In this era of long-term, big-money contracts, teams in the National Football League are prone to making expensive mistakes when signing free agents—and no team is immune to it.
In some instances the signs were all there for a team to catch a bad apple before signing him, but for whatever reason the NFL squad just simply missed the mark. In other cases, it isn't always so obvious, however that doesn't make it any less painful.
Paying any player an obscene amount and getting absolutely nothing in return can set a franchise back for years. Some of the biggest contracts can hamper a team financially for years, leaving it short in several other important positions that can't be improved because there is too much money tied up in what can ultimately be a useless player.
Signing the wrong player can have a systemic impact throughout the organization, from the front office right down to the locker room. Coaches get fired because of lackluster players hurting the team's record and general managers are embarrassed and ultimately get canned for the bad decisions they make.
Injuries, criminal activity and just flat-out poor play can all make for a failed investment and can sink a team's free agent before he even gets his feet on the ground.
No team, and thus no fan, is safe from this scenario. If nothing else, this is what we all have in common as sports fans; our teams make stupid mistakes with their money.
Let's take a trip down memory lane on this bumpy road of free agent failure with the worst of the worst signing for each team in recent memory.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Ted Ginn Jr.
When Ted Ginn Jr. signed a three-year, $9.75 million contract in 2014, the Cardinals hoped he could be the deep threat their offense needed after proving valuable in that regard for the Carolina Panthers the year before.
After just one season and 16 games played, Ginn proved to be an utter failure for the Cards. He caught just 14 passes for 190 yards and never found pay dirt in the passing game. He did retain some value as a returner, however one return for a touchdown in 16 games doesn't warrant the contract Ginn received.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Ray Edwards
A post-lockout signing, Edwards was one of the more consistent pass-rushers in the game when the Falcons signed him to a five-year, $30 million deal ($11 million guaranteed) in 2011. Edwards had totaled 29.5 sacks in five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and it looked like a good idea to pair him with top pass-rusher John Abraham.
The only concern was Edwards was coming off knee surgery and there was no telling if he'd be the same again, which clearly made him an expensive risk. Edwards never lived up to his contract and instead he notched a pathetic 3.5 sacks in his first season in Atlanta.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Domonique Foxworth
The Ravens were looking to make a splash at the cornerback position in 2009 and it seemed like Foxworth was the right guy when the team signed him to a four-year, $27.2 million deal, which happened to be one of the richest contracts in team history at the time.
It was also one of the biggest mistakes the team has ever made. Unfortunately for Foxworth, it was a knee injury that slowed him down and forced him to miss all of the 2010 season and play in just two games in 2011.
29 Buffalo Bills - Mario Williams
Buffalo's worst free agent signing in recent memory is a fault of their own and has very little to do with Williams himself, who recorded double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons with the Bills before falling off a cliff in his fourth and final year.
Coming off a 6-10 season in 2011 under former head coach Chan Gailey, the Bills decided to drop an astonishing six-year, $100 million contract ($50 million guaranteed) on Williams in 2012, the largest deal for a defensive player up until that point. While Williams remained healthy and was quite productive, it was insane for the Bills to expend that much in financial resources on one player when there were plenty of holes to fill.
28 Carolina Panthers - Ken Lucas
Lucas getting his nose broken in practice by future Hall of Fame receiver and teammate Steve Smith during his time in Carolina is the most memorable thing about the cornerback's time with the team.
The Panthers signed Lucas to a six-year, $36 million deal back in 2005 to be a shutdown corner and he had a solid first season with 69 tackles, six interceptions and seven pass deflections.
27 Chicago Bears - Sam Hurd
Following the 2011 lockout, the Bears inked Hurd to a three-year, $5 million contract. Harmless enough, right? Wrong. Despite not having much financial stake in Hurd, his embarrassing behavior cost Chicago enough.
In his first season in 2011, Hurd caught just eight balls for 109 yards and zero touchdowns— but that wasn't even the worst of it. It turned out football wasn't Hurd's only aspiration as he was planning on creating his own drug empire when he was busted with a kilogram of cocaine sold to him by an undercover cop.
Hurd told the undercover officer he planned on buying and later selling five to 10 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana per week. Once the allegations came to light, the Bears released Hurd and he was later sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013, where he still resides to this day.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Antonio Bryant
The signs were there that Bryant would be a bust before he was signed to a four-year, $28 million deal in 2010, mostly because he was coming off a knee injury that ended his 2009 campaign with the Bucs early. Bryant would then need off-season surgery, which didn't faze the Bengals one bit.
