Contract killers: Ten free agents who hurt their value most in 2014
The 2015 NFL salary cap has been set a touch north of $143 million, and plenty of teams will have money to spend. Not every free agent will find the market friendly, however.
With the opening of free agency just around the corner on March 10, here's a look back at 10 available players who did themselves no favors with their play in 2014:
[daily_cut.nfl]Mark Sanchez, QB: Chalk up the 2014 season as a significant missed opportunity for Sanchez, who ultimately failed to take advantage of his situation in Philadelphia. Working on a one-year deal, Sanchez found himself atop the Eagles' quarterback depth chart by midseason, but the team slipped from a 6-2 start to a 10-6 final record, missing the playoffs. Sanchez struggled to take care of the football—he threw interceptions on 3.6% of his passes, third-worst in the league ahead of only Josh McCown and Blake Bortles.
Teams were lining up to talk with McCown after Tampa Bay released him last month. Sanchez cannot chase a new deal until free agency officially opens, and with McCown now off the board he might be the best option out there. He failed to separate himself, though, from the Jake Lockers and Brian Hoyers of the world.
Knowshon Moreno, RB: Can you kill what's already dead? Moreno found the market soft last offseason, and that was on the heels of 1,587 total yards in 2013 with Denver. He eventually signed a one-year, $3 million deal in Miami, arrived banged up and out of shape, suffered multiple injuries during the year and finished with 148 yards rushing in just three games. His next contract may be even smaller.
DeAngelo Williams, RB: Another injury-plagued back, Williams played the fewest games of his career (six) in 2014 and finished with a measly 219 yards rushing. Worse yet, he'll turn 32 in April, putting him well beyond the point at which teams start expecting diminishing returns from running backs.
Denarius Moore, WR: Moore averaged 684.7 yards receiving during his first three seasons in Oakland. He caught 12 balls for 115 yards and no touchdowns last season, all while dropping down the depth chart and battling injuries. Oakland even made a healthy Moore inactive for Week 4 following a critical Week 3 drop. Some team may see the upside in Moore's ability to get downfield, but there won't be many GMs lining up.
Byron Bell, OT: Place a lot of the blame here on the Panthers' front office. Bell was barely a serviceable starting right tackle before being re-signed as a restricted free agent last offseason and shifted to the left side as Jordan Gross's replacement. Predictably, he bombed, allowing nine sacks and 38 hurries.
Plenty of teams could be hunting for a starting right tackle in the coming weeks, but Bell may have locked himself into a backup, swing role.
Michael Oher, OT: A career in tailspin hit another low point last season when Oher quickly made the Titans regret handing him (for whatever reason) a four-year, $20 million contract. The Panthers reportedly met with Oher late last month. Don't be surprised if he and Bell wind up crossing paths a few places, as they are at similar spots in their careers.
LaMarr Woodley, DE: Woodley's days of commanding big money are gone—the two-year, $12 million deal he landed in Oakland last season turned out to be a massive overpayment. The 30-year-old Woodley landed on injured reserve in October due to a biceps injury. His absence was hardly noticeable as he had posted zero sacks and five tackles prior to that setback.
Ahtyba Rubin, DT: There are a limited number of guys who can play nose tackle effectively in the NFL. Rubin may have ruled himself out of the conversation with his performance last season, so he'll have a tough time finding a starting gig. That's a shame because he had been a steady contributor up front for Cleveland since entering the league in 2008.
Bradley Fletcher, CB: Not that he had any help in Philadelphia's beleaguered secondary, but Fletcher endured a woeful 2014 season. He often found himself matched up with (and being torched by) the opposition's No. 1 receiver. The Rams opted not to re-sign him after 2012. Philadelphia will do the same following the '14 letdown, and Fletcher will be hard-pressed to find a guaranteed starting job.
Chris Conte, S: Conte is a four-year veteran with 52 starts under his belt in Chicago, although that says more about the state of the Bears' depth chart than Conte's talents. Like Fletcher in Philadelphia, Conte was the whipping boy for his team's issues in the defensive backfield. He also suffered multiple concussions and dealt with eye, shoulder and back injuries during the 2014 season.