Buyer beware free agents: Barwin and Avery

Khaled Elsayed of ESPN Insider identified a list of buyer beware free agents to-be, and two of them are out of the AFC South. They don’t qualify as surprises: Texans outside linebacker Connor Barwin and Colts receiver Donnie Avery.

Barwin had a contract offer from the Texans before the season when he was coming off an 11.5-sack season. He passed and played the final year of his rookie deal, but his production tumbled to three sacks.

He’s a smart, high effort player and a great guy in the locker room.

But the Texans drafted Whitney Mercilus in the first round last year. They’ll always need at least three quality outside linebackers for Wade Phillips’ 3-4, but if they feel Barwin’s price is too high, I believe they could replace him with a less expensive free agent or a mid-range draft pick.

Says Elsayed: “Barwin finished the year as (Pro Football Focus’) third-lowest ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, struggling in all areas of the game. As a pass-rusher he had the fourth-lowest score of his peers in our pass rushing productivity rating after notching 40 combined sacks, hits and hurries on 533 pass rushes, while in the run game his run stop percentage score of 4.0 was the sixth-lowest number. You spend big money on impact players and Barwin just isn't one of those.”

As for Avery, I’m not imagining there will be much of a market for him. Perhaps Bruce Arians, for whom he was a deep threat in Indianapolis, will want him in Arizona. The Colts will become more of a West Coast offense with Pep Hamilton calling plays. The one thing Avery can do very well, stretch a defense by running deep, is less valuable in that offense.

Says Elsayed: “… The former Ram was targeted 25 times on balls aimed over 20 yards in the air (13th highest in the league), yet only caught six of them while dropping four.

“Indeed, drops were a huge problem for the unreliable Avery, as he led our drop rate signature stat for wideouts after dropping 12 of 72 catchable balls. A team might think he can provide another dimension to its offense but in essence it will overspend on plays left on the field.”