There weren’t a lot of contract extensions signed in February and March before the lockout this year. Teams were hesitant to make deals before they knew the new rules, and players generally wanted to test free agency.
The players that did take the money in hand instead of waiting to find out what was behind Door No. 2 generally made the right move.
1. Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman signed a two-year, $10.5 million contract in January. That deal looked shaky at the time for Buffalo, and it looks even worse when decent starters that have stayed healthy are getting less in free agency.
Merriman says he feels like his old self again, but the hitting hasn’t started.
2. Seahawks signed Leon Washington to a four-year, $12 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed in March. It’s a fair deal for both sides, but Washington got more than Darren Sproles did in New Orleans. Leon was better off not testing free agency.
3. A.J. Hawk got $33.5 million over five years from the Packers, including $11 million in 2011 pay. Paul Poslusnzy got paid by Jacksonville, but other inside linebackers like Stephen Tulloch and Barrett Ruud took low cost one-year deals. Is Hawk any better than them?
We doubt Hawk would have done particularly well in this crowded market.
4. The Raiders signed Stanford Routt and Richard Seymour. Routt got more money per-year than Johnathan Joseph. Seymour got more money-per-year than . . . any defensive player.
This year’s free agent class was screwed over by the 2010 uncapped year and the lockout. Obviously the money above wasn’t available to most players, but the guys that avoided hitting free agency in a buyer’s market generally took the right approach.