It is almost laughable looking back on some of the head scratching moves NFL teams have made in free agency over the last decade. Their free agency mistakes have lead to disappointing seasons, head coaches getting fired, and teams going through rebuilds. Overpaying a player in free agency is a common occurrence for bottom feeding teams and even the best teams swing and miss every once in awhile. This year's free agency was once again filled with big name free agents getting overpaid by franchises. It would not be surprising if some of the teams that spent big on quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum end up on a list similar to this one five years from now.
In hindsight it is hard to see what general managers were thinking on all of the moves that make this list. A bad free agent signing can haunt a team for years after the move, especially if the player came in with high expectations and signed a huge contract. In a hard capped league, wasting a good portion of the team's available cap space on a player that is not producing can be fatal to a team’s performance on the field. This list proves that, by putting together the free agent signings that were so bad, they could be considered not just the worst signing since 2010, but the franchise's worst signing ever. In alphabetical order these are the worst mistakes each team has made in free agency this past decade.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Derek Anderson - 2010
The Arizona Cardinals have been looking for their franchise quarterback since their last run to the Super Bowl, and in 2010 they thought they might have found a quick fix at the position by signing Derek Anderson. They must have been excepting to get the Anderson that made the Pro Bowl in 2007, but he never recreated that success in Arizona. He signed a two-year deal and was brought in to compete with Matt Leinart for the starting spot after Kurt Warner retired. He ended up starting 9 games for the Cardinals in 2010 and he lost seven of those games. He had a brutal touchdown to interception ratio throwing for only 7 scores and 10 picks. He was released the following season and ended up signing with the Panthers where he has been a back up ever since.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Steven Jackson - 2013
Steven Jackson was once one of the best running backs in the league and in Rams history. However he was basically a shell of himself when he signed in Atlanta for 3 years and $12 million. The Falcons were expecting him to come in and be their workhorse because he had rushed for 1000 yards in 8 straight seasons before signing with them. Yet with Atlanta he only rushed for a measly 543 yards, which was worst of his career besides his final season where he only played two games.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco - 2013
Fresh off of leading the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2013 Joe Flacco was a free agent and looking for a big money contract. If the Ravens would have decided to extend his contract the season prior, they would have saved a ton of money. Instead they had to give the reigning Super Bowl MVP a six year contract worth a then record $120.6 million with $52 million of that money guaranteed. Since signing that deal Flacco has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league statistically and the Ravens have been average as a team because of it. His record breaking playoff performance has proven to be more of a fluke than his true self and his contract has slightly haunted the Ravens ever since he signed it.
29 Buffalo Bills: Kevin Kolb - 2013
When Kevin Kolb signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2013 he said he was "there to win a Super Bowl period." We can all take a moment to laugh at those lofty expectations now because Kolb never came close to even starting a game for them in the regular season. However the reason why he never played a game for them was far from laughable. He suffered a concussion in the preseason and since he had problems with that in his career he was placed on injured reserve and missed the whole season. He originally signed a deal for two years worth $13 million, but he ended up being released after one year on the bench.
28 Carolina Panthers: Jerricho Cotchery - 2014
The Carolina Panthers have had trouble finding playmakers on the outside for Cam Newton to work with since they drafted him number one overall. In the 2014 off season they decided to let go of their legendary receiver Steve Smith and that made them desperate for a receiver in free agency. They underwhelmed with their signing of Jerricho Cotchery who had been a third option at receiver for most of his career. With him as their primary option he had 580 yards and one touchdown.
27 Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon - 2017
If the Bears were going to pick Mitchell Trubisky with the number two pick in the 2017 draft then why did they sign Mike Glennon to three year contract worth $45 million with $18.5 million of that money guaranteed. Glennon ended up starting only four games and he only won one of those starts. The fans were calling for Trubisky since he had a promising preseason and he actually looked better than Glennon when he was running the Bears offense. Glennon was released this past offseason making this deal look even more peculiar looking back on it.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Antonio Bryant - 2010
In 2010, the Cincinnati Bengals took a gamble on two wide receivers in free agency and signed Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant. One of those moves was successful and the other one was a major flop. Bryant signed a four-year deal worth a reported $28 million and never played a down for the team. Because of his injury problems from past seasons he could not play in the pre-season and as a result the Bengals released him before the season even started.
