NFL free agency: Each team's worst signing of last 25 years

  • NFL free agency: Each team’s worst signing of last 25 years

    NFL free agency is the time of year when every team is looking to add pieces to their rosters. While some deals come as bargains and can push teams over the top, plenty of others prove awful deals. Some can set franchises back for years.

    In this 25th year of modern NFL free agency, we picked each team’s worst deal since the market was introduced in 1993.

  • 1Arizona Cardinals: Duane Starks, CB

    Starks parlayed a strong four years in Baltimore (20 interceptions) and an impressive Super Bowl XXXV performance into a five-year, $23 million deal in 2002. He wasn’t the premiere corner he was signed to be, though, as injuries marred his time in Arizona. He wound up playing in just 25 games in three years.

  • 2Atlanta Falcons: Ray Edwards, DE

    The former Viking became a solid pass rusher in Minnesota with 16.5 sacks in the two seasons leading up to 2011 free agency. The Falcons scooped him up on a five-year, $27.5 million deal, but he completely busted. Edwards recorded just 3.5 sacks in his first year. After attitude problems and reduced playing time, he was cut in December 2012.

  • 3Baltimore Ravens: Elvis Grbac, QB

    Grbac played sporadically to start his career but eventually had a huge year with the Chiefs in 2000 … just in time for free agency. The Ravens signed him to be an “upgrade” over Super Bowl game manager Trent Dilfer, but Grbac disappointed and was cut just one year into his five-year, $30 million deal.

  • 4Buffalo Bills: Derrick Dockery, G

    The Bills made a pair of big signings to bolster their offensive line in 2007, and the biggest was Dockery on a seven-year, $49 million deal — the highest for a guard in league history at the time. He started two full seasons but was part of a line that gave up 38 sacks in 2008 and cut with five years left on his deal.

  • 5Carolina Panthers: Sean Gilbert, DT

    Gilbert came to Carolina after sitting out the 1997 season on the franchise tag with Washington. After another tag, the Panthers offered Gilbert the richest defensive contract in history at the time — $46.5 million for seven years. The defensive lineman had six sacks in 1998 but recorded just 9.5 over the next four years. To make matters worse for the Panthers, they had to give the Redskins two first-round picks for signing Gilbert away.

  • 6Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon, QB

    The market for backup quarterbacks has always been a curious one, and Glennon’s deal with the Bears might be the wildest. He was a backup for most of his time in Tampa Bay, but Chicago decided to sign him to a three-year, $45 million deal with a guaranteed $18.5 million. Glennon proceeded to start four games for the Bears before he was benched. He was cut after one year.

  • 7Cincinnati Bengals: Antonio Bryant, WR

    Bryant always had potential as a wide receiver but struggled with injuries and off-field issues during his career. That didn’t stop the Bengals from gambling on him in 2010, when they signed him for $28 million over four years. He wound up never playing a down for Cincinnati while dealing with injuries and struggling in practices. He was cut before the season even began.

  • 8Cleveland Browns: Kenny Britt, WR

    The Browns thought they were getting a resurgent veteran presence coming off of a 1,000-yard season to lead their receiving corps when they signed Britt to a four-year, $32.5 million deal. Instead, he proved to be a poor influence in the locker room, a worse leader and was cut nine games into the 2017 season.

  • 9Dallas Cowboys: Marco Rivera, G

    Rivera was fresh off his third straight Pro Bowl season and on a 106-games played streak when Dallas signed him to a lucrative five-year, $20 million deal in 2005. Unfortunately, the longtime Packers ironman got hit with the injury bug immediately after becoming a Cowboy and wasn’t the same player. He lasted just two seasons in Dallas.

  • 10Denver Broncos: Dale Carter, CB

    Carter spent seven solid seasons in Kansas City racking up 21 interceptions. In 1999, the Broncos decided to make him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history at $22.8 million for four years. Carter regressed in his first year in Denver and was suspended for the entire 2000 season for a fourth substance-abuse violation, leading to his release in 2001.

  • 11Detroit Lions: Az-Zahir Hakim, WR

    The Lions had big plans for the former background member of the “Greatest Show on Turf” when they signed him to a five-year, $16 million deal. Hakim never lived up to the potential in Detroit, though, missing time due to injuries and never going for more than 550 yards in any of his three seasons with the team.

  • 12Green Bay Packers: Martellus Bennett, TE

    Green Bay wasn’t known for making high-profile splashes in free agency under GM Ted Thompson, but in 2017, they decided to add Bennett to fill a big need at tight end. They gave him $21 million over three years but only got seven games out of him. They wound up waiving him with a failure to disclose a medical condition designation that turned into a battle to recoup signing bonus money.

  • 13Houston Texans: Brock Osweiler, QB

    The Texans’ signing of Osweiler might be the worst in free agency history. The quarterback showed enough in his first four seasons with the Broncos to make him the prized target of the 2016 class. Houston opened up the checkbook and signed him to a four-year, $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed. As most know by now, the Osweiler experiment was a disaster that ended in the Texans trading him along with a second-round pick just to rid themselves of the deal.

  • 14Indianapolis Colts: Andre Johnson, WR

    Johnson was one of the best receivers of his era, and after 12 seasons with the Texans, he hit free agency for the first time in 2015. The division-rival Colts swooped in and signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal but never got the return on their investment. Johnson amassed just over 500 yards and was cut the next offseason.

  • 15Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerry Porter, WR

    After spending eight seasons as a quality wideout for the Raiders, Porter hit the free-agent market in 2008 and signed a six-year deal for $30 million with Jacksonville. He was essentially a no-show for the Jaguars as injuries and ineffectiveness led to him recording just 11 catches, 181 yards and one touchdown in 10 games before he was released.