Bryant was productive with the Bucs in two seasons, notching 122 receptions for 1,848 yards and 11 touchdowns, so that contract might have seemed like a good idea if not for Bryant's injury concerns.
25 Cleveland Browns - Donte' Stallworth
Before signing a seven-year, $35 million deal with the Browns in 2008, Stallworth was never an elite or even dominant receiver in the league, so it was a bit puzzling as to why the Browns paid him so much to begin with.
From there, it was all downhill. First it began with an incident at practice in which Stallworth stomped on the bare foot of teammate Braylon Edwards while he was wearing cleats. Then a pulled muscle forced the troubled receiver to miss the first four games of a season in which he played in 11 games total and could only muster up 17 catches for 170 yards and a single touchdown.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Greg Hardy
From top to bottom, the Cowboys signing Greg Hardy has to be one of the worst decisions in NFL free agent history. Hardy, an elite pass-rusher who was cut by the Panthers in 2015 after being found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to kill her, was easily the most hated man in the sports world.
Thanks to his right to appeal for a jury trial and a reluctant star witness unwilling to testify (his victim), Hardy was able to escape the charges on a technicality and get off without any jail time. Meanwhile, the incredibly shallow Cowboys and owner/general manager Jerry Jones saw this as an opportunity to improve their defense, soul be damned.
Even though Hardy had to serve a four-game ban, the Cowboys still signed him to a one-year, $11.3 million deal, but Hardy himself was an immense distraction after becoming the poster boy for domestic violence. He even got into colorful confrontations with his own teammates on the sidelines during games and his six sacks in 12 games hardly made it worth it to keep that kind of cancer around.
23 Denver Broncos - Jarvis Green
When new head coach Josh McDaniels took over the reins for the Broncos in 2010, one of his free agent signings came in the form of Green, who signed a deal for four years and upwards of $12 million deal to play defensive end. Like many of McDaniels' moves, this one didn't work out.
Green was never overly productive while with the New England Patriots. In fact, in his previous two seasons before 2010, Green had recorded just three sacks in 27 games before moving on to Denver.
22 Detroit Lions - Daunte Culpepper
After an 0-8 start to the 2008 season, injuries and abysmal play from the quarterback position, the Lions decided to bring Culpepper out of retirement and make him the starting quarterback to hold things over. Culpepper more than proved he wasn't the same QB who put up great numbers with the Minnesota Vikings.
It was a move that a contending team would make, but the only problem was the Lions weren't even close to contending when they signed Culpepper to a two-year deal. Furthermore, he was a threat to take away playing time from one of Detroit's younger signal-callers on a team that was clearly rebuilding.
Culpepper was absolutely dreadful with the Lions after the veteran found his team on the losing end of every game he played in from 2008-09. Despite drafting QB Matthew Stafford in 2009, the Lions kept Culpepper and wasted more of their money in doing so.
21 Green Bay Packers - Joe Johnson
Back in 2002 a NFL contract worth $33 million for a defensive player was a lot of money and that's exactly how much the Packers decided to pay Johnson over the course of a six-year deal. He took home a whopping $6 million signing bonus thanks to a productive tenure with the New Orleans Saints that saw him compile 21 sacks in his final two seasons in the Big Easy.
Green Bay didn't come close to getting the player the Saints got, and instead Johnson played in just 11 games over the course of two seasons and fell into just two sacks and 16 tackles. He was even charged with marijuana possession in Georgia.
20 Houston Texans - Brock Osweiler
Yes, I know we're early into the Osweiler era and there's still plenty of time for the jury to hand down its final verdict, but the Texans inking Osweiler to a ridiculous four-year, $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed just doesn't smell right. It was a hefty price to pay for most quarterbacks, let alone one who had played in just 21 games over four years in the league and never really did much to stand out.
Osweiler, who did show some flashes of success, started just seven games for the Broncos in 2015 while Peyton Manning was injured; however Manning later supplanted Osweiler after lackluster play forced head coach Gary Kubiak to re-insert Manning.
19 Indianapolis Colts - LaRon Landry
After a stellar season with the New York Jets in 2012, the Colts' 2013 signing of LaRon Landry made all the sense in the world to help bolster their lackluster defense. So, in turn, the Colts handed Landry a four-year deal worth $28 million ($14 million in guarantees).
