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.
If they could go back in time, the Eagles would have signed a weapon for Wentz instead.
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.
Forte provided solid play for significantly less money. Forte signed a 3-year deal worth $12 million. Ivory on the other hand got five years and $32 million from the Jaguars. Forte will likely take on a smaller role heading into next season due to the play of Bilal Powell. For 2016 however, Forte was one signing that far exceeded expectations for New York.
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.
Fleener ended the season with 47 catches for 593 yards and 3 touchdowns. Coby Fleener has the most potential to bounce back next season. With Drew Brees tossing the pigskin anything is possible, but for now, he has to rank as one of the most disappointing free agent signings.
12 Best: Lamar Miller
The Houston Texans definitely swung and missed on QB Brock Osweiler. They fared much better with their signing of Lamar Miller. Miller's time in Miami could only be described as a complete failure. He was a constant subject of questions and ridicule, even after his 1,099 yard rushing season in 2014. Miller signed a four-year deal with the Texans worth $26 million ($14 million guaranteed). Miller responded with a solid season for the Texans. Miller ran for 1,073 yards and 5 TD. He also caught 31 passes for 188 yards and a TD. Miller was a lone bright spot on an otherwise abysmal Texans offense. If the Texans' passing game improves next year, Miller should get more room to roam in the backfield.
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.
Donald Stephenson was the worst of a bad bunch. He got benched by the club, only brought back because his backup was even worse. At the end of the season, Pro Football Focus ranked him dead last in his position. Definitely not a good bang for the Broncos' buck ($14 million over 3 years, $10 million guaranteed). Needless to say, the Broncos will be back on the hunt this offseason.
10 Best: Nick Fairley
Nick Fairley was an extremely underrated free agent signing by the New Orleans Saints. His actual base salary for last season was only $765,000. He received a signing bonus that bumped up his salary to $3 million. He delivered a lot of bang for their buck. Last season he had 43 combined tackles along with 6.5 sacks (a new career high). To put that in perspective another 2016 free agent was Malik Jackson, who also had 6.5 sacks and 33 combined tackles. The difference is, Malik signed a six-year deal with Jacksonville worth $85.5 million. It just goes to show how big of a value signing Fairley really was. It should also be a lesson to teams around the league that help can be found at a reasonable price.
9 Regret: Derrick Shelby
The Falcons have long struggled with their pass rush. The team ranked 29th, 30th and 15th in sacks the three seasons prior to 2016. The Falcons signed DE Derrick Shelby to a four year $21 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Shelby had been an average pass rusher for the Dolphins in his career thus far. He took a huge step back in 2016, only appearing in six games. in his six games he had a total of only 8 tackles and no sacks. The Falcons are having one of the best seasons in franchise history, but Derrick Shelby played little to no part in the team's success. The Falcons saw improvement in their pass rush, but that was mostly due to 2015 first round pick Vic Beasley breaking out. They didn't need 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.
He led the team in INTs and ranked 4th in total tackles. He will look to build off a dominant season and appears to be a big part of the Redskins defense for the future. Meanwhile the Panthers were torched in their secondary without Norman taking away the opposition's biggest weapon on a regular basis.
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.
It's amazing how bad Jacksonville looked this past season despite spending so much money in free agency.
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).
He responded in a big way, having a solid season last year. Pierre-Paul had 53 combined tackles, 7 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. He has put himself in a position to get a big money contract this offseason. He has said he refuses to sign a one-year deal. After missing out on a long-term deal due to the fireworks accident, you can understand why JPP really wants to cash in on his next contract.
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.
After just three games the Rams had seen enough. He had 10 combined tackles in those three games. The Rams made him a healthy scratch in Week 4 and then cut him. The Giants picked him up, and he played in 10 games for the club (0 starts). In 10 games he had 15 combined tackles. Not the type of production that makes you stick in the NFL. Sensabaugh has his work cut out for him next season if he intends to play in the NFL.
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.
Hayward will be looking to cash in on his next deal, so expect another good season out of him.
3 Regret: Ryan Fitzpatrick
The only quarterback in the NFL that had a worse rating than Brock Osweiler was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The New York Jets brought Fitzpatrick back late in the offseason. The Jets and Fitzpatrick had been going back and forth all offseason. The Jets finally bit the bullet and gave in to Fitz's demands of a one-year deal worth $12 million. He rewarded them with one of the worst seasons of his entire career. Fitzpatrick played in 14 games (11 starts) and racked up only 12 TDs against 17 INTs. His QB rating was a league low 69.6 and the Jets struggled throughout the year. Fitzpatrick is a free agent once again. With his performance last season, his odds of getting a starting job next season look to be low.
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.
With the Packers lacking playmakers on defense, bringing Perry back is a must, as they really need to add some pieces besides relying on Aaron Rodgers.
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.