NFL free agency allows owners and general managers to address any holes in their rosters before starting a new season. Big-name, expensive free agent signings inspire fans, sparking the belief that this year will be the year that their team makes it to the playoffs and wins the Super Bowl. Nowadays, many teams are restricted by NFL salary cap rules and cannot afford the top available free agents. They must instead settle for a next-best-option and hope that the player out-performs his price tag. Until the season is underway, no one knows which Free Agents will thrive with their new teams and which ones will tank, but that’s exactly what makes free agency so exciting.
While some players quickly integrate well with their new teams and make an immediate impact, it sometimes happens that a free agent never lives up to the contract he signed. Making the transition from one team to another is not easy for all NFLers, especially players who have been lucky enough to play under one system throughout their entire careers. There are new playbooks to memorize, new coaches to obey, and, most importantly, new teammates to develop chemistry with.
The following is a list of recent free agent signings that teams regret making, along with the available Free Agent that the team should have targeted. Although many of these signings occurred during the 2018 offseason, the fallout from these deals is already apparent 10 weeks into the season. It’s already clear which teams overpaid, and which players are not delivering the way they were expected to.
20 Regret: Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals 2018
Sam Bradford’s breakout 2016 season finally lived up to the expectations of the 2010 first overall Draft Pick. Bradford recorded 3,877 yards and 20 TDs to only five INTs, and led the league in completion percentage (71.6%). Unfortunately, the following season, Bradford injured his knee and was replaced by backup Case Keenum, who would lead the Vikings to an NFC Championship appearance.
With Carson Palmer retiring over the offseason, the Arizona Cardinals signed Bradford to fill the immediate vacancy at QB, and drafted Josh Rosen to be Bradford’s eventual successor. Over three starts, Bradford totaled 400 yards, two TDs and four INTs, forcing the Cardinals to play the Rookie Rosen and to later release Bradford.
19 Should have Offered: Teddy Bridgewater
Sam Bradford wasn’t the only available QB during the 2018 offseason. Instead of Bradford, the Cardinals could have signed 2014 first round pick Teddy Bridgewater, who played two solid seasons in the NFL before being sidelined for two years with a torn ACL.
The Cardinals drafted Rosen with the clear intention of making him their immediate backup before becoming their starter in the near future. The two-year, $40 illion deal given to Bradford was a waste of money. The Cardinals could have instead offered Bridgewater a one-year, $5 million deal, which would have allowed for a quicker hand-off of the starting job to young Rosen at a much lower price.
18 Regret: Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns 2018
The 2018 offseason saw Carlos Hyde return to the state of Ohio, where he had spent four years as a Buckeye. As much as the home city loved the signing, Hyde was not the established back the Cleveland Browns needed. Hyde had played his entire career with the San Francisco 49ers, never once recording a 1,000 yard season.
Hyde could not live up to the three-year, $15 million deal he signed with the Browns. He quickly lost the starting RB job to breakout rookie Nick Chubb, and after averaging only 3.4 yards per carry over the first six games of the season, was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for next to nothing in return.
17 Should have Offered: Dion Lewis
Dion Lewis impressed the football world during his 2017 season with the New England Patriots, recording 896 rushing yards and 214 receiving yards. Lewis is a bona fide dual threat, having the ability to both rush and to receive the ball. Furthermore, Lewis would have fit in well with the Browns’ rushing system, having played in a similar system with the Patriots the year before.
It’s not like money was a factor in the Browns’ decision; Lewis signed with the Tennessee Titans for the same annual salary as Hyde. Lewis and Duke Johnson could have been one of the NFL’s most dynamic RB duos, instead of the Titans enjoying the success of the veteran back.
16 Regret: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars 2018
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2017 season was ended by a loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Jaguars knew they had to improve their offensive talents if they wanted to compete with the NFL’s elite.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a solid 2017 campaign with the New York Jets, hauling in 50 passes and three TDs. If Seferian-Jenkins could have brought that production to Jacksonville, he would have been a huge upgrade from incumbent Jaguar TE Marcedes Lewis and his meager 24 receptions. Unfortunately, Jenkins did not perform the way he was expected to, securing only 11 receptions over five games and finding the endzone only once.
15 Should have Offered: Trey Burton
Trey Burton should have been the TE free agent target for all NFL teams this past offseason. Burton’s frequent appearances on the highlight reel near the end of the 2017 season prove that Burton is a high-quality starting TE.
The Jaguars instead went cheap with ASJ; if they had thrown in a couple more dollars and a few more years, Burton would have been the security blanket and the red zone threat that the Jaguars were looking for.