25 Cleveland Browns: Dwayne Bowe - 2015
One of the biggest free agent signings for the Cleveland Browns in 2015 was veteran wide out Dwayne Bowe. He was expected to come in and help develop the young quarterback Johnny Manziel by giving him a possession receiver on the outside. But that did not happen at all, Bowe ended up with only 5 receptions all year after catching more than 45 passes in every season of his career prior. Bowe signed a two year deal and said he wanted to take the Browns "to the next level" when he was signed, but instead he was cut after one disappointing season.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Greg Hardy - 2015
The Dallas Cowboys has been a franchise that has been known to take risks on bad character players in free agency, and perhaps none of them was worse than when they signed Greg Hardy in 2015. Hardy might have had a decent season on the field for them, but was his signing really worth the negative publicity he generated? He was accused of violently attacking his ex girlfriend and was suspended by the NFL as a result. He only got six sacks in 2015, and he only further showed that the Cowboys are willing to tarnish their reputation by signing players with troublesome pasts if they think they can help on the field.
23 Denver Broncos: LenDale White - 2010
LenDale White was a legendary running back in college at the University of Southern California and had some success with the Tennessee Titans rushing for more than 1000 yards in 2007. With injuries lingering in their backfield, the Denver Broncos looked to the home town hero White for help. They signed White to a two year deal in free agency in 2010, but White never made it on to the field for them. After White was cut from the Broncos practice squad he never played in the NFL again, making this signing bad for both Denver and his career.
22 Detroit Lions: Letting go of Ndamukong Suh and signing Haloti Ngata in 2015
Ndamukong Suh was the face of the Lions defense since he was drafted back in 2010, that is why it was somewhat surprising when he ended up signing with the Miami Dolphins back in 2015. The Lions decided to replace their best player with a player past his prime in Haloti Ngata. He has only had double digit tackles in one season since he came to the team and he missed pretty much all of last season with an injury. Suh was one of the best pass rushers at the position but Ngata has only had 6 sacks since he was signed in 2015. It is safe to say the Lions have missed Suh the past few seasons.
21 Green Bay Packers: Cedric Benson - 2012
Through the years of both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre the Packers have had one of the best passing offenses in the league, but they have struggled to get any sort of running game going. In 2012 they thought the found the answer to their problems on the ground by signing Cedric Benson who revived his career in Cincinnati with the Bengals. Benson had rushed for 1000 yards in the three seasons before signing with the Packers, but he ended up rushing for less than 300 yards with Green Bay. The Packers still have not found a back that can solve their issues on the ground to this day.
20 Houston Texans: Brock Osweiler - 2016
After going 5-2 for the Denver Broncos in the regular season as the starter filling in for an injured Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler got a big money deal with Houston Texans. His deal was worth an astounding $72 million dollars for four years after only starting a small sample size of games. Osweiler ended up having a terrible season the next year as the starter for the Texans throwing 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, looking like one of the biggest free agent busts of all-time. They basically had to give Cleveland a second round pick the next offseason just to get rid of his bad contract.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Laron Landry - 2013
After having a great Pro Bowl season with the Jets in 2012, the Colts decided to sign Laron Landry and sure up their secondary. They signed him to a massive four year deal worth $21 million and $14 million of that was guaranteed. He played decent in his first season with the team, but in the 2014 offseason he was suspended by the NFL for four games. After that year the Colts decided to part ways with Landry who was once their prized free agency pick up from 2013.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Julius Thomas - 2015
Playing in an offense alongside Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas looked like one of the best tight ends in the entire NFL. He looked so great that the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to sign him to a five year deal worth $45 million with $24 million of that money guaranteed. The two seasons before coming to the Jags, Thomas had a combined total of 24 touchdowns and his two seasons playing with Jacksonville he had 9 touchdowns. Thomas is a prime example of a player getting overpaid after having a couple of great seasons in a high powered offense.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Peyton Hillis - 2012
When the Chiefs signed Peyton Hillis to a one-year deal worth $3 million back in 2012, they were expecting him to play a big role in their offense. He was two seasons removed from rushing for over 1000 yards and even appearing on the Madden cover. However his success in Kansas City was very limited, he rushed for only 309 yards and one touchdown on 85 carries. This season marked the downfall of Hillis' career and the Chiefs chose to not bring him back the next season.
