There was over $2 billion handed out by NFL clubs during the 2016 NFL Free Agency frenzy. The Jacksonville Jaguars spent the most money of every club and they struggled to a 3-13 season. There were all types of signings. Some players like Alex Mack made big money and had high expectations. Mack had a solid season as was expected, so you won't see players like him on this list. The 2016 free agent frenzy was littered with players that for the most part met their expectations.
There were some players who were signed with the expectations that they would be stars in the league. Guys like Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick crashed and burned spectacularly. The Texans were expected to contend, but they finished first in their division because everyone else sucked. Other signings fall way under the radar. There were no front page headlines when Nick Perry and Casey Hayward signed, but they had amazing years and statistically led their teams.
This list will be filled with the biggest regrets and best finds of the 2016 NFL Free Agency period. So let's dive into the list as we look at the 8 free agent signings teams are already regretting and the 7 that have exceeded expectations.
15 Regret: Chase Daniel
I have to say I am extremely jealous of Chase Daniel. Chase Daniel signed a 3-year $21 million deal with the Eagles. About $10 million of that is guaranteed to him. For all that money, Daniels threw one pass in the regular season. The reason for that could be his horrendous preseason. Daniels attempted 60 passes in the preseason, completing 37 of them for 332 yards. Daniels had 1 TD and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 68.2. The Eagles basically paid Daniels to be a safety net that they hoped to never have to use. They hadn't planned on starting no.2 overall pick Carson Wentz right away, but it's clear that Daniels proved to be a waste of cap space.
14 Best: Matt Forte
Matt Forte had a bounce back year this season with the New York Jets. In his 9th pro season, Forte was a stabilizing force in the Jets backfield. His numbers weren't breathtaking, 813 yards rushing with 7 TDs. He also added 263 yards on 30 receptions. The Jets signed Forte to replace Chris Ivory, who most say was not re-signed due to cap concerns.
13 Regret: Coby Fleener
The New Orleans Saints have had one of the better offenses in the NFL over the last 10 years. A big part of that is franchise QB Drew Brees. The tight end position also plays a huge part in their game plan. The Saints felt the salary crunch in 2015 and moved on from All-Pro Jimmy Graham. Coby Fleener was brought in to replace that production. The Saints signed Fleener to a five-year deal worth $36 million (18 of which is guaranteed). Fleener became more and more invisible as the season went on. He played a more diminished role than initially expected on the club.
12 Best: Lamar Miller
11 Regret: Donald Stephenson
The Denver Broncos knew they had a weakness on this club. Their inability to stop the run, and to run the ball was hindering the team. The Broncos went out and signed RT Donald Stephenson to help the team run the ball. Stephenson came from the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offensive unit. Stephenson was a complete failure on the Broncos. The Broncos were the 27th ranked rushing team in the NFL. With the loss of leader Peyton Manning, the running game needed to take the pressure off of rookie QB Trevor Siemian. This did not happen and likely played a big part in the Broncos missing the playoffs.
10 Best: Nick Fairley
9 Regret: Derrick Shelby
8 Best: Josh Norman
Josh Norman was a huge part of the vaunted Carolina Panthers defense in 2015. The Panthers stupidly let Norman go. Norman would go on to sign a huge deal with the Washington Redskins (five years, $75 million). Norman has been everything advertised and more for the Redskins. He would come in with a lot of hype and expectations but he delivered in spades. Norman would be a stabilizing force in the Redskins secondary. Last year he had 67 tackles, 3 INTs, and 2 forced fumbles.
7 Regret: Tashaun Gipson
Tashaun Gipson was brought in to be a leader for the secondary of the Jacksonville Jaguars after starring for the Cleveland Browns (he had a career-high 95 tackles in 2013). Gipson was a complete bust in 2016 for the Jaguars. He had 41 combined tackles and only 1 INT. He ranked 152nd in the NFL last season in combined tackles for DBs. Gipson also struggled to stay healthy last season, hampered by hamstring and knee problems. Gipson was signed to a five-year deal worth $35.5 million. When the Jaguars rolled out that kind of bank, they expected a much better performance out of Gipson. Gipson is only 26 so he has time to turn things around.
6 Best: Jason Pierre-Paul
In July of 2015, Jason Pierre-Paul's life changed forever. Setting off fireworks for his 4th of July festivities, Jason Pierre-Paul had an unfortunate accident. A firework accident led to him losing several fingers and cost him half of the season. The Giants brought him back at a much lower salary last season ($10 million with $8.5 million guaranteed).
5 Regret: Coty Sensabaugh
The fact that Coty Sensabaugh only lasted three games with the Los Angeles Rams should tell you all you need to know. The former Titans CB was signed to stabilize a weak L.A. Rams secondary. Coty Sensabaugh had never been a star in the NFL, he had been a depth player for the Titans. He only started in 27 games over four years in Tennessee, having a career high 60 combined tackles and 2 INTs. The Rams signed him to a three year, $14 million deal.
4 Best: Casey Hayward
What more could the Chargers have asked for after the great season Casey Hayward had in 2016? The Chargers signed Hayward to a three-year deal worth $15.3 million (only $6.8 million guaranteed). Hayward exploded to the top, leading the league in interceptions with 7. He also had 58 combined tackles last season. His interception total came out of nowhere. Prior to last season he only had 9 INTs in his entire career. If Hayward can come close to matching these numbers next season then he will be one of the biggest bargains in the entire NFL yet again. The Chargers have him under contract for two more years which is a huge relief, considering they need help in so many other places.
3 Regret: Ryan Fitzpatrick
2 Best: Nick Perry
Nick Perry was about as underrated of a signing as there was last season. The Green Bay Packers declined to pick up Perry's option for the 2016 season. After declining, the Packers then signed Perry to a new one-year deal for the low salary of just $3 million. Nick Perry set the league on fire this season. He had a career-high 11 sacks for the Packers. He only had a combined 12.5 sacks over the previous four seasons. Perry ended up tied for 8th in the entire league in sacks last season. It's safe to say Perry should be in for a substantial raise this offseason.
1 Regret: Brock Osweiler
Maybe the Denver Broncos knew something the rest of the league didn't. The Houston Texans were praised for signing free agent Quarterback Brock Osweiler in 2016.He has been a colossal disappointment thus far. Osweiler was signed to a four year, $72 million deal. Two years (and 37 million) of the deal are guaranteed. He wouldn't even finish out the season, getting benched in favor of Tom Savage, before a concussion to Savage got him back into the starting job.
In 15 games this season, Osweiler struggled to achieve any success. Osweiler had one of the worst statistical seasons of any starting QB last season. He threw for only 15 touchdowns and added 16 interceptions. His quarterback rating was an abysmal 72.2 (which ranked him 29th among starters). This is not what the Texans were expecting after shelling out all that money. The Texans are stuck with Osweiler for at least one more season, They must be hoping he can find a way to bounce back.
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