The Best And Worst Free Agency Signing In NFL History
When the NFL free agency period starts, the money starts flying. Every team thinks that they have a shot at the Super Bowl and decide to spend a ton of cash on players they hope will make their team substantially better.
Some of these free agents will make their teams instantly more competitive, while other players are total busts. This article takes a deeper look into the biggest booms and busts of free agency in the NFL, and you’re probably not going to believe where Ndamukong Suh falls. First, we’re going to dive into the overspenders and garbage pickups.
It might be hard to believe for some football fans, but there was a time that Adam Archuleta was the highest paid safety in the history of the NFL. While Archuleta isn’t exactly a household name, the Washington Redskins still gave him a six-year, $30 million contract in 2007 before releasing him after only starting seven games.
He was picked up by the Chicago Bears, but Washington was forced to eat up a lot of his money in order to move him.
One of the most shocking free agency signings in the NFL was when the Washington Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth for seven years and $100 million in 2009.
Prior to the signing, he had been one of the best defensive linemen in the game for the Tennessee Titans, but even at his best, he wasn’t worth the money he was getting. Washington was hoping he would be the anchor to their defense, but once he got paid, he never recaptured that same drive to be the best.
The Oakland Raiders saw the writing on the wall with their wide receiver Jerry Porter and didn’t bother signing him to an extension. Instead, the Jacksonville Jaguars swooped in and made one of the worst free agent deals of all time.
They offered him a six-year, $30 million contract (that he probably wasn’t even expecting at the time) and quickly showed he wasn’t worth the price tag. He only lasted a single season with the Jags and had a mere 11 catches along the way.
Neil O’Donnell was the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they were embarrassed in Super Bowl XXX. But, getting to the Super Bowl itself is quite a feat, and netted the QB a five-year, $25 million contract the following year with the New York Jets.
Despite having a very high price tag, O’Donnell was a complete bust for the Jets and only completed one full season. In his defense, that season was marred with injuries and he only ended up starting six games.
One might say that overpaying for an offensive lineman will never end well for your team, and the Miami Dolphins can attest to that. They threw a five-year, $29 million contract at Jake Grove after he finished his injury-plagued four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Grove ended up only playing 12 games for the Dolphins before he got seriously injured and sat out the rest of the season. He was cut before the next season even began and the franchise had to eat up most of his money.
Chuck Smith was probably one of the biggest free agency picks up in the history of the NFL. He was the all-time leader in sacks and a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, but decided to take his talents to the Carolina Panthers.
He signed a five-year, $21 million contract, but ended up only playing two games with the Panthers in his first year due to injury. He retired by the end of that season.
Another day, another franchise left holding the bag after an awful free agency signing. This time, it comes in the form of a four-year, $22.8 million contract for Dale Carter from the Denver Broncos. As soon as he arrived in Denver his play saw a steep decline.
He was known as a headache off of the field and that’s exactly what he was with the Broncos. He was suspended by the league for a year for substance abuse and then he was released by the Broncos before the start of the next season.
Antonio Bryant was never someone who was known as a “locker room guy.” In fact, he had a lot of people comparing his attitude to Terrell Owens, and at one point, he was cut from a team before the season even started.
The Cinncinatti Bengals signed Bryant to a four-year, $28 million contract after knowing that he was basically a boom-or-bust type guy. Well, Bryant only lasted a year and, as was mentioned before, he got cut in training camp and released from the team.
Ahman Green is one of the only running backs on this list because they’re usually the players who have the least amount of transitioning to do with their new team. They don’t have to build a rapport with a QB or wide receivers, and generally, aren’t as grossly overpaid. But, Ahman Green was an exception to this.
He led the NFL in rushing between 2000 and 2004, and signed a four-year, $23 million deal with the Houston Texans where he rushed for only 554 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons.
This was a free agency mistake that many general managers at the time would’ve made. During the 2010 season, Nnamdi Asomugha was widely considered to be one of the most dominant cornerbacks in the league. The Oakland Raiders were unable to come up with the money needed to keep him, so the Philadelphia Eagles jumped in and signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract.