16 Los Angeles Chargers: Donald Brown - 2014
The years after LaDainian Tomlinson was traded and before they drafted Melvin Gordon, the Chargers franchise had trouble finding a running back to carry the load for them. In 2014 they tried to bring in veteran Donald Brown to bring stability to the position but he mostly underwhelmed as a Charger. Brown was showed promise in the league with the Colts but it looked like he lost a step during his time in San Diego. In two seasons as a Charger Brown only had one rushing touchdown and they expected much more from him when they signed him for three years and $10.5 million.
15 Los Angeles Rams: Tavon Austin - 2016
No one knows what the Rams were thinking when they decided to give Tavon Austin a contract extension in 2016. After he was under utilized in his first seasons with the team they decided to give him a four-year contract worth a whopping $42 million. The same franchise that has been hesitant to give the NFL's best defensive player Aaron Donald an extension gave a ton of money to a guy who was basically a slot receiver for them. They decided to cut Austin half way through his new contract and now he is trying to rejuvenate his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
14 Miami Dolphins: Jay Cutler - 2017
Looking back on last season, the Dolphins probably wasted some money by bringing Jay Cutler out of retirement and signing him to a one year deal worth $10 million. They probably would have been better off letting Matt Moore start or drafting a younger option to move forward with if Ryan Tannehill is not the same player he was before he was injured. In 14 starts with the team last season Cutler went 6-8 and the Dolphins missed the playoffs. Now Cutler is back in retirement and if Ryan Tannehill were to unfortunately go down again the Dolphins would be back in the same position they were last off season.
13 Minnesota Vikings: Matt Cassell - 2013
After the Minnesota Vikings drafted Christian Ponder and found out he was a bust, they decided bring in the veteran Matt Cassell to compete with him for the starting position back in 2013. They made this decision even after seeing him look horrible as the Chiefs starting quarterback for four straight seasons. He did eventually take over for Christian Ponder in 2013 and he was relatively average, he went 3-3 as the starter and threw 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
12 New England Patriots: Tim Tebow - 2013
One of the few blunders the New England Patriots have made in free agency during their dominant run this decade was signing Tim Tebow back in 2013. Bill Belichick thought that he might be able to convince Tebow to play some tight end or full back, but he was only interested in playing quarterback and that was never going to happen with Tom Brady on the roster. For that reason he never played a down for the Pats making his signing relatively pointless. The Patriots ended up being Tebow's last stop before he left the NFL for good and decided to try and play an entirely different sport.
11 New Orleans Saints: Brandon Browner - 2015
In the 2015 the Saints tried to add some experience to their secondary by adding the former Pro Bowl corner Brandon Browner in free agency. They signed him to a three-year deal worth $15 million, with $7.75 million of that guaranteed. Then he proceeded to have the worst season of his career. He was supposed to help one of the worst secondaries in the league but instead he made it worse. This season ended up being the last one of his career and now he is even dealing with legal trouble after retirement.
10 New York Giants: Brandon Marshall - 2017
Heading into the 2017 season the Giants were expected to have one of the best and most explosive offenses in all of football. Signing Brandon Marshall to go along with Odell Beckham Jr. was a big reason for all of the hype heading into the season. He signed a two year deal that was worth $12 million dollars, but he did not do much on the field to warrant the money they threw his way. He only played five games before going down for the season with an injury and he only had 18 catches for 154 yards and no touchdowns before he got hurt. To make matters worse the Giants went 3-13 and their offense struggled all season.
