Contract killers: Players who hurt their free-agent value in 2013
NFL free agency begins on March 11, so the time has come and gone for players to prove their worth to current employers.
Which potential free agents did a number on their market values with disappointing 2013 performances? We take a look at a few of the worst offenders:
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: What exactly will a team be paying for here? Such is the challenge in assessing McFadden, one of the league's most electrifying -- and brittle -- running backs. The 2013 season was the worst of his career, with a measly 487 yards from scrimmage in 10 games. Only once (Week 8 vs. Pittsburgh) did he total more than 20 carries in a game; he carried the ball just 21 times over the second half of the season.
The Raiders bounced around between blocking schemes during McFadden's six years with the team, while injury-induced disruptions along the O-line and unsettled QB play did nothing to help him either. Still, McFadden will enter 2014 with plenty to prove.
Britt caught all of 11 passes last season, failing to even hit the 100-yard mark in receiving yards overall. Former Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak even went so far as to make Britt a healthy scratch for several games down the stretch, serving up one final piece of evidence that Britt's time with the Titans had ended.
Will any franchise be willing to commit to him this offseason? Given his natural abilities, probably. But Britt will be lucky to land anything more than a one-year deal.
Anthony Spencer, DE, Cowboys: On the plus side for Spencer, he ought to have plenty of cash banked following back-to-back franchise tags from the Cowboys. The negative, though, is that he missed the 2013 season after requiring microfracture knee surgery. Hence players' issue with the franchise tag -- had Spencer made it to free agency prior to '13, he would have done so off a breakthrough 11-sack campaign. Now, he's an aging pass-rusher coming off a major injury.
Josh Freeman, QB, Vikings: The Buccaneers headed into 2013 trying to convince themselves that Freeman still could turn into their long-term answer at QB, perhaps buoyed by the impending expiration of his contract. Instead, he was out of the lineup by Week 4, off the roster by Week 6 and starting for Minnesota in Week 7.
His subsequent implosion with the Vikings was not all his fault -- he was rushed into the starting lineup prematurely and bombed against the Giants. That game stood as his one and only appearance for the Vikings, meaning Freeman's off to free agency having not played since posting a 40.6 QB rating during that October loss. The market was cold for Freeman when the Vikings floated him as a trade chip; it might be downright nonexistent this offseason.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins: Pretty self-explanatory here. Davis was hit with an indefinite suspension by the NFL in February for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, then was arrested on a DUI. He's facing a long way back into the league.
Asante Samuel, CB, Falcons: In large part because he was due upwards of $5 million next season, Samuel was cut by the Falcons in early February. Proven cornerbacks are coveted commodities, so Samuel should land on his feet, even if his 2013 season did nothing to boost his résumé.
The 33-year-old Samuel missed more than a quarter of the season due to injury and was unable to hold a starting spot when he was out there. Samuel is now three seasons removed from his last Pro Bowl appearance and four seasons from his last 16-game effort.
Michael Oher, OT, Ravens: The former first-round pick was such a problem for the Ravens offense last season that they went out and traded for Eugene Monroe midway through the year. There is almost no evidence that Oher can handle a left tackle job, meaning he'll hit free agency as a so-so option on the right side. The Ravens' apparent lack of interest in retaining him is rather damning.
Ziggy Hood, DL, Steelers: A slow-burn contract kill. Hood never really found his footing in five seasons with the Steelers after being a 2009 Round 1 pick. Last year he blew his last chance to turn things around, grading as the Steelers' second-worst defender for the '13 season on Pro Football Focus. (Linebacker Larry Foote nabbed the dubious dead-last designation.)
Perhaps Hood will have more success outside the Steelers' 3-4 defense -- his skills may be better suited for a DT spot in a 4-3 than the end role Pittsburgh attempted to fit him into during his stay there.
Jonathan Vilma, LB, Saints: There may not be much left in the tank for Vilma, who will turn 32 in April. He played in just one game last season before landing on I.R. with a knee injury, and his knee has been an issue for multiple seasons now. The veteran's experience and leadership would prove worthy of a contract if he's anywhere near 100 percent. He may not be.
Michael Huff, S, Broncos: Another trip into free agency for Huff. He signed a three-year deal with the Ravens last offseason, then made it through just seven games before earning his release. Huff eventually latched on with Denver, where he played sparingly. The 2013 season only turned into a contract year for Huff because he was so ineffective in Baltimore, starting with a Week 1 torching at the hands of Peyton Manning's passing attack. At 31-years-old later this week, Huff would be very lucky to match the offer Baltimore placed in front of him prior to 2013.