In mid-March of every year when the NFL calendar turns, bunches of talented players are out looking for bigger paychecks or greener pastures. Because of the constant pressure to succeed both as a player and as a franchise a lot of times more money is offered to a player in hopes of squeezing the last few drops of talent out of them or a gamble on promise that a player has shown in the early part of their career. Not to mention the growth of the sport creating way more revenue for teams, making salary caps bigger and demand for higher pay leveraged in the player's advantage.
As a result of all of this every team at one time or another has doled out a large sum of money to a player on the verge of decline or one that fit into a system and used that to exploit talent that they may otherwise not have. Often ending in a team having to cut their losses with a player and search elsewhere before too much money is dumped into what no longer seems like a viable investment.
Scoring often is the name of today's NFL and every year it seems a passer, pass catcher or pass rusher is given a long term contract near or at a nine figure salary. These gaudy numbers though sometimes make a player content with their work and the grind of the NFL schedule is something no longer as interesting as when a player is young and hungry.
Here is a list each NFL franchise's worst case of overspending.
32 ARIZONA - Emmitt Smith
The move to bring Emmitt Smith to Arizona, after thirteen Hall of Fame worthy seasons in Dallas, was likely an effort to fill seats in an empty stadium that hosted a bad team rather than a results driven expectation. Still the cash paid to the former All-Pro and Super bowl MVP was outrageous for the return the Cardinals received. Smith never played a full season for the Cardinals and while he racked up a mere 1,193 yards and 11 touchdowns over the course of his two seasons there he still collected a hefty bounty of $7.5 Million. Enough for second highest salary in the league for a running back at that time.
31 ATLANTA - Michael Vick
Over the course of his first four seasons in the NFL Michael Vick quickly became the most electrifying player and face of the league. After leading the Falcons to the NFC championship game in 2004 Atlanta rewarded Vick with a ten-year $130 million contract extension, the most expensive at its time. The world however is well aware how this panned out as Vick lead the Falcons to two disappointing seasons in ‘05 and ‘06 going 15-16 with him under center as well as just 4,886 passing yards over the course of the first two years of the contract. Any hope that the Falcons had of the situation turning around in its third year were crushed amidst the oh-so-famous dog fighting ring that cost Vick two years of his prime and ultimately thrust him into life rebuilding mode.
30 BALTIMORE - Elvis Grbac
During the 2000 season Elvis Grbac threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns playing for a mediocre Kansas City Chiefs team. Meanwhile the Baltimore Ravens and a coming-of-age Ray Lewis were busy winning the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy with dominating defense and “game manager” Trent Dilfer. After the season the Ravens felt they could become a dominating force if they had a franchise quarterback. They brought in Elvis Grbac on a 5-year, $30 million deal. Grbac seemed to be an imposter... much like his People Magazine’s 1998 Sexiest Athlete of the Year victory. Grbac threw for a pedestrian 3,033 yards and 15 touchdowns to 18 picks in 2001, the Ravens missed the playoffs, Grbac was cut and then retired.
29 BUFFALO - Derrick Dockery
It seems as if the Buffalo Bills almost always pick up players right at the decline of their career. So it is of no surprise that in 2008 when Derrick Dockery signed with the team at seven-years and $49 million, his Pro Bowl days were probably over. Though Dockery started all 32 games in his two years in Buffalo the Bills decided the $7 million per year tag was too high for a player that lacked consistent play and he was cut after the 2008 season.
28 CAROLINA - Chuck Smith
After the 1999 season the Carolina Panthers were desperate to improve their defensive line. With the starting front four recording just six sacks on the season, the Panthers were ready to break the bank for any player willing to come in and boost the quality of the pass rush. So when Chuck Smith, fresh off a 10 sack season, four coming against the Panthers, was available the 5-year $21 million offer was an easy decision to make for Carolina. Smith, who was coming off his eighth season in the NFL saw one last opportunity to make a serious paycheck and had no problem leaving Atlanta for the rival Panthers. However appearing in just two games and never recording a sack the Panthers were forced to part ways with a player clearly past his prime.