9 New York Jets: Santonio Holmes - 2011
The Jets have made a ton of mistakes in free agency over the years, but one of their worst moves was re-signing Santonio Holmes to massive five year contract worth almost $10 million a season with $24 million guaranteed. Holmes had a decent season in the first year of his contract but in the final three years of his deal he never caught more than a single touchdown in a season. They paid Holmes like a number one receiver yet he never produced like one after he signed his big deal. Even before this contract Holmes was barely considered a number one option in an offense in the prime of his career and that is why it was strange they overpaid so much to keep him.
8 Oakland Raiders: Trent Richardson - 2015
Even after proving to be a disappointment for both the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts, the Oakland Raiders still decided to take a chance on Trent Richardson and sign him to a deal in 2015. They were banking on some of his potential that made him the number three overall pick in the draft to shine through and maybe he could revive his career in Oakland. When he signed his deal he said he expected to win the starting position, but actually never played a down at running back in the silver and black. The terms of his Oakland contract were never disclosed but whatever they ended up paying him was a waste.
7 Philadelphia Eagles: Nnamdi Asomugha - 2011
In 2011 the Philadelphia Eagles went all in on free agency and Vince Young infamously proclaimed them a super team. Their biggest free agent signing was perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. He signed for a five year mega deal worth $60 million and at the time it looked like the Eagles made a good move locking up one of the best defenders in the game. However Asomugha had a terrible season and the Eagles went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. The next year they were even worse and he was eventually released because of his poor performance.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers: Ladarius Green - 2016
The Steelers are one of the NFL's top franchises year after year and a big reason why is because they rarely make mistakes in free agency. However one of their mishaps came in 2016 when they signed tight end Ladarius Green to add to their already potent passing game. They signed him to a four-year deal worth $20 million even though he was coming off ankle surgery. Green's career in Pittsburgh was eventually cut short due to repeated concussions. He was released after only one season and one touchdown with the team.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Reggie Bush - 2015
After the 49ers lost their long time running back Frank Gore, they looked to free agency to replace his production. They decided to take a chance on Reggie Bush who had relative success in most of the stops around the league. He rushed for 1000 yards with both the Lions and the Dolphins before coming to the Bay area, but he only rushed for 28 yards with the Niners. He only got to play in five games before he tore his ACL in a freak accident by slipping on the concrete that was too close to the field.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Matt Flynn - 2012
After just a couple of good games as the starter for the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks decided to sign him to big three-year deal worth $26 million and $10 million of that was guaranteed. They paid him that money expecting him to be the starter for them, but Russell Wilson surprised everyone in camp and beat Flynn out for the starting spot. They ended up paying their back up a ton more than their starter and Flynn only played in three games his entire Seahawk career and never started once. Wilson went on to lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory playing on a cheap rookie deal.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh McCown - 2014
Before the Tampa Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the number one overall pick they had been searching for a franchise quarterback for awhile. One of their worst attempts to find a starter was when they signed Josh McCown to a contract worth $10 million for two seasons in free agency. McCown ended up starting 11 games for the Bucs and only won one of those starts and ended the season on injured reserve. They cut him the next off season and he has been on two teams since.
2 Tennessee Titans: Michael Oher - 2014
The Tennessee Titans waived Michael Oher one season into his four-year $20 million deal. The decision to cut him probably did not blind side Oher (pun intended) because he was one of the worst starting tackles in league playing for them that season. He ended the season on injured reserve with an injury and never played another down for the team. To make this deal feel even worse, Oher went on to have some relative success with the Ravens the next season starting all 16 games for them.
1 Washington Redskins: Donovan McNabb - 2010
One year after the Redskins made one of the worst free agent signings of all-time by inking Albert Haynesworth to a massive deal, they made another big mistake by signing Donovan McNabb in free agency. They signed him to a massive deal for five years and $78 million with $40 million of that guaranteed. He ended up only playing one season with the team and starting 13 games. He made almost $3 million a game in guaranteed money and only had five victories to show for it.