It ended up being a mess for Indy. Landry would fail to record a single interception in two seasons while never matching his 100-tackle output for the Jets back in 2012.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Jerry Porter
Jerry Porter signed a lucrative six-year, $30 million deal ($10 million guaranteed) with the Jaguars in 2008 after eight mediocre to good seasons with the Oakland Raiders. There was no logical reason as to why the Jaguars felt the need to give Porter so much money.
The problems with Porter were plentiful. Not only was he seen as bad in the locker room, Porter was a no-show on the field. He would catch just 11 balls in 10 games for the Jags, totaling 181 yards and one touchdown.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Kendrell Bell
Bell was a huge splash for the Chiefs back in 2005 as the linebacker signed with KC for a seven-year, $35 million deal ($10 million guaranteed) to give some much-needed help to its defense.
It was a super risky move for a team in desperate need of defense. Bell, who was a former Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001, was coming off sports hernia surgery in 2004, missing 13 games that season. There were certainly questions about his health moving forward, but that didn't matter to the Chiefs.
16 Los Angeles Rams - Cortland Finnegan
Although he had a nice start to his Rams career that had many believing he'd be worth the money, something happened to Cortland Finnegan and his play quickly fell off a cliff. The Rams figured his previous experience playing under Jeff Fisher in Tennessee would make him an easy fit with the team.
The Rams needed help defensively and pegged Finnegan as their man, signing him a five-year, $60 million deal in 2012. Finnegan started strong with three interceptions in his first three games, but saw his play steadily decline as his time in St. Louis went on.
15 Miami Dolphins - Jake Grove
Knowing full well that Grove had a checkered past with injuries, the Dolphins still attempted to add to their offensive line by signing the center to a four-year, $29.5 million deal that eventually blew up in their face.
Grove predictably dealt with an injury during his time in South Beach and started in just 10 games during his only season with the Dolphins in 2009. Before the 2010 season began, Grove was beaten out for the starting job by fellow lineman Joe Berger, to further add to his bust status.
14 Minnesota Vikings - Fred Smoot
Smoot became more well-known for his antics off the field than on it during his time in Minnesota, and that's never a good thing.
On top of being a lackluster cornerback for the Vikings after signing a six-year, $34 million deal in 2005, Smoot got himself involved in the now infamous "Love Boat" scandal in his first season with the team. Smoot was blamed as the planner of what was reportedly a wild party involving escorts and he was one of three players convicted on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges.
13 New England Patriots - Jonathan Fanene
Looking for help up the middle defensively, the Patriots made a play for Fanene, a defensive tackle who had spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals up until that point.
The three-year deal worth $9.85 million wouldn't have been too painful if Fanene had actually taken the field in a regular season game and been a solid player. Unfortunately for both sides, Fanene would never get his opportunity.
A knee injury for the defensive tackle forced him to miss practice and the Pats' first two preseason games in 2011, so head coach Bill Belichick decided to move on from him. The Pats tried to get out of paying Fanene his signing bonus and other money by claiming Fanene failed to disclose his knee injury to the team.
12 New Orleans Saints - Brandon Browner
With a desperate need for help in the secondary and a dwindling market at the cornerback position, the Saints gave Browner a three-year deal worth about $18 million in 2015 to upgrade their defense and add a strong presence in the locker room.
More often than not Browner was getting beat badly on deep balls over his head and the two-time Super Bowl winner with the Seahawks and Patriots showed one of the reasons why New England was willing to cut ties with him.
11 New York Giants - C.C. Brown
The Giants needed help in their secondary and head coach Tom Coughlin thought Brown would be the answer to his need, so Brown was signed to a one-year deal in 2009 that didn't seem like a big risk at the time.
Brown was coming off a season with the Texans in which he played just three games after breaking his forearm. The Giants signed him anyway and got zero interceptions for their money in just one season.
10 New York Jets - Kellen Winslow
Signing Winslow wasn't exactly a long-term risk for the Jets after the once-promising tight end signed for one year in 2013. In his only season in New York, Winslow caught 31 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games.
Aside from his overall lackluster play, Winslow was an embarrassment off the field for Gang Green. Winslow was suspended four games for performance-enhancing drug use and was even busted for possession of synthetic marijuana in a Target parking lot after the season.
9 Oakland Raiders - Javon Walker
Before joining the Raiders on a six-year, $55 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) in 2008, Walker showed a ton of promise at the receiver position. When healthy for both the Broncos and Packers, the receiver totaled 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns for Green Bay in 2004, and 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns for the Broncos in 2006.