27 CHICAGO - Jay Cutler
One of the most inconsistent players in NFL history, Jay Cutler has gracefully teetered between elite level play and being worthy of a job as a back-up. After a Pro Bowl season in 2008 as a member of the Denver Broncos the Bears saw an opportunity to snag a franchise quarterback while Brian Urlacher and the Bears defense was still playing at an elite level. After four seasons of mid-level play and only staying on the field for a full season once, the Bears believed that making Cutler one of the highest paid players in NFL history would be the cure to the problem of inconsistency. However as the only constant in Cutler's career the ups and downs just continued. As injuries have piled up, numbers have hit peaks and valleys, the once promising quarterback has been part of trade discussions more frequently than conversations of who the top QB’s in the league are.
26 CINCINNATI - Michael Westbrook
The other city in Ohio that hosts an NFL team is another not-so-frequent destination for high profile players. Though for a different reason than Cleveland, Cincinnati is known for building through the draft and not throwing huge dollar amounts at players seeking the highest payday available. This was however untrue in 2002 when the Bengals gave seven-year veteran and former first-round draft pick Michael Westbrook three-years and $4.5 million. Amidst a time of the lowest of lows in Bengals country the receiver managed only eight grabs for 94 yards in nine of the teams eleven games before being cut.
25 CLEVELAND - LeCharles Bentley
Cleveland generally is not considered a sought after destination among NFL free agents so typically the Browns don’t get the opportunity to throw money at players that don’t pan out. But in 2006 when LeCharles Bentley who grew up in Cleveland and played college football at Ohio State, hit the open market as the top overall unrestricted free-agent the Browns locked up the Pro Bowler for six-years at a cost of $36 million. However in true Browns fashion Bentley suffered a knee injury on his first day of practice that lead to a staph infection that cost him his career and almost his leg. The aftermath of the injury is not a pretty sight.
24 DALLAS - Mike Vanderjagt
Mike Vanderjagt spent the first 8 years of his career kicking for a Peyton Manning led offense that was constantly in field goal range or the end zone. The relationship between Manning and Vanderjagt was publicly rocky, so when future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri and his three Super Bowl rings (he had the winning score in each game) became a free agent the Colts decided to move on from Vanderjagt. The game’s most accurate kicker at the time.
After years of journeymen kickers the Dallas Cowboys saw this as a huge opportunity for more points and signed Vanderjagt for 3 years and $5.4 million. Only seeing the field in ten games Vanderjagt spent his final NFL season posting career lows in attempts (18), field goals made (13), and percentage (72.2%)
23 DENVER - Dale Carter
During Dale Carter's first 7 years in the NFL playing for the Kansas City Chiefs he missed just 8 games during that time, racked up 4 Pro Bowls and a Defensive ROY award in 1992. So it was an easy decision for the Denver Broncos to make a massive offer of 6-years and $34.8 million to not only help themselves but weaken a division rival. The stats never were in Denver as they were in Kansas City in 1999 and problems with his alcohol abuse became too big and Carter was suspended for the entire 2000 season for violating the NFL Substance Abuse Policy. Making the decision easy for the Broncos to part ways with the cornerback.
22 DETROIT - Scott Mitchell
Having spent his first three seasons in the NFL as a backup to Dan Marino, Scott Mitchell was hardly given an opportunity to show the world what he had. However Marino suffered a torn achilles tendon during the 2003 season, giving Mitchell the to prove himself. Providing just a seven game sample size before being sidelined by injury himself, Mitchell’s middle-of-the-pack statistics were enough to earn a 3-year $11 million tryout with the Lions. Mitchell put up decent numbers and improved in each of the three years earning himself the contract that landed him on this list: a 4-year $21 million deal in 1997. Mitchell performed well in the first year of the contract but saw the field for just the first two games of the 1998 season before being benched in favor of Charlie Batch then being released by the team after the season.
21 GREEN BAY - Joe Johnson
The Green Bay Packers aren’t known for making many free agent signing mistakes. They tend to be not only good at drafting quality contributors but doing some of the best research for the players they bring in from other teams. In 2002 this was not the case when Green Bay brought in former New Orleans Saints Pro Bowler and Comeback Player of the Year to the tune of 6-years and $33 million. The reliable and consistent Johnson quickly turned into a shadow of himself and spent the next two years popping up on injury reports and recording a mere two sacks, both coming in his first year with the Packers, before being released after the 2003 season.