  • 16Kansas City Chiefs: Kendrell Bell, LB

    Bell was a solid defensive playmaker for the Steelers despite injury issues, even earning a Rookie of the Year honor before he signed a seven-year deal with the Chiefs. Unfortunately, he never lived up to his deal and recorded just 2.5 sacks in his three years in Kansas City.

  • 17Los Angeles Chargers: David Boston, WR

    Playing his first four seasons in Arizona, Boston recorded two seasons over 1,100 yards before injuries limited him in 2002. That didn’t stop the Chargers from signing him to a seven-year, $47 million deal. Boston clashed with upper management, though, and despite an 880-yard season, he was traded away just one year later for a sixth-round pick.

  • 18Los Angeles Rams: Drew Bennett, WR

    Bennett enjoyed a string of successful seasons in his six years with Tennessee. When he hit free agency in 2007, the Rams decided he was worth $30 million over six years with $10 million guaranteed. After a disappointing first year, Bennett injured his knee, missing all of his second season, He was cut the next offseason.

  • 19Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace, WR

    The former Steelers stud parlayed his big-play talents into a massive, $60 million deal with the Dolphins. He still managed a pair of solid seasons in Miami, going for nearly 1,800 yards total, but he never provided the same playmaking talent to live up to his lofty deal. He wound up getting traded to the Vikings with three years left on his deal.

  • 20Minnesota Vikings: Fred Smoot, CB

    Smoot turned 16 picks and four solid seasons in Washington into a six-year, $34 million deal with the Vikings in 2005. The cornerback would later be involved in the infamous Love Boat scandal, which marred his already poor performance in Minnesota. After completing two years with the Vikings, Smoot was cut.

  • 21New England Patriots: Adalius Thomas, LB

    Thomas turned an impressive 2006 campaign into a big-time deal with the Patriots. He signed for $35 million ($20 million guaranteed) over five years. Thomas was a solid contributor during New England’s undefeated regular-season run in 2007, but injuries mixed with a minor discipline-related issue and a regression in performance led to his release after just three seasons with the team.

  • 22New Orleans Saints: Jairus Byrd, S

    The Saints had been big spenders in free agency and made the former Bills All-Pro safety a rich man, signing him to a six-year, $56 million deal with $28 million guaranteed. Byrd wasn’t the same player in New Orleans after tearing his meniscus in his fourth game. He was cut after three disappointing seasons with the team.

  • 23New York Giants: LaVar Arrington, LB

    Arrington was a big-time contributor for the Redskins, who drafted him with the second pick in 2000. Injuries hampered the end of his Washington career, though, and he eventually signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Giants in 2006. Arrington lasted just seven games before rupturing his Achilles, leading to New York releasing him after the season with retirement to follow.

  • 24New York Jets: Neil O’Donnell, QB

    Six decent seasons in Pittsburgh was enough for the Jets to give Neil O’Donnell $25 million over five years in 1996. O’Donnell lasted just six games in his first season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury and eventually fell out of favor with the coaching staff in his second year. After refusing to re-negotiate his contract, he was waved just two years into his deal with New York.

  • 25Oakland Raiders: Javon Walker, WR

    Walker had success in Green Bay but had issues with the front office. He then was traded to Denver, which released him after two seasons. The Raiders still decided to sign the wideout to a six-year, $55 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Walker wound up getting injured in his only two seasons in Oakland and record just 196 yards and one score on 15 catches in those two years.

  • 26Philadelphia Eagles: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB

    Asomugha was considered a top lockdown corner during his first eight years with the Raiders. As such, Philadelphia signed him to a $60 million deal over five years with $25 million guaranteed in 2011. Asomugha made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Eagles but was terrible in 2012. He eventually was released just two seasons into the deal.

  • 27Pittsburgh Steelers: Sean Mahan, C

    A successful run as the Buccaneers’ starting center for three seasons led to a big payday for Mahan in 2007. He signed for $17 million over five seasons and started all 16 regular-season games, but he was a disappointment in Pittsburgh. He wound up getting cut after just one year with the team.

  • 28San Francisco 49ers: Antonio Langham, CB

    Langham played for the Browns and the expansion Ravens before heading to San Francisco on a five-year deal worth $17 million in 1998. That contract never played out, though, as Langham disappointed in his time with the 49ers, recording just one pick and 33 tackles. He was cut the next offseason.

  • 29Seattle Seahawks: Matt Flynn, QB

    Multiple impressive performances in a backup role with Green Bay led to Flynn being the prized QB in 2012 and saw him sign with the Seahawks for $20.5 million over three years. Seattle ended up hitting on third-round pick Russell Wilson, who forced his way into the starting spot while Flynn spent a season as a backup before he was traded to Oakland for two late-round picks.

  • 30Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Alvin Harper, WR

    Improving in each of his first four seasons with the Cowboys, Harper hit free agency in 1995 and signed a $10.6 million deal over four years with Tampa Bay. He was a bust signing for the Bucs, though, and recorded less than 1,000 in his brief, two-year tenure with the team before he was cut.

  • 31Tennessee Titans: Yancey Thigpen, WR

    Thigpen was a quality playmaker in his six seasons with the Steelers before he signed the richest deal for a wide receiver at the time, with the Titans for $21 million over five years. Thigpen helped Tennessee get to Super Bowl XXXIV but was an overall disappointment with the Titans. He lasted just three years in Tennessee before he retired.

  • 32Washington Redskins: Albert Haynesworth, DT

    Despite some questionable on-field incidents, Haynesworth was regarded as one of the league’s most dominant defenders when he hit free agency in 2009. As such, he cashed in with the Redskins for $100 million over seven years. Haynesworth butted heads with the coaching staff from the get-go in Washington, and his performance on the field didn’t help his cause. He eventually was traded to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick after just two seasons.

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