In the National Football League, players make the most out of the contracts they sign. They usually want to get the most money possible per season, along with incentives and a large portion of the contract guaranteed – regardless of how well they perform or whether they are cut or not. And in recent years, those contracts have grown larger and larger.
While some teams are able to get what they paid for an established free agent during an offseason, there are just as many busts – similar to the risk and reward of selecting a player in the NFL Draft. Someone may have looked good on paper based on statistics from recent seasons, and the numbers show that they can be a big addition to a team.
Unfortunately, the numbers never really consider things like a players’ attitude and personality and how it can clash within the locker room. Remember when the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for a seven-year, $100 million contract. Not only was Haynesworth a bad choice for a 3-4 defense, but he didn’t keep up his fitness as one would have expected someone being paid a $100 million contract.
Haynesworth is not the first free agent bust, nor will he be the last. And that doesn’t mean that all free agent busts are the ones offered the big contracts. Sometimes, a team will sign someone who will add some extra depth, but is not likely going to contribute much. The following 15 players are free agent signings from the past offseason who will likely struggle in the 2017 season.
17 Michael Floyd - Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings made a low-risk move by signing wide receiver Michael Floyd to a one-year deal worth only $1.5 million (possibly $6 million based on performance). Floyd has certainly had a tough time over the past year, dating back to a DUI arrest in 2016. Floyd would find himself cut by the Arizona Cardinals in December 2016 after an arrest earlier that week. Floyd’s declining performance was also an issue at the time.
He was a late addition to the New England Patriots roster, but only had four receptions in the two regular season games he played. Floyd was also inactive during the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over Atlanta. Throw in Floyd’s four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, and Floyd is not going to have a good start to the 2017 season.
16 Robert Woods - L.A. Rams
Roberts Woods has 39 million reasons to be happy after this past offseason. Woods signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams for $39 million. His career numbers are respectable, but it feels like he got a pretty good deal despite never having more than the 699 yards in 2014. In his four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Woods had a total of 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But Woods played next to Sammy Watkins and maybe he thought a change of scenery would give him more opportunities. Unfortunately, Watkins was recently traded to the Rams in a mega trade involving the Bills, Rams and Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 11. Any chance Woods thought he had of exceeding 1,000 yards in 2017 just got smaller.
15 Brian Hoyer, QB, San Francisco
Speaking of quarterback Brian Hoyer, he was the first quarterback to lead the new offensive system designed by first year head coach Kyle Shanahan. Hoyer was signed to a two-year contract that made it seem like he would be the No. 1 quarterback for 2017. Most of his career has been spent as a back-up, minus coming in to have a 7-6 record in 2014 with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer also started five games in Chicago with a 98.0 rating.
However, he’s had some injury problems that make him a risk for the 49ers. Hoyer suffered an ACL injury in 2013. He also suffered a broken arm in Chicago against the Green Bay Packers. The team seems optimistic after coming to camp. But he’s joining one of the worst teams in the league that will be going through a rebuild. Hoyer is also not likely going to be the long-term answer in San Francisco.
14 Adrian Peterson - New Orleans Saints
There’s no doubt that Adrian Peterson is going to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he retires. However, he’s likely going to struggle in what could be his final year in the NFL. Peterson signed for a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints for $7 million, but running backs have been known to lose production after hitting 30 years of age. Last season, Peterson was only able to play in three games – 32 rushes for 72 yards on the ground.
Peterson’s injuries from 2016 aren’t likely going to promote any optimism. He landed on the Injured Reserve list after a torn meniscus in Week 2, followed by a groin strain late last season in December. Sure, he’s proven he could have a good season after hitting 30. In 2015, Peterson ran for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Vikings. But it’s doubtful that lightning can strike twice when history is working against Peterson.
13 Pierre Garcon - San Francisco 49ers
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was able to sign a five-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers this past offseason for a total of $47.5 million. Along with the $12 million signing bonus and other factors, Garcon could make more than $16 million in his first season in the Bay Area. Garcon has respectable numbers with 564 receptions for 7,068 yards and 37 touchdowns. But last season was only the second year he eclipsed the 1,000-receiving-yard mark.
His numbers came while playing in offenses with good quarterbacks like Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) and Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins). He’s not going to have the same kind of production when looking at the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback situation – Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard don’t exactly inspire enthusiasm. Don’t expect Garcon to have close to last year’s numbers of 1,041 yards and three touchdowns.
11 A.J. Bouye - Jacksonville Jaguars
Sometimes, a talented defensive player will decide to go for the big money rather than stay on a potential playoff contender. Cornerback A.J. Bouye could have chosen to stay with a potential top-10 defense with the Houston Texans; in a system where he had six interceptions in the previous three seasons. But the almighty dollar – 67 and a half million of them to be exact – was enough to send him to Jacksonville.
Bouye will not be the shining star in a foggy sky that is a Jaguar defense that ranked 25th in the NFL in points allowed. And don’t expect Bouye to be the reason Jacksonville improves on their 3-13 season in 2016. It’s also worth noting that half of Bouye’s career interceptions came from the 2014 season. He had two in 2015 and only one interception in 2016.
10 Matt Kalil - Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers went from a championship contender after the 2015 season to a below .500 team last season. In an effort to help quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers made the decision to invest in the offensive line. At least they wanted to reduce the frequency of opposing pass rushes getting hits on their star quarterback. However, there are concerns with signing former Minnesota Viking tackle Matt Kalil to a five-year, $55 million deal to start in 2017.
For one, he went from allowing only six sacks in his first two seasons to allowing 12 in 2014. After a not-as-rough 2015, Kalil would spend most of last season on injured reserve after having hip surgery. Health and declining play are not good signs of an offensive lineman’s future. The Panthers are hoping they see more of what he did in 2012 and 2013. It’s most likely those were flukes.