20 HOUSTON - Brock Osweiler
Sometimes in the NFL a small sample size is all that is needed to demand big money at the quarterback position. That is exactly what Brock Osweiler received from the Houston Texans in 2016 when he signed a four-year, $72 million contract that guarantees $37 million in the first two years of the deal. Osweiler looked solid as a starter going 5-2 for the eventual 2015 Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, however his slightly above average stats looked better in theory than in reality as Osweiler made bad decision after bad decision and the Texans had to rely heavily on their banged up defense to win games. Though still a member of the team the Texans are likely exploring other options for their quarterback situation.
19 INDIANAPOLIS - Hakeem Nicks
Coming out of North Carolina in 2009 as a first round pick by the New York Giants, Hakeem Nicks had a highlight reel of eye popping catches. However that never translated to consistency in the NFL. During Nick's’ first five seasons as a member of the Giants he only totalled two 1000 yard seasons, in 2010 and 2011. So after the 2013 season in which Nicks never found the end zone, the Giants were ok with letting the injury prone receiver walk. The Colts who already had Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton under contract thought that bringing in Nicks on a one-year deal in 2014 for $3.5 million would be enough to put the team over the edge and get back to the Super Bowl. While Nicks did stay healthy for all 16 of the team’s games, scoring 4 touchdowns, it was on just 38 catches and 408 yards and the team happily let him leave at the end of the season.
18 JACKSONVILLE - Laurent Robinson
The Jacksonville Jaguars are no stranger to giving big contracts to under deserving players but one of the biggest head scratchers in the history of sports is their decision to hand over a 5-year $32 million contract to a wide receiver who hadn’t found a home on his three previous teams and also never played a full season. Laurent Robinson’s statistics don’t jump off the page either, scoring more than 2 touchdowns one time in his career (11 in 2011) as well as reaching over 500 receiving yards once (858 also in 2011). Apparently that was enough for the Jags to offer Robinson franchise player money only to have him continue his lack of production and a 7 game, 24 reception, 252 yard, 0 touchdown debut season put him out of anymore work in the NFL.
17 KANSAS CITY - Kendrell Bell
Kendrell Bell began his NFL career looking like a future Hall of Famer, racking up 9 sacks, a Pro Bowl roster spot and snagging Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 as the Pittsburgh Steelers second round pick out of Georgia. Unfortunately things never got any better than that. Bell never made another Pro Bowl and after the Chiefs took a 7-year $35 million flier in 2005 on the once promising player who had just suffered a sports hernia, injuries continued to pile up while sacks did not. Bell totalled 2.5 sacks in his career with the Chiefs and was forced to take a pay cut after the 2006 season before the team decided to release him the following year.
16 MIAMI - Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace is proof that some relationships work and some just don’t, whether it be personnel or system, certain situations will help a player be successful and some will just hinder their growth. During his tenure as a Pittsburgh Steeler Wallace was an over productive number two receiver. So when the Miami Dolphins were shopping for a wide out in 2013 they handed over a five-year $60 million contract to Wallace to come be Ryan Tannehill's number one target. But the chemistry was never there and after three seasons of mediocrity and frustration between the receiver and quarterback the Dolphins were forced to release Wallace. However now as a member of the Ravens, Wallace is back to putting up solid numbers as he produced a 72 reception/1,000 yard campaign this season.
15 MINNESOTA - Fred Smoot
When the Minnesota Vikings enticed one of the biggest free agents during the 2006 season they had no idea the madness that would ensue. Fred Smoot was one of the most beloved players on the Washington Redskins, and one of the first shut down corners as the NFL turned into a pass-happy league at the turn of the millennium. However money talks and when the Vikings offered Smoot 6-years and $34 million he bolted for the north country. The relationship didn’t take long to sour, as we all remember the “Love Boat” scandal just a month into the 2006 season that consisted of a number of Vikings super-stars partying on a boat in Minnesota with a bunch of “professional” ladies. Well that was planned by Smoot. He never played a full season during his 2 year stint as a Viking and was released after 2007 when his second non productive season was cut short by a car accident that broke his jaw.
