Free agency is one of the biggest phases of the NFL year, and it sees multiple players leave their teams to chase money, while others sign with teams to improve their chances of winning a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, not everyone makes the best decisions (let’s face it, not everyone can pull a LeGarrette Blount and sign with Super Bowl-winning teams in back-to-back seasons), and some, no matter their motive for the original signing will always come back to regret their decision.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, because we can easily look at a player and suggest he should have signed for a better team, but these guys do their best with the information they have available. Either way, sometimes, a situation just falls apart, and decisions that looked good at the time ultimately turn out to be terrible ones, and that’s what we are looking at today. So sit back and read along as we look at 10 NFL players who have recently joined new teams (2016-18) and regret it, and we offer up insight into where we think they should have signed instead.
20 Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson is one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL, and when he was seemingly replaced by Marcus Peters in LA, he chose to sign with the up-and-coming New York Jets. Before his injury, Johnson was leading the Jets to an impressive start on the defensive side of the ball, but with a long-term deal in place, he may live to regret this one. This team has a promising young defense led by the safety duo of Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, but Johnson is a veteran ready to succeed now, and that’s why he should have simply swapped places with Peters in KC.
19 Should have signed with Kansas City
Despite the recent controversy surrounding Kareem Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs team is still one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL, but their defense has been struggling to keep up with the elite offense. With Johnson and a returning Eric Berry, this team could have become one of the most well-rounded teams in the AFC, and it would have allowed him to show off his diverse skill set. With Patrick Mahomes leading the way, this team has a very bright future, but the difference with the defense would be immense if Trumaine had taken his talents to the up and coming Chiefs instead of the Jets.
18 Andrew Norwell
As we saw with the Dallas Cowboys several years ago, the offensive line is one of the most important positions in football, and Andrew Norwell is one of the best in the game. Unfortunately, he missed the boat on his new team. He moved from former NFC Champions, the Carolina Panthers, and moved to Jacksonville, a year after they appeared in the AFC Championship game, but this isn’t that same team. With a QB like Blake Bortles behind the line and very little run game due to Leonard Fournette's injuries, he is being wasted, but there was a chance he could have joined a very elite O-Line.
17 Should have signed with Indianapolis
The Colts have become famous over the past few years for struggling to protect their QB, but by drafting Quenton Nelson, they’ve completely turned that around, and signing Andrew Norwell would have made them almost unstoppable. During the 2018 season, Luck has returned to an elite level QB, even being put in the MVP conversation alongside Drew Brees, Todd Gurley, and Patrick Mahomes, and that’s because he’s barely been touched. The team is poised to stay at the top for quite a long time in the AFC South alongside Houston, whereas Jacksonville doesn’t seem to have a game plan going forward, so Norwell missed out here.
16 Dion Lewis
The New England Patriots have a way of getting the most out of their players and have a habit of letting them go before having to pay them big money. Dion Lewis is the first of two on our list today. During their Super Bowl runs over the last few years, Lewis was incredibly valuable to the Patriots alongside James White and others, but he hadn’t proved himself as a back who can carry the load, and that’s what held the Patriots back. He took a deal to work alongside Derrick Henry in Tennessee, but there was a team much better primed to succeed waiting for Lewis out in the NFC.
15 Should have signed with San Francisco
Sure, the 49ers are having a terrible year after the loss of their franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo, but the pieces are there for this team to build into a contender, and an electric player like Dion Lewis would have helped that cause. In the end, they signed Jerick McKinnon, but he just isn’t in the same class as Lewis, and if they could have combined him with a bigger back, this team would have had great building blocks on the offensive side. As for Lewis, he would have struggled in 2018 no matter which team he chose, but looking to the future (and the respective divisions), San Fran was the much better choice.
14 Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford hasn’t had a bad career in the NFL, as he’s had some impressive stretches and made quite a bit of money, but as a former No. 1 overall pick by the Rams, you can’t help but be disappointed by his career. Over his career, he’s played in Philadelphia, St. Louis and most recently Minnesota, but he’s never quite stuck as a starter, mostly due to injuries, and he took his chances in 2018 by signing with the Arizona Cardinals, fresh off the retirement of Carson Palmer. Despite making big money on the deal, he couldn’t keep the starting role, with rookie Josh Rosen taking over, but one different decision could have made 2018 a different one for Sam.
13 Should have signed with Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the surprise teams of 2017, making it within a quarter of the Super Bowl, but a year later, the critics' fears about Blake Bortles have come true, and the team has severely regressed. It’s gotten so bad in fact that the team has benched him for Cody Kessler, but Bradford still makes more sense than a disappointing Bortles and a mediocre Kessler when giving the Jags a QB who could help their offense come close to matching their fantastic defense. Sure, missing Leonard Fournette would hurt no matter who’s under center, but this would have been a better signing for both parties involved.
12 A.J. Bouye
A.J. Bouye has been one of the most consistent and underrated cornerbacks in the NFL for a number of years now, and the decision to sign with Jacksonville was a good one at the time, but now, he will regret it. The team went to the AFC Championship game in 2017, but they’ve got a severe lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, whereas his former team is surging. Bouye isn’t the star CB in Jacksonville, that’s Jalen Ramsey, and while re-signing in Houston wasn’t the only other option for him, it was the best one.
