incentives.

A secondary option should be at the ready in terms of a rookie from the 2018 draft or another low-cost veteran, in the event McCarron follows Glennon’s lead and can’t make it through the season.

Jimmy Graham, TE

Graham’s 10 touchdown catches in 2017 were his most from his three-year tenure with the Seahawks, but his catch rate of just 59.4 percent was the worst of his eight-year career.

The red zone production is sure to attract suitors willing to pay a similar price to the $7.9 million base salary he earned in the final year of his previous deal. At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, he remains a key asset inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. But it’s his worsening play in the middle of the field that should cause hesitation when the checkbook opens.

Nate Solder, OT

Solder spent the first seven years of his career with the New England Patriots, winning two Super Bowls and playing in two others.

Tom Brady’s long-time protector will be highly sought after for his experience and success. While he can still offer plenty in those areas, the soon-to-be 30-year-old was graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 32 tackle last season.

He’s a standout name among available offensive linemen in this year’s class, but teams need to avoid paying for what he’s accomplished to date.

Adrian Clayborn, DE

Clayborn had a career year in 2017 at age 29. He racked up a career-best 9.5 sacks in his third season with the Falcons, though his total was skewed by a six-sack game against the Dallas Cowboys.

According to PFF he performed well as a pass rusher over the course of the season, but struggled in run defense and pass coverage. He shouldn’t be an every-down player, but the misleading sack total could see him paid as such.

Malcolm Butler, CB

Butler was famously benched in Super Bowl LII when head coach Bill Belichick did what was “best for the football team.

His contract year closed with a bang, after a regular season in which he ranked as PFF’s No. 51 cornerback. The combination of deteriorating play and potential character issues should cause some hesitation among interested teams.

The star of Super Bowl XLIX has seen the shine wear off his goal-line interception of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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