14 NEW ENGLAND - Adalius Thomas
In 2007 when the New England Patriots made Adalius Thomas the highest paid free agent in team history he had built himself up to one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. Thomas came at a price tag of $7 million a year over 5 years due to increased sack numbers each season and his ability to score nearly every time the offense would cough the ball up to him. In Thomas’ first season with the team his sack numbers had dropped but his play was otherwise solid, not to mention the two sacks he picked up against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Thomas however felt that his role on the team didn’t suit his playing style of being a pure pass rusher and as his numbers dropped so did his attitude towards the team which led to his release after the 2009 season.
13 NEW ORLEANS - Junior Galette
During Junior Galette’s first four seasons as a member of the New Orleans Saints he was not only massively productive but a worthy enough leader in the locker room to be rewarded with a 4-year $41.5 million contract and a captain's patch before the start of the 2014 season. And while Galette was productive in his first year of the contract, playing in all 16 of the team's games and racking up 10 sacks for the defensive end, it was off the field issues related to violence and locker room brawls that ultimately led to an ugly breakup between him and the team.
12 NEW YORK GIANTS - Lavar Arrington
Lavar Arrington started his career in Washington with three out of six seasons ending in a Pro Bowl nod as one of the league's best linebackers. Looking a lot like Giant great, Lawrence Taylor, New York threw a seven year $49 million contract to Arrington in hopes of him teaming up with other former Redskin linebacker Antonio Pierce to make the Giants a dominant defensive force in the NFL. However after being used on almost every down during his days in Washington, the man they called “Nickels” for his no.55 jersey, only played six games as a Giant before a nasty achilles tendon injury derailed his season and ultimately his career.
11 NEW YORK JETS - Ryan Fitzpatrick
2015 was all rainbows and butterflies for the New York Jets, a new coach who had instilled a disciplined style of football, an offense that was clicking, and other than barely missing the playoffs (thanks to a season finale loss to former coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills) the Jets looked like a team that would promise to compete for a playoff run in 2016. As long as they could get their fearless, bearded leader back to run the offense. The Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick played back and forth over pennies until training camp was pretty much over. Fitz ultimately joined the team after getting his 1-year, $12million deal. The lack of practice with the team showed early and often as the interceptions and losses mounted for the Jets who ultimately turned to Geno Smith and Bryce Petty to suffer out the rest of the season and put the Jets back in rebuilding mode.
10 OAKLAND - Javon Walker
Amidst Al Davis’ last days as Dark Lord overseeing the Oakland Raiders he made a lot of questionable draft choices and free agent signings. Even amongst the chaos that was created in Davis’ final years the signing of Javon Walker had a lot of people scratching their head from the beginning.
Considered a boom-or-bust player after having just two 1,000-yard seasons in six years with the Packers and Broncos, doling out $55 million over six seasons in 2008 made absolutely no sense. But that was what the Raiders did, Walker awarded the franchise by appearing in just half of the games and catching 15 balls his first year followed by amassing one stat, a fumble, in what would his his final NFL season of 2009.
9 PHILADELPHIA - Nnamdi Asomugha
In 2011 the Philadelphia Eagles went all out in free agency. Brining in Vince Young, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and (the other) Steve Smith. Young quickly called the bounty a “Dream Team”. The premonition may have been a bad omen as this was the beginning of the end for most of these players. The biggest disappointment of all is Asomugha who was brought in from Oakland as a shutdown corner who rack up interceptions due to the fact that quarterbacks simply didn’t throw his way. However once an Eagle and holding a 5-year $60 million price tag, Asomugha never fit into coach Andy Reid's defense and spent two years getting burnt for touchdowns. The “Dream Team” never touched the postseason and Asomugha started one more game in his career (49ers).
8 PITTSBURGH - Sean Mahan
Offensive linemen tend to set the standard when it comes to consistency in the NFL, usually their success doesn’t come from being part of a scheme as opposed to sheer will and determination to stop the man across from you. That however was nott the case for former NFL center Sean Mahan who after four years of providing solid protection in Tampa Bay signed a four year $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 to help bolster a weakening offensive line. The AFC North was at the time full of powerful nose-tackles in 3-4 schemes that ate up Mahan. He was eventually traded back to Tampa Bay where he finished up his career.