The Eagles went 12-20 in the two seasons that Asomugha was on the team. He was released and picked up by the San Francisco 49ers.
When the Cleveland Browns signed Andre Rison in 1995, the fan base was incredibly excited. He was a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons and was showing even more potential than anyone had originally thought.
The Browns signed him to a five-year, $17 million deal that at the time made him the highest paid wide receiver in NFL history. Rison ended up lasting only one season with the Browns, collecting 47 catches and was a non-factor in almost every game.
Suh was one of the most dominant defensive linemen to ever play the game when he was with the Detroit Lions. Ndamukong Suh signed a deal in the spring of 2015 with the Miami Dolphins for six years and $114 million, with $60 million guaranteed. The deal made him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history.
Suh only missed four games in three seasons with the Dolphins, but he certainly didn’t play like the highest paid defensive player. He was never dominant and ended up becoming a huge distraction off the field for his new team.
DeMarco Murray was very productive during the first few years of his NFL career. That productivity was exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles’ executives were looking for, and they ended up offering him a five-year, $40 million contract that he signed in the 2015 offseason.
Murray’s production ended up dropping to just 702 rushing yards in 2015 and the Eagles traded Murray to the Tennessee Titans the very next season. Obviously, he didn’t end up living up to his contract.
There have been a lot of teams that have put a lot of their marbles in on a young quarterback hoping that he’ll end up being the face of the franchise. There might not be a more relevant example than Matt Flynn in 2012. After being the backup QB to Aaron Rodgers and capitalizing on the very few chances he was given, the young backup was awarded a three-year, $20.5 million deal from the Seattle Seahawks.
Flynn was so bad that he didn’t even make it out of training camp. Russell Wilson was a rookie third-round pick in Seattle that year and outplayed Flynn by a wide margin. Flynn was cut by the time the season started.
Peyton Manning’s leadership skills are one of the main reasons that he’s considered as one of the best quarterbacks ever. Football fans were shocked when the Indianapolis Colts let Manning go into free agency without giving him a competitive deal to stay.
The Colts wanted to go young and healthy with Andrew Luck, and the Denver Broncos only cared about winning. They did just that with Peyton leading their offense and it remains one of the best free agent signings of all time.
Free agency and the NFL draft is generally full of running backs that were supposed to make a huge impact on their new team and failed. But, Michael Turner was certainly not a failure. Before signing with the Atlanta Falcons, he was the upcoming backup to LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego.
He came to Atlanta with some high expectations and he absolutely met these expectations. He finished his first season with 1,699 yards rushing (second in the league) and 17 touchdowns. He had two subsequent 1,000 yards rushing seasons right after that.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added Simeon Rice and solidified their incredibly deep team. The Bucs already had one of, if not the best defenses in the league going into the season, so adding one of the leagues best pass rushers put them over the top.
Rice recorded five straight seasons of double-digit sacks with the Bucs and was a very important part of the 2002 Super Bowl team that trounced the Oakland Raiders.
Rod Woodson was an 11-time Pro Bowler with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1990s. He was one of the biggest steals of free agency in NFL history when the Baltimore Ravens picked him up with a VERY modest contract in 1998.
Woodson was part of the dominant defense that helped lead the Ravens to their first ever Super Bowl win. Steelers fans would always have a love for him, and he showed his affection for the franchise when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Steeler.
James Farrior never got the hype like his teammates like Troy Polamalu and Joey Porter, but he was an incredible addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was drafted by the New York Jets and widely considered to be a bust by most of the league.
He was picked up in the 2002 offseason by the Steelers and was basically a do-it-all linebacker for the next several seasons. He was a huge part of the Steelers defense that had Super Bowl wins in 2005 and 2007.
Mike Vrabel was a role player for the Pittsburgh Steelers who ended up being an absolute steal (no pun intended) for the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick doesn’t get enough credit for his free agency pickups, but Vrabel instantly started making an impact in his first year.
The Pats won three Super Bowls with Vrabel on the team, and he made touchdown receptions in both Super Bowl XXVIII and XXXIX. He became the first defensive player to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl since William “Refrigerator” Perry in Super Bowl XX.