Burton has already tallied 38 receptions and five TDs for the Chicago Bears. Burton would have been able to make Bortles look like a better QB than he actually is, just like he is doing for Mitchell Trubisky.
14 Regret: Danny Amendola, Miami Dolphins 2018
Danny Amendola’s career has seen him record only two complete seasons over his 9-year NFL career. Everyone knows his name, more so because he was a Championship-winning New England Patriot than for any special play on the field. In fact, Amendola has not once exceeded 689 yards or four TDs in a season- both are less-than-impressive stats and hardly warrant a contract worth $6 million a season.
Amendola was supposed to be THE big offensive contributor this year, replacing Jarvis Landry who now plays for the Cleveland Browns. With only 47 receptions, 456 yards and one TD in 10 games this season, Amendola is far from a Landry-type year. Miami is just lucky that Amendola is still healthy so far.
13 Should have Offered: Taylor Gabriel
Instead of Amendola, the Miami Dolphins should have offered Taylor Gabriel a spot on their roster. The ex-Atlanta Falcon was the third option in the high-powered Atlanta offense behind Julio Jones and Muhammed Sanu. Gabriel only needed an opportunity to contribute more to an offense.
This season, Gabriel had 51 receptions, 527 yards and two TDs through twelve weeks with the Chicago Bears. Gabriel’s stats are comparable to Amendola’s so far, but Gabriel’s running ability combined with his age and durability easily make him the better option for nearly the same annual salary. The Bears are already benefiting from having one of the most dynamic players in the NFL on their roster, benefits Miami likely wishes they had.
12 Regret: Paul Richardson, Washington Redskins, 2018
Over the 2018 offseason, the Washington Redskins completely revamped their offense. QB Kirk Cousins was replaced by Alex Smith, RB Rob Kelly by Adrian Peterson, and WR Ryan Grant by Paul Richardson. The Redskins finished the 2017 season with only one receiver recording more than 45 receptions; what the Redskins really needed was a reliable receiver to complement WR Jamison Crowder to open up the Redskins offense. Richardson, a mediocre receiver, finished the 2017 season with 44 receptions and six TDs. He may be a slight improvement over Grant, but he doesn’t fill the role that the Redskins need him to.
11 Should have Offered: Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson certainly started his career off on the right foot: over the course of three NFL seasons, Robinson already has a 1,000-yard, 10 TD season to his name, and has twice recorded 70+ receptions. Unfortunately, week 1 of the 2017 seasons saw Robinson's tear his ACL, sidelining him for the rest of the season. After the 2017 season ended, Jacksonville allowed Robinson to test the free market where he was subsequently signed by the Chicago Bears. Robinson is now on pace for a 70-reception season with close to 1,000 yards and eight TDs, numbers that nearly double Richardson’s projected stats. Imagine how powerful the Redskins’ offense would be if they had been able to sign Robinson instead of Richardson.
10 Regret: Aaron Colvin, Houston Texans, 2018
Both the 2015 and 2016 seasons saw the Houston Texans finish bottom three in the league in both passing defense and overall defense. Last year, the Texans defense made some significant strides in the right direction and improved to ninth in passing defense and thirteenth in overall defense.
During the 2017 offseason, Aaron Colvin was looking to cash in on a good season as a member of the top passing defense Jacksonville Jaguars. Colvin was the Jaguars’ nickelback, and typically lined up against the opponents’ third-best receiver. The Houston Texans splurged and gave Colvin a four-year, $34 million deal, a salary much too large for a fifth-year CB without an INT to his name.
9 Should have Offered: Malcolm Butler
The Houston Texans should have instead signed Malcolm Butler. Although a few years older than Colvin, Butler has more experience and more talent, and can handle covering the NFL’s best receivers. When looking at the Texan’s CB depth chart, it’s obvious that the Texans are hoping to groom Colvin for the extended future; Jonathan Joseph only has a few good years left, and his contract expires at the end of the 2019 season. Colvin will need to step up quickly if he is to take over the top CB role. Butler, on the other hand, is a Pro Bowler and a two-time Super Bowl Champion, and would have been the perfect addition to an already experienced Texans defense.
8 Regret: Donte Moncrief, Jacksonville Jaguars 2018
The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars were one quarter away from playing for the Super Bowl without top receiver Allen Robinson, and with WR2 Allen Hurns hardly a factor all season long. At the end of the season, the Jags let both players go to free agency, and signed Donte Moncrief to a one-year, $9.6M deal.
