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20 Bad Recent NFL Signings: Where Should They Have Signed Instead?

The old football cliche tells us that Super Bowl championships are won, and contenders built, during NFL Draft classes, and that good sides are bolstered with free agent signings. While one cannot overstate the importance of each and every NFL Draft, free agent signings often blow up in the faces of front offices and general managers for one reason or another. Perhaps the money and salary cap space tied-up on signings prevent teams from making other necessary moves to compete for playoff spots. Maybe injuries and age affect the players involved, or maybe one of them literally quits and retires at halftime of a game because life is too short to play for a horrible team.

NFL clubs have given observers and customers a plethora of bad recent signings over the past several seasons. Some involved curious decisions regarding quarterbacks who probably should not have been paid in the first place. Others were transactions that saw players past their primes earn paychecks from teams that probably should have gone in different directions. The benefit of hindsight allows us to look back and produce imaginary scenarios in which both teams and players make different decisions. Could any of the players mentioned in this piece have chosen more wisely and signed elsewhere instead of where they landed? Would it have even mattered for any of them?

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20 Chicago Bears Pay Mike Glennon In 2017

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: New York Jets

Financially speaking, Mike Glennon made one of the best decisions of his career when he signed with the Chicago Bears to be the team’s starting quarterback for the 2017 season. After all, that contract guaranteed him over $18 million. However, the Bears showed they had zero faith in Glennon being the long-term answer at the position when the team traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, who took the job from Glennon later that same year. Glennon may have been better off giving a franchise such as the New York Jets a discount in the hope that he would remain with the club longer than a single season. This isn’t the first time you’ll see his name on the list of recent bad signings.

19 Washington Redskins Take A Flyer On Terrelle Pryor In 2017

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Cleveland Browns

Arguably the biggest mistake that former quarterback-turned-wide-receiver Terrelle Pryor has made as a pro was not playing ball and negotiating with the Cleveland Browns following the 2016 season. Pryor has never performed as well as a receiver as he did in Cleveland colors, and joining the Washington Redskins in March 2017 did not end well for either party. Pryor signed with the New York Jets earlier this year, and he managed to make the final roster even though there were rumors Gang Green was going to cut him at the end of the preseason. For whatever reasons, Pryor and the Browns made for a solid partnership.

18 Robert Griffin III Signs With Baltimore Ravens In 2018

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Tennessee Titans

If Robert Griffin III is not actually interested in playing football and just wants to sit and collect a paycheck, signing with the Baltimore Ravens and being behind both Joe Flacco and rookie Lamar Jackson on the depth chart is the right call for him at this point of his life. The 28-year-old is still relatively young for somebody who plays quarterback, though, and he could have had a chance to resurrect whatever is left of his career had he signed with the Tennessee Titans. If I was running the Titans, I’d probably rather have RG3 than Blaine Gabbert playing in place of an injured Marcus Mariota, even if Griffin is a shell of his former self.

17 Adrian Peterson Signs With The New Orleans Saints In 2017

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Washington Redskins

Everything about Adrian Peterson signing with the New Orleans Saints in the spring of 2017 was awful. The Saints appeared to have zero clue about what to do with the veteran, and Peterson was clearly unhappy with his situation until the Saints and Arizona Cardinals orchestrated a trade that sent him to the Cards. Peterson should have just signed with Arizona in the first place even if he would not have helped that team win a title, or if he would have still gone on and joined the Washington Redskins in August 2018. Anything would have been better than his forgettable tenure with the Saints that we’ll all pretend never happened.

16 Arizona Cardinals Sign Sam Bradford In 2018

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Indianapolis Colts

No team other than the Arizona Cardinals was going to give quarterback Sam Bradford $15 million in guaranteed money to start for a couple of games, and maybe no more, before a rookie took the job. Per Spotrac, Bradford has already made over $100 million. He could have signed elsewhere and had a better chance to succeed if he would have done so at a cheaper price. He should be a backup for Andrew Luck with the Indianapolis Colts, and he should be doing so at a discount. That would have given him additional time to learn the offense, and maybe a chance to play in the future knowing all that we know about Luck’s injury history.