7 SAN DIEGO - David Boston
David Boston only played half a season in 2002, therefor the San Diego Chargers decision to sign Boston relied heavily on the stats he provided in his two previous seasons where he totalled over 1,000 yards each season and combined for 15 touchdowns during that time. However once signed to a seven-year $47 million contract it seemed like the off the field issues piled up for Boston and the on field production never came along with the price tag he demanded. Shortly after his first season with the Chargers began, Boston was suspended for behavior detrimental to the team, this in addition to a mediocre 70 catch/880 yard stat line the Chargers were forced to release Boston who had just 4 more receptions in his career as a Dolphin.
6 SEATTLE - Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin is one of the more unfortunate cases of bad luck in professional sports, one of the most gifted athletes on the planet, injuries from high school on through his professional career have kept Harvin consistently on the sidelines and locker room issues have kept him from finding a home. So it wasn’t as much of a surprise as a huge gamble when the Seattle Seahawks traded a first round pick for Harvin in 2013 and immediately signed him to a 6-year $67 million contract. Harvin managed to play in just 7 games over a year and a half with the organization, and while he made a number of electrifying plays for the Seahawks, including a huge kickoff return for a touchdown in the team's Super Bowl IIL victory, the price wasn’t matching up with the production and Harvin was traded to the Jets in.
5 SAN FRANCISCO - Mario Manningham
It is not uncommon for franchises to throw a ton of money to a less than deserving player who has just won a Super Bowl. That is a lesson the San Francisco 49ers learned can be hit or miss when they paid Mario Manningham after his incredible grab down the sideline that helped the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. By signing a 2-year $7.4 million deal in 2012 Manningham was being asked to be a difference maker on a team that had just missed the Super Bowl. However, the 49ers quickly realized Manningham's sometimes solid performance with the Giants was due to the system he played in. By producing just 51 catches in two seasons Manningham found himself on IR by the end of 2013, his final NFL season.
4 ST LOUIS/LOS ANGELES - Drew Bennett
Late in the 2004 season Tennessee Titans receiver Drew Bennett went on a tear from weeks 13-15 that amassed 28 receptions, 517 yards and 8 touchdowns. That was the only season in Bennett’s six year career as a Titan that he reached more than 738 yards. So when the St. Louis Rams handed over six-years and $30 million to the roll playing receiver, many wondered how much research the Rams actually did in Bennetts production. It was not long before the Rams began to second guess their decision as Bennett made just one start in fifteen appearances over two seasons and totalled just 34 receptions, for 375 yards in what would be his last NFL seasons.
3 TAMPA BAY - Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson began his career as a solid rotational member of the Cincinnati Bengals defensive front. During this period Johnson increased his playing time each season until becoming a full time starter in 2012. Because of his consistent growth, when it came time to test free agency in the spring of 2014, Johnson was out for the biggest paycheck he could find. Ultimately landing a 5-year $43.75 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson’s playing time and tackle numbers decreased for the first time in his only year with the team. In 2015 Johnston returned to the Bengals as well as putting up the numbers he was before making the move to Florida.
2 TENNESSEE - David Givens
The NFL is a results driven league and sometimes even if a player doesn’t produce as well in the regular season as they do in the postseason they can be rewarded with a huge contract. As former wide receiver David Givens achieved with the Tennessee Titans in 2006, his fifth professional season. Not known for putting up big numbers in the regular season Givens was better known to show up for big games. Between the 2003 AFC Championship and Super Bowl XXIX Givens scored a touchdown in each of those Patriots seven playoff games. Including both Super Bowls XXVIII and XXIX. Givens only season with Tennessee was riddled with injuries before a torn ACL in Week 10 of the 2006 season ended his career for good
1 WASHINGTON - Albert Haynesworth
What will likely go down as one of the worst free agency moves in NFL history, Albert Haynesworth was one of the most sought after free agencts in recent memory and signed one of the biggest contracts ever in 2009. Coming off a 8.5 sack season in Tennessee the 350lb run-stuffer was locked up for seven years and $100 million by the Washington Redskins. After failed physicals and job demotions the saga turned into a he-said-she-said between Haynesworth and Coach Mike Shanahan over who was to blame for the breakup. Though it ultimately ended with Haynsworth taking his money and running his way out of town.
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