9 Alan Branch, DE, New England
Unlike most of the players on this list, defensive end Alan Branch was able to be signed by the team he was with last year – the New England Patriots. It made sense for both parties. The Patriots allowed him to look at the free agent market and he chose to return to keep the defensive line that helped win Super Bowl LI. Branch will enter his 11th season after signing a two-year contract worth $12 million.
However, he wasn’t part of New England’s voluntary offseason program. He was also working out on his own during the mandatory minicamp in June. He opened up the training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list after not being able to pass the team’s conditioning test. It will be interesting to see when he’ll get into the active roster. But the Patriots would have liked to have seen one of their most consistent defenders from last season be ready for the preseason schedule.
8 LeGarrette Blount - Philadelphia Eagles
On paper, there would be some reason for excitement for Philadelphia fans. The Eagles picked up someone who rushed for 18 touchdowns last season with the New England Patriots. Now imagine what a healthy LeGarrette Blount can do with what some writers view as the best offensive line group in the league. However, Blount has never been a true No. 1 starter for a large portion of any season. He’s usually split carries with other backs – even in New England last season.
Let’s not forget that Blount is 31 years old and the NFL has a well-noted history of running backs who eclipse the 30-years-old mark. Earlier this month, there were concerns around Blount’s heading into Philadelphia’s training camp. The media guide had him weighing 250 pounds. Blount is likely to see a big decline from last year’s numbers, which isn’t good for the Eagles’ overall chances of success in 2017.
7 Luke Willson - Seattle Seahawks
Putting Luke Willson on this list has nothing to do with his overall abilities. Unlike some of the players on this list, Willson is someone who will struggle to get the opportunities to make plays, through no fault of his own. Willson will be serving as the back-up to Jimmy Graham, who should be expected to have chances to hit his expected All-Pro numbers. But Willson wasn’t signed to return to Seattle to be a starter.
Willson is the kind of player who can be a dependable blocker and a second option. He has made plays as a receiver, which is a shame because he has the work ethic to be a top tight end. Willson’s struggles will not be the kind that condemns him in future seasons. While there might be some chance he becomes a dark horse surprise in the offense, it’s doubtful when in the same group as Graham.
6 Eddie Lacy - Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have been hoping to find a permanent replacement for the hole left behind by Marshawn Lynch. The Eddie Lacy seen in his last two seasons with the Green Bay Packers was someone who struggled with weight issues and injuries. But the Seahawks are hoping to get the Lacy who rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2013; following that up with 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014.
When Lacy first reported to Seattle, he weighed in at 267 pounds. He’s since dropped some weight to meet monetary incentive goals. But Lacy also has a history of gaining weight back, as seen last season in Green Bay. The rope is short for Lacy, who has a very talented Thomas Rawls waiting to get called for more carries. The Seahawks also have a talented back-up in Alex Collins.
5 Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago
After years of being stuck with having to pay big money to Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears were finally able to let him go without a major penalty to their salary cap. The team addressed their need for a new quarterback by signing Mike Glennon to a three-year contract worth for an average of about $14.5 million per season. While it’s high, it is reflective of the open market. That doesn’t excuse the fact Glennon will likely be another Chicago quarterback to struggle since the 1980s.
Glennon started 13 games as a rookie in 2013 and had some decent numbers – 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He would move into a back-up role behind Josh McCown in 2014 and then Jameis Winston the last two years. If history is any indication, Glennon will likely win one or two games as a starter with a horrible Chicago offense – throwing rookie Mitch Trubisky into the fire sometime around early November.
4 Jay Cutler - Miami Dolphins
Speaking of terrible quarterbacks with ties to the Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler was a late addition to the Miami Dolphins roster. While options were certainly limited for a team that just lost Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury, there’s not a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to Cutler returning to the football field. No one is excited, not even Cutler. The fact that he had to be convinced to play for $10 million by his wife shouldn’t make Miami fans hopeful.
Sure, Cutler had his best professional season in 2015 with Adam Gase as the offensive coordinator with the Bears (92.3 quarterback rating). But even with Gase as head coach, Cutler will likely revert to his old habits of throwing to the wrong team and forcing the ball into tough windows. Just ask Chicago fans how excited they were before he had his first start in 2009.
3 Russell Okung - L.A. Chargers
In an attempt to improve their offensive line, the Los Angeles Chargers made the decision to sign former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Russell Okung to a four-year contract this past offseason. The Chargers are hoping to get the kind of Okung who had five solid years to start his career with the Seattle Seahawks. But his first, and only year, with the Denver Broncos last season saw him lead the NFL with 11 offensive lineman penalties.
There is a chance last year’s decline in discipline is a fluke. But now at age 30, it might have been the start of a new trend. At least when Okung was able to get himself signed for his contract with the Chargers, he was able to get $25 million guaranteed; unlike the lack of guaranteed money when he was his own agent for the contract with Denver last offseason. One would hope that’s a sign of his overall improvement, right?
2 Brandon Marshall - N.Y. Giants
One would have to think that Brandon Marshall is going to be considered one of the best wide receivers during the late 2000s and into the 2010s. But much like once top receivers like Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Terrell Owens, Marshall is likely to be a receiver who plays himself out of the league instead of retiring on top. His numbers have not been very good in two of the last three seasons – including the disappointing 788 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games with the New York Jets.
He’s often had issues with teammates with the four teams he played for since 2006. The New York Giants will be his fifth team; one that already has a lot of talented receivers in Odell Beckham, Jr., and Sterling Shepard. There’s a good chance he could be the veteran leader of a young receiving group. But his currently quiet nature isn’t likely going to last. And he’ll become more of a distraction when he’s not receiving as many targets as he would like to demand.