15 Cleveland Browns Sign Kenny Britt In 2017

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: New York Giants

The Cleveland Browns had a lot of money to spend in March 2017, which is why wide receiver Kenny Britt may have no regrets about signing a four-year deal with the franchise at that time even though he and the Browns went through a public divorce that ended that December. At best, it was a bad fit for both receiver and team. At worst, Britt quickly lost interest playing for a Browns side that finished the season with a 0-16 record. Maybe he would have been happier signing a cheaper deal with the New York Giants, a team that had a need at the position and could have used his services after Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall went down to injuries.

14 Oakland Raiders Sign Jordy Nelson In 2018

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Green Bay Packers

If we’re being honest about things, wide receiver Jordy Nelson should have done anything possible to remain with the Green Bay Packers past the 2017 season. Having quarterback Aaron Rodgers go to bat for him would have been wise, assuming that didn’t happen. Nelson played with only the Packers for the first ten years of his career, and the 33-year-old who is closer to retirement than his prime is now part of an Oakland mess that is not going to be fixed before January 2019. Nelson and the Packers should, and possibly will, have a reunion before he rides off into the sunset. Hopefully, he is able to play at least one more season with the team that drafted him.

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13 Seattle Seahawks sign Eddie Lacy in 2017

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Kansas City Chiefs

Running back Eddie Lacy has been open and honest about his weight issues, and it’s possible that no franchise would have been able to keep him on course during the 2017 season. Maybe he would have been better off giving the Green Bay Packers a significant hometown discount to stay with the team that brought him into the league, but it is also possible that the Packers wanted to wash their hands of him and move on. If Green Bay was out of the equation by March 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs could have been a good fit at that time. He could have been worth the risk for KC at the right price.

12 Jerick McKinnon To San Francisco 49ers In 2018

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: New York Giants

The San Francisco 49ers overpaid to sign running back Jerick McKinnon earlier this year, and there was nothing that either he or the Niners could do, other than placing him inside of a bubble, to prevent him from tearing his ACL during an early September workout. Remove money and the injury from the discussion, if only for a minute, and the New York Giants would have been the better home for McKinnon. He would have been able to continue working with Pat Shurmur, who was an assistant when the two were with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Giants possibly could have gone in a different direction with the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

11 Martellus Bennett To Green Bay Packers In 2017

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
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Should Have Signed With: Cleveland Browns

Tight end Martellus Bennett should have signed with the Cleveland Browns instead of the Green Bay Packers in 2017. Granted, Bennett probably would not have had any more success with the Browns than he had in the Packers, and the Browns likely would have gone winless with him on the roster for roughly half a year until injuries led to him being released and, later, joining the New England Patriots for the blink of an eye. At least in this scenario, Bennett probably makes more money since the Browns had all kinds of cash to splash in March 2017, and the franchise wouldn’t have been on the hook too much since he retired earlier this year.

10 Buffalo Bills Sign AJ McCarron In 2018

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Cleveland Browns

Speaking of the Cleveland Browns, it is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL that Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson wanted AJ McCarron to join the club during the 2017 season via a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. That didn’t happen, and McCarron agreed to a contract with the Buffalo Bills earlier this year. His tenure with the Bills ended in September when Buffalo traded him to the Oakland Raiders. Even if he had given the Browns a little bit of a discount, it may have been worth it, as he could have played for a Cleveland team that appears to be much better than Buffalo, while also reuniting with Jackson.

9 New York Giants Sign Jonathan Stewart In 2018

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Carolina Panthers

Money isn’t everything, and running back Jonathan Stewart may realize that early into his stint with the New York Giants that may not last an entire season. Stewart not only fell out of favor during the preseason, so much so that he probably would have been shown the door before Week 1 if the Giants weren’t paying him at least $3.45 million in guaranteed cash. He is a non-factor on the offense, thanks largely to the fact that rookie Saquon Barkley is the lead back for Big Blue. New York’s offensive line is in bad shape and probably isn’t getting better anytime soon. Stewart may be missing the Carolina Panthers as of the middle of September.

8 Houston Texans Sign Brock Osweiler In 2016

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Denver Broncos

The Houston Texans gave Brock Osweiler $37 million in guaranteed money to leave the Denver Broncos in March 2016. Denver, clearly, was not interested in matching that offer, and it is likely that he does not regret signing with the Texans whenever he looks at his bank account. Would Osweiler still be a starter in the NFL had he signed with the Broncos for less money? Maybe. At least he probably would not have been traded to the Cleveland Browns one year after the ink on his Houston contract dried. Eventually, Osweiler and the Denver Broncos came back together in 2017. More on that soon. 

