Since NFL free agency is upon us, I figured I would comb through the history books and see who the worst free agency signings have been. Now, there are a ton of awful free agent deals but I narrowed them down to the top ten. After taking a look at the list of terrible free agent signings and contracts, I may have to do a list of the worst historical teams in free agency because a few of them kept popping up during my research for this. Anyway, here is my list of the top ten worst free agent signings…
10. Emmitt Smith – Emmitt is definitely on my short list of great running backs but when he left Dallas, as a free agent, and signed with the Arizona Cardinals it was a very sad day. Even though his contract (2 years, $8 million) wasn’t as outrageous as some of the others on this list, it was still pretty bad. The Cardinals weren’t good and they wanted Emmitt so he could sell tickets. They knew what they were getting. They did get what they paid for…an old, past his prime, legend that looked great on the roster. He only averaged 48 yards per game during his two-year tour in Arizona, before he retired in 2004. Even though Emmitt had the best five o’clock shadow in the NFL, this was a terrible free agent signing.
9. Bruce Smith – After the 1999 season, Bruce Smith tested the free agent market and won when the Redskins forked over a five-year, $25 million contract. The Redskins probably thought that Smith only had another year left but Bruce wanted to chase the all time sack record. He ended up playing four years in Washington and recorded enough sacks to earn the sack record before he retired. This was another attempt to sign a big name at the end of his career to boost attendance for a year or two. Unfortunately, the Redskins had to pay Bruce the bulk of that contract and in return they received a football player that was a shell of his former self.
8. Scott Mitchell – After Dan Marino went down during the 1993 season, Scott Mitchell took over and started seven games for the Miami Dolphins. He didn’t necessarily light the world on fire that season, but it did earn him a 3-year, $11 million contract from the Detroit Lions. Mitchell fulfilled that contract and ended up playing with the Lions for 5 years. His biggest problem while he was in Detroit? The fact that he was softer than toilet paper. He wasn’t the worst quarterback that I’ve ever seen but he wasn’t even close to being mediocre. Either way, Mitchell didn’t get the Lions to the Promised Land, even though he offensive weapon like Barry Sanders and Herman Moore. He proved that backup quarterbacks are backups for a reason.
7. Edgerrin James – After the 2005 season was in the books, James hit the free agent market and got paid in Arizona. Apparently the Cardinals liked making splashy free agent signings at the running back position. Although the first two years in Arizona were productive, as far as total yards, his average yards per rush went down considerably and then everything came to a screeching halt in his third season. He only rushed for 514 yards and was released. James makes my list because of the 4-year, $30 million contract that he signed in Arizona ($11.5 million in added bonuses). It hardly seems like all that money was worth the production that he brought to Arizona. The Cardinals will also make my list of worst teams in free agency. They have had more misses than hits.
6. David Boston – This is one player that the Cardinals were happy to let go. David Boston had some productive seasons in Arizona but his off the field issues, including steroids, got him a one way ticket out of Arizona. The Chargers were happy to bring him into their mess of an organization. He signed a 7-year, $47 million contract with $12 million guaranteed. He only last in San Diego for one year before he became too much trouble. The Chargers basically gave Boston millions of dollars for one season where he only caught 70 passes for 880 yards and 7 TDs…Ahhhhh, money well spent.
5. Jeff Garcia – In 2004, the Browns set their sights on a quarterback that would help move the franchise in the right direction. Their dart throwing landed on Jeff Garcia. Garcia had three Pro Bowl seasons in San Francisco but he was also surrounded by talent. Cleveland signed him to a 4-year, $25 million contract and expected Garcia to perform miracles. Unfortunately, Jesus Christ himself couldn’t help the Browns from under center. After one year the Browns parted ways with Garcia and proceeded to show the NFL that they still could not spot talent or bring it Cleveland. After the 2004 season, Garcia had the stink of Cleveland on him and he began his life as a journeyman quarterback. He played for six other teams after Cleveland before he finally retired.
4. Jevon Kearse – affectionately known as “The Freak,” Jevon Kearse was a monster in Tennessee. When he became a free agent, the Philadelphia Eagles jumped all over it. He was a “can’t miss” free agent. The Eagles locked him up with an 8-year, $65 million contract with a $16 million signing bonus. The first couple years in Philly were good and then everything went downhill from there. Kearse got injured, partied too much and lost the respect of his teammates in the locker room. The Eagles ended up paying Kearse about $30 million of that contract and then released him after the 2007 season.
3. Deion Sanders – Sanders became a free agent in 2000 and was clearly on the down-side of his career. He wasn’t the Deion Sanders that he was in the past. Even so, Dan Snyder opened up his checkbook and signed the aging Hall of Famer to a 7-year, $56 million contract with an $8 million signing bonus. The Redskins and more importantly, Dan Snyder, will also show up in my worst franchises during free agency. None the less, Sanders obviously didn’t perform and he announced his retirement after only one season in Washington. This was obviously a ploy to sell more tickets, merchandise and get more publicity overall. No matter how you look at it, the Redskins got burned by the best.
2. Javon Walker – Here’s one that didn’t surprise me but I actually forgot about. Walker was a monster for a few seasons with the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. He got hurt in 2007 and became a free agent at the end of the season. He wasn’t a can’t miss, but everyone thought he could’ve come back from his injury and thrived. The Raiders decided to sign Walker to a 6-year, $55 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. In two years with the Raiders, Walker made roughly $20 million before they decided that he couldn’t play. In his first season he had 15 catches for 196 yards and didn’t record a stat in his second season. When the dust cleared the Raiders ended up paying Walker just over $100,000 per receiving yard during his two years in Oakland. Javon Walker robbed the Raiders without a gun or a ski mask.
1. Albert Haynesworth – We all knew this one was coming. How this fat ass, lazy bastard managed to get the Washington Redskins and Dan Snyder to agree to a 7-year, $100 million contract for a defensive tackle is beyond my comprehension. The fact that $41 million of that contract was guaranteed is even more unbelievable. There is no way that he will ever be knocked out of the top spot of worst free agent signings. After signing this deal and saying all of the right things in media, Haynesworth showed up to camp overweight and unmotivated. He made it known that he was unhappy with the way that the Redskins were using him and he decided to become an even bigger distraction by challenging the coaching staff. Obviously, Mike Shanahan was not amused. After two seasons, the Redskins shipped him out of Washington.
Well, there you have it. I know there were other free agents that you would like to make this list but I only had time for my top ten. Let me know who you would take off this list and who you would replace them with.
The moral of the story is, before you get all excited when you’re team signs that big name free agent this week, just sit back and wait for the future seasons to play out. Some free agents turn out well, but for every Reggie White there are 10 Albert Haynesworths looking to rob your team of its money and pride.