While those were impressive numbers to say the least, Walker also missed a huge amount of time in each of the years after his two successful seasons. Walker played in just one game in 2005 and eight games in 2007 prior to signing with Oakland, so the writing was certainly on the wall that injuries would continue to be a problem.
8 Philadelphia Eagles - Nnamdi Asomugha
The Eagles did their best to build the NFL's version of the "Dream Team" on defense when the team signed Asomugha, one of the most sought-after free agents on the market that year, to a five-year, $60 million deal in 2011.
Asomugha was supposed to be a big part of the team that many pegged to have a Super Bowl season, but instead he was an embarrassment. Not only did the Eagles go 8-8 in what was an epic disappointment, Asomugha was accused of loafing it on defense and not playing up to his enormous contract, which guaranteed $25 million.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers - Sean Mahan
Mahan was supposed to be a staple on the Steelers' offensive line for years to come after the center inked a five-year, $17 million deal in 2007. It was an important signing thanks to the increased competition coming from opposing defensive lines in Pittsburgh's division.
The former Buccaneer never lived up to the hype and was overpowered by superior defensive lineman who owned Mahan at the point of attack during the 16 games he played in his only season with the Steelers.
6 San Diego Chargers - Jared Gaither
After being waived by the Chiefs in 2011, Gaither joined the Chargers and proved to be a bright spot on the team's offensive line at the end of the season, leading to a big contract in 2012.
Thanks to just five games of solid play, Gaither was paid handsomely, landing himself a contract worth $24.5 million over four years. The Chargers paid for a small sample size and, of course, were burned for it.
Gaither, who was also known as "Big Lazy" during his time with the Ravens, would end up on injured reserve in his second and final season with the Chargers, taking part in just four games.
5 San Francisco 49ers - Mario Manningham
Manningham had some good seasons as a member of the Giants and was a Super Bowl hero thanks to a huge catch that helped propel the G-Men over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
So naturally the Niners gave Manningham a look when they needed a receiver before the 2012 season and signed the talented pass-catcher to a two-year, $7.37 million pact. Manningham didn't do much in his first season with just 42 catches for 449 yards and one touchdown in 12 games.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Matt Flynn
Flynn was a career backup who had started just two career NFL games for the Packers until the 2011 season when one big game would change his life forever.
The New Year's Day game against the Lions saw Flynn throw for 480 yards and six touchdowns while the Packers rested Aaron Rodgers, leading some to believe Flynn could be a starter in this league for years to come. After playing the game of his life, Flynn secured his financial future.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Doug Martin
To say Martin's career has been up and down isn't doing it justice. Martin had a sensational rookie season with the Bucs when he had over 1,900 total yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns.
Everything was looking great for Martin until his next two years proved to be dreadful. Martin would play in just 17 games from 2013-14, and nearly had more rushing yards in six games in 2013 than he had in 11 games in 2014.
Thanks to a resurgence in 2015 that saw him rush for 1,402 yards and six touchdowns, Martin got his big money contract (five years, $35.75 million) that some thought unlikely given his injury woes and overall lack of production in the two seasons prior. Not to mention, the running back position has been devalued in recent years and teams are reluctant to hand out boatloads of money to starting backs.
2 Tennessee Titans - Andy Levitre
With the Titans in the midst of rebuild mode and in need of a talented offensive lineman, the organization signed Levitre to play guard. He was paid quite well to do it with a six-year, $46.8 million contract that gave Levitre a $10.5 million signing bonus with $13 million guaranteed. Usually, a guard doesn't get that kind of money, but that's how desperate the Titans were.
If nothing else, Levitre started all 32 games for the Titans after signing before the 2013 season. The guard was ineffective during his two seasons and eventually lost his starting job to Byron Bell, who converted from tackle to guard to take Levitre's job.
1 Washington Redskins - Albert Haynesworth
Last but not least, one of the biggest free agent busts in NFL history goes to Haynesworth, who signed a contract worth $100 million with $41 million guaranteed thanks to the Redskins.
Haynesworth was actually a talented interior presence for seven seasons with the Titans. The warning signs were there, however, as Haynesworth was known for his lack of motivation and work ethic when it came to football.
The Redskins found out firsthand just how bad Haynesworth was, as the defensive lineman skipped workouts, got himself suspended and failed multiple conditioning tests in camp.
Finally the Redskins had enough and traded Haynesworth to the Patriots prior to the 2011 season. Not even the Patriots were able to salvage Haynesworth, proving what a catastrophic signing he was.
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