7 Geno Smith Stays In New York In 2017

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Los Angeles Chargers

Quarterback Gene Smith was probably happy to exchange New York Jets Gang Green for New York Giants Big Blue in 2017, if only because doing so meant getting away from a franchise that did not do everything possible to help him succeed, and also because it allowed him to remain in the region. Smith probably could not have guessed at the time that then-head coach Ben McAdoo would use him instead of Davis Webb to be the man partly responsible for ending the consecutive starts streak of two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning. Smith may have wished he would have moved west a year early and signed with the Los Angeles Chargers to be a backup out there in March 2017.

6 Miami Dolphins Sign Brock Osweiler In 2018

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Buffalo Bills

Brock Osweiler made millions of dollars thanks to the Houston Texans, and some out there may not even realize that he is still with the league and a backup for the Miami Dolphins. There’s only one destination where Osweiler has flirted with being a successful offensive CEO, and that was with the Denver Broncos. That’s the only place he should be signing as long as the team will have him, regardless of price. Then again, he would probably be the best quarterback on the Buffalo Bills if he could join that club during the fall. Yes, the Bills really are that bad, and things may only get worse for them.

5 Buffalo Bills Sign Vontae Davis In 2018

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Nobody

Before anybody makes any jokes about cornerback Vontae Davis literally quitting on the Buffalo Bills six quarters into the 2018 season, everybody should be sure that he is alright and not dealing with any serious issues behind the scenes we don’t know about. While Davis may not owe anybody any additional explanation than what he offered via Instagram after his in-game retirement, we know that the only team he should have signed for earlier this year was the post-career team. He was a waste of time, money and resources, and the Bills would have been better off had he just walked away during the spring.

4 James Harrison Signs With Pittsburgh Steelers In 2017

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: New England Patriots

Whenever we reflect on the career of linebacker James Harrison, we’ll envision him playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and we’ll also remember those insane workout videos that went viral during the latter stages of his career. Harrison putting pen to paper on a contract with the Steelers in March 2017 was a logical move, at the time, but those in charge of making the decisions elected to keep him a spectator for the majority of that season until the team parted ways with him in December. Realizing Pittsburgh obviously regretted signing Harrison, he would have been better off joining the New England Patriots, where he went soon after Pittsburgh released him.

3 Arizona Cardinals Sign Mike Glennon In 2018

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Perhaps Mike Glennon signed with the Arizona Cardinals in March 2018 because he believed it would only be a matter of time before he would play once Sam Bradford suffered some sort of injury or setback. That all changed when the club drafted Josh Rosen and made Glennon surplus to requirements. Glennon is only 28-years-old, and he should have plenty of football left in the tank even though stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears did not end as he would have liked. Imagine how differently things could have gone had he attempted to return to Tampa Bay earlier this year. Maybe he’d be the magic man down south instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

2 Seattle Seahawks Sign Brandon Marshall In 2018

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Should Have Signed With: Cleveland Browns

Brandon Marshall should have signed for the Cleveland Browns instead of the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year. Much like the Browns, the Seahawks are going nowhere fast during the season, and Seattle will only get worse if it trades its best defensive asset, safety Earl Thomas, in September or October. Cleveland not only could have paid Marshall a little more money; he could have done some good working with young wide receivers and with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield as Mayfield is learning the job from the sidelines as a backup. Instead, Marshall’s career will probably end quietly and without much fanfare following a one-and-done stop with Seattle.

1 Brian Hoyer To San Francisco 49ers In 2017

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Have Signed With: New England Patriots

You almost have to feel bad for quarterback Brian Hoyer. He went from being a career backup to a starter for the Cleveland Browns, his hometown club, where any good memories he created during his time with the team were overshadowed by the circus created by the Browns having Johnny Manziel on the roster. Hoyer signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 to be the team’s starter, but he ultimately lost that job and, later, his spot on the roster after the Niners traded for Jimmy Garoppolo. It would have been better for everybody involved had Hoyer signed with the Patriots, and if the Patriots would have just traded Jimmy G in the spring of 2017.

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