Moncrief, who had spent his entire career in Indianapolis, had never been considered higher than WR3. Jacksonville wanted Moncrief to be one of their top-two WRs, and paid appropriately. Moncrief is hardly living up to his price tag, being projected to finish the season with only 50 receptions and 750 yards. A team loaded with average receivers may even cost the QB and head coach their jobs this year.
7 Should have Offered: Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson was once considered one of the best WRs in the NFL. A poor 2017 season resulted in the Green Bay Packers releasing the Super Bowl Champion and Pro Bowler; however, it can be argued that Nelson’s low 2017 stats were a direct result of Aaron Rogers being injured and Brett Hundley getting the starting QB job.
Nelson is still an above-average NFL receiver, and he provides more than just receptions. Nelson is a veteran who can help groom young receivers, like those in the Jacksonville lineup. Plus, he demands attention from the opponents’ defenses, which opens up other targets. He would have been the perfect fit for a Jaguars team needing veteran presence.
6 Regret: Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns 2017
One of the biggest surprises of the 2017 offseason came when the Cleveland Browns signed WR Kenny Britt to a four-year, $32.5 million deal. Britt, a 2009 first-round pick, never lived up to first-rounder expectations. It wasn’t until the 2016 season that Britt finally exceeded 60 receptions and 1,000 yards, stats that suckered the Browns into signing him to a ridiculous contract the following offseason. Britt lasted only 9 games in Cleveland before the Browns released him, after he recorded an embarrassing 18 receptions and 233 yards. Britt was picked up by the New England Patriots, but played only three games with them before being released again. He has not played since.
5 Should have Offered: Robert Woods
Robert Woods spent his first 4 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, producing consistent stats during his time there. Woods never finished with less than 40 receptions or less than 550 yards in a season. The Browns haven’t seen that kind of consistency in a WR since Braylon Edwards a decade ago.
Woods has a great combination of hands and speed, catching more than 60% of his targets and averaging more than 13 yards-per-catch. If Cleveland had instead signed Woods, who, incidentally, signed for a lesser annual salary than Britt, the Browns might have won a game during their 2017 season.
4 Regret: Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers 2017
Ever since Jermichael Finley’s career was cut short following the 2013 season due to a spine injury, the Green Bay Packers have had to endure a revolving door of TEs. The Packers thought they found their guy in Martellus Bennett, seemingly in his prime and coming off a Super Bowl Championship, and signed him to a three-year, $21 million deal.
Unfortunately, Bennett was less than impressive, recording just 24 receptions and 233 yards in seven games. The Packers subsequently released him for not disclosing a medical condition to the team. Bennett went back to New England, but that lasted only two games before he was again released. He consequently announced his retirement.
3 Should have Offered: Jared Cook
Jared Cook spent the 2016 season playing for the Green Bay Packers under a one-year contract. Cooks’ time there did not start well; he made just 6 receptions in his first 3 games, and then missed the next six games with an ankle injury. When Cook returned to the lineup, however, he developed serious chemistry with Aaron Rogers and recorded 24 receptions in the final seven games.
Both Cook and the Packers reportedly shared interest in him returning to the team, but they could not come to terms on a deal. Cook moved on to Oakland, signing a two-year, $10.6 million deal, virtually the same annual salary as what Bennett was signed to. The good news for Packers’ fans is that they finally have a superstar TE, having signed Jimmy Graham the following offseason.
2 Regret: Brandon Marshall, New York Giants 2017
Over the 2017 offseason, the New York Giants were looking for a solid WR to complement superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants were expecting Brandon Marshall to be that guy, having six 100-reception seasons, eight 1,000-yard seasons and four 10 TD seasons to his name.
Unfortunately, Marshall’s best years were already behind him; he was coming off a 2016 campaign that was his worst since his rookie season. Marshall played only five games for the Giants, recording only 18 receptions and 154 yards. The Giants never let Marshall play out the second year of his contract, and released him following the 2017 season.
1 Should have Offered: Alshon Jeffery
The New York Giants should have looked to spend a little more money for safer option Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery went on to sign with Giants’ division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, and was a significant contributor to the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl Championship. While Jeffery’s catch rate of just 47% isn’t very impressive, he draws so much attention and double teams from his opponents, allowing other teammates to take on easier one-on-one battles.
The Giants could have had the best receiving core the in NFL, with Jeffery and OBJ lined up as wide receivers and Sterling Sheppard in the slot. Instead, the Giants had to settle for a disappointing, three-victory season.