It takes big money to lure in the NFL's top free agents.
Sometimes, though, that money is wasted. Every team can point to a deal with a free agent that went bust. That's the risk that comes with the open market.
Now that the spending is largely complete, ESPN's Mike Sando ranked the top 10 worst overpays and top 10 best value signings. The bad news for the Bills is they've got one player ranked high on the "worst" list, but the good news is there are a pair of their signings on the "value" list.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei's deal, which is for five years and up to $50 million, was ranked as the No. 2 overpay by Sando.
"The Bills are getting a run-stuffing defensive tackle who has missed only two games over five seasons, but the price seemed steep for a player with "no rush at all," in the words of one general manager," Sando wrote. "Sean McDermott coached Lotulelei in Carolina and will surely maximize him in the Buffalo defense. But is that familiarity worth $18.5 million fully guaranteed? The Panthers seemed to come out ahead by signing Dontari Poe to a shorter, cheaper deal for three years at $28 million."
Interestingly enough, the only deal ranked worse than Lotulelei's was the Chiefs giving former Bills receiver Sammy Watkins a three-year contract worth up to $48 million.
"The good news is that Watkins is young, talented and joining a team coached by Andy Reid, who excels at maximizing personnel," Sando wrote. "The bad news is that Watkins simply has not been very productive, a leading reason he is on his third team in eight months.
"The Chiefs are paying Watkins as though he's a sure bet. They were not the only team willing to spend big for him. Dallas was also interested, as was Chicago. It seems like a case of teams valuing a player based more on their draft reports than what the player has done since college. Watkins' annual average is a shade under what Mike Evans got in Tampa Bay and twice what Paul Richardson received in Washington. (Watkins and Richardson have nearly identical numbers over the past two seasons, albeit in eight fewer games for Watkins.)
"Watkins ranks 57th in receptions, 30th in receiving yards and 17th in receiving touchdowns since entering the league in 2014, which could indicate he simply needs more opportunities."
Buffalo's contracts with quarterback AJ McCarron and center Russell Bodine were looked at more favorably by Sando.
Regarding McCarron, who signed for two years and $10 million, Sando wrote: "NFL teams routinely pay big money to questionable quarterbacks simply because there's scarcity at the position and a player might have upside. That did not happen here. The 27-year-old McCarron has a 2-2 starting record (including playoffs) with five touchdowns, one interception and a middling 49.3 Total QBR. His third-down scoring pass gave Cincinnati a late lead in a playoff game against Pittsburgh, and if teammate Jeremy Hill had not lost a fumble, the narrative surrounding McCarron might have been different. Buffalo signed him for about the same as Chicago paid for Chase Daniel, plus incentives."
Bodine also got a two-year contract, worth up to $5 million. That deal ranked 10th on Sando's list of top values, while McCarron's deal was fifth.
"Losing Eric Wood to injury retirement was tough for the Bills, but they rebounded with what could be good under-the-radar signing," Sando wrote. "Bodine has started 16 games in each of his first four seasons. He is 25 years old. And while there are certainly centers who are more talented, Buffalo is getting a young, dependable player at a position with importance that can be underrated."