11 Should have signed with Houston
The Houston Texans have been on the verge of something special for years, and with their defense now healthy and DeShaun Watson back under center, they’re putting it together. With a shutdown corner like A.J., they could be even better. Sure, they may not have had the money to pay Tyrann Mathieu, but if they figured out a way to get both of those guys, this defense would be scary. As it is, this team is going to pose a real threat to the likes of Pittsburgh, New England, and KC in the playoffs, but the best decision for both Bouye and Houston would have been staying together.
10 Nate Solder
Nate Solder has been a rock along the New England Patriots offensive line for a number of years now, but seeking big money, he went to protect Eli Manning in New York, and it’s not turning out well. Sure, Saquon Barkley is having a rookie season for the ages, as he is running rampant week after week, but the team just has no core and no formula for success, and he may regret signing in the Big Apple. Sure, all it takes is a new QB for this team to start clicking with their weapons, but the Giants look hesitant to make that change, and for now, Solder could have done so much better.
9 Should have signed with New England
Nate Solder had been with the Patriots for a number of years, and while it’s understandable that he wanted to sign a big money deal, the lure of a Super Bowl appearance every single year should have kept him a Pat. Sure, not everyone is wired the same, and some people want to get what they think they deserve as an individual, but New England knew how valuable he was, and should have done all they could to keep him around. Obviously, the team is going to be competing for a Super Bowl title at the end of the year, so it doesn’t hurt them as much as it hurts Solder, but this is one relationship that shouldn’t have been broken.
8 Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham will go down as one of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history, but these days, he’s too injury-riddled to be fully effective, and he should have joined a team that would have allowed him the best chance at team success. At the time, signing with Green Bay could have been seen as doing just that, but they have holes all over the team and required Graham to do too much to succeed. Seeing as it is likely his last contract, he should have chosen better. Jimmy will still be remembered as an elite talent from his time in Seattle and New Orleans, but this will likely be a decision he wishes he could take back.
7 Should have signed with Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have to be considered the Super Bowl favorite right now, but they aren’t the only LA team in the NFL, as the Chargers have quietly put together a fantastic 2018 campaign. They have a lot of competition in the AFC, but pairing Jimmy Graham with Antonio Gates would have taken their offense to yet another level, and would have arguably made them favorites in the AFC. At this point, they likely aren’t going to win the AFC Championship game, and maybe Graham wouldn’t have changed that, but for him and for the team, this would have been a much better fit than Green Bay, the team currently sitting in third place in their division.
6 DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson will go down as one of the best deep threat receivers in NFL history when his career is done, but in 2017, he had a chance to become more than that. Instead, he opted to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but with all the controversy they’ve had at QB, there’s just no way they could have succeeded, no matter how good the rest of the offense is. The team also plays in an incredibly tough division, making it hard to make any inroads in the playoffs, but if Jackson wanted stability at QB and a weak division, there is one team that he should have looked towards.
5 Should have signed with New England
Sure, the Patriots have become famous for signing former stars for nothing and getting the best out of them, but with Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field and the great, diverse backfield, Jackson would have been a perfect fit. Year after year, the league thinks they have figured the Patriots out, but year after year, they grind their way back towards the top, and a player like Jackson would give them the X-Factor that makes them very unpredictable. They eventually settled on Brandin Cooks (before trading him), but this would have made sense for both sides and would have been a good way to end the fantastic career of DeSean Jackson.
4 Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman has been one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL since his debut in the league, and despite a quiet few years, he’s still an elite talent. Unfortunately, his free agency decision wasn’t the best one to make. Sure, he chose San Fran mainly due to the fact that he could be in the same division as Seattle, but he needed to think beyond himself, as he would have added so much to a contender. It was a multi-year contract, so we’ll have to see how the team recovers when Jimmy Garoppolo returns, but there was one glaring place that Sherman should have signed.
3 Should have signed in with New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints are arguably the best team in the NFL right now, despite a recent loss to the Cowboys, but one man who could have made them a different beast entirely is Richard Sherman. This defense is one of the best the team has seen in a number of years, but Sherman would give them an attitude and an edge that they have on the offense, courtesy of Drew Brees. They’re going to do quite well without him, but there’s no doubting that Sherman will regret signing with the 49ers, as the NFC is just way too stacked for them to make it back to the Super Bowl.
2 Malcolm Butler
Just a few short years ago, Malcolm Butler was a Super Bowl hero for New England and looked like an elite talent, but the Patriots let him walk to Tennessee, opting not to pay him like he deserved. Like his teammate Dion Lewis, Butler decided to head to Tennessee, and just half a season into that new beginning, it’s clear he made the wrong decision. Butler is still playing great, but being surrounded by less than stellar teammates and coaching doesn’t make him look as good, but there’s a situation that he should have found himself in.
1 Should have signed with Indianapolis
At the start of the season, there was uncertainty surrounding Andrew Luck and his return from a shoulder injury, but he’s been amazing this year, and if Malcolm Butler had of joined this team, it would have made a big difference. The defense is succeeding on the back of a Rookie of the Year quality campaign from Darius Leonard, but adding Butler into this squad would have made them a Super Bowl favorite. In a wide-open AFC, anything could happen, and this team has a very bright future, meaning a young star like Butler could and should have pushed them over the top.