Bad spending sprees by NFL teams in the free agency period is almost guaranteed to occur every offseason. By its very nature, free agency is designed to have teams overpay for players under the guise of roster improvement. Sometimes those improvements come to fruition, and other times there's a lot left to be desired. We've certainly seen no shortage of overzealous signings that various teams have made over the years, and there were plenty to go around when the signing period opened for this offseason on March 9th. Will some of them work out? Definitely, but in numerous cases, there were teams willing to pay quite a bit of money, for talent that didn't possess the deepest resume.
Granted, some of these teams had a ton of cap space, and the means to overpay for some of these players. That doesn't mean however, that it was a good decision. Simply wasting additional cap space on a subpar player, or a player clearly just looking for a payday isn't the way to go about building a winning roster. Not every player will fall into these categories, but there are many who will, as is observed every year. These teams would have been better off saving the cash.
Ranked below are the top 15 players who were overpaid in NFL free agency this year.
16 DeSean Jackson
Yes, Jackson is still a productive deep threat, and can torch secondaries with regularity as long as he's on the field. But that's the key; as long as he's on the field, which hasn't always been the case during the past few seasons. Now past the age of 30, Jackson also stands a greater risk of losing a portion of his speed, which would immediately diminish the value that he brings outside of the field. With $20 million guaranteed for his new deal with the Buccaneers, they're no doubt expecting to get a fair bit of production out of him. Playing alongside Mike Evans will help, as will playing with an up-and-coming quarterback in Jameis Winston, but Jackson is going to have to prove that he can still produce at his career-average level. That may not be the case anymore, and Tampa Bay paid a lot of money to find out.
15 Barry Church
At one time, Church was a relatively useful safety in Dallas, but now that he's closing in on his 30th birthday, he has deteriorated in the last few seasons. The Jaguars signed him for $12 million in guaranteed money, and that's a hefty sum of money for a defensive back who's no longer in the prime of his career. They want a safety to pair with Tishaun Gipson in their secondary, and it makes sense that they would pay for it, given the fact that they've been extremely active in the last few offseasons. It has yet to materialize on the field, and frankly they would have been better off drafting a safety in a deep secondary class, rather than expecting Church to regain the spark he had several years ago. It wasn't enough money to be considered an awful deal, but it definitely wasn't the best way to go about addressing the position.
13 Matt Kalil
The market for offensive tackles was surprising this season, as it became one of, if not the most desired position in free agency, and one where a ton of money was spent. Kalil was up and down during his time with the Vikings, and suffered a major injury last season. He just signed a whopping $30 million guaranteed deal with the Panthers, and it's fair to wonder what they believe Kalil's peak will be with them. There wasn't much evidence when he was on the field last year that he was worth that kind of a contract, and the injury was another negative on top of it. Granted, he played a on a terrible Vikings offensive line as a whole, but it seems that Carolina did overpay massively in the end for a player of Kalil's caliber. He'll have an important job in protecting Cam Newton for the foreseeable future, and he'll have to rise to the occasion, and live up to a massive deal.
12 Calais Campbell
Another Jaguars signing, and another blatant overpay. Campbell has been a great payer, and he is still very productive to be fair, but to pay him $30 million guaranteed at this stage of his career is a risk that only a team with too much cap space for their own good would make, and Jacksonville fits the bill for that. Campbell, in combination with Malik Jackson, should shore up the Jaguars defensive line to make them a fearsome unit, but at what cost? Campbell got a four-year deal from the Jaguars, and since he's past the age of 30, it's unlikely that he plays all-out, while maintaining the same output he's had his whole career. There were better routes to go for the Jaguars to get another good defensive tackle. This is just a bad contract (though for a historically good player) any way you cut it.
11 Micah Hyde
Hyde is a nice versatile player in the secondary, but it seems like the Bills tried to overcompensate for losing Stephon Gilmore in free agency, and were looking to shell out more money than necessary. They gave him a good amount of guaranteed money ($14 million) and it's kind of unsure as to where he fits in their secondary exactly. Hyde isn't a bad player, but he's also never started a full season, playing sporadically each of his four years in Green Bay. The Bills have a bunch of question marks heading into the 2017 season, and Hyde does very little to ensure any kind of success on the defensive end. He's just not a net gain for the secondary as a whole, and Buffalo probably would have been better off drafting a cornerback in what is a deep draft for that position group. This one isn't likely to pay dividends considering the money spent.
10 Kevin Zeitler
With as many holes on the Browns roster as there are (a lot), it's curious as to why they would spend $30 million guaranteed on an offensive guard. They do have the cap space to do so, but this position generally isn't worth this kind of money being thrown around to it in free agency, particularly for a team starting a complete rebuild. Zeitler is definitely a really good player, but he's not worth this contract. Still, this is an example of a team with a massive surplus of cap space being able to set the market on a position. No other team would have paid this kind of money for a guard, so the Browns were able to get a really good player with ease. We'll see if it's worth it in the end, but they have to address just about every other position on their offense, so even if he plays well, Zeitler's impact won't be seen for a while.
9 Nolan Carroll
After losing four players in their secondary to free agency, the Cowboys were in a desperate situation for this position group. Problem is, Carroll is clearly on the downturn of his career, and didn't play well for the Eagles last year in any capacity. Dallas desperately needed help at cornerback, but for the player he is at the moment, he isn't even worth the relatively modest sum that they paid for him. With all the uncertainty surrounding their secondary, it's more than likely he's going to see a fair bit of playing time, and unlikely that he'll be productive. There were better options at the Cowboys' disposal, but they must have wanted a veteran presence, because that's the only way they could justify signing a player like Carroll at such a late stage in his career.
8 Stephon Gilmore
There was no question that Gilmore was the most talented cornerback available in free agency, but he received an absolutely massive deal from the Patriots that included $40 million guaranteed. Free agent corners have a distinct history of not being worth the money, and while Gilmore is going into a proven system, and will produce, but it's difficult being able to assume he will live up to that deal. Of course, the argument could be made that since the Brady and Belichick era is on the downturn, the Patriots should absolutely be willing to max out their cap space in an effort to win one or two more Super Bowls, and that's a valid point of view. In a vacuum however, Gilmore probably won't be able to produce at his contract value.
7 Kenny Britt
As usual, the Browns had plenty of cap space to work with and spent recklessly on an aging receiver like Britt, who's only had one 1,000-yard season to his credit, over the better part of a decade in the NFL. He got $20 million guaranteed, which isn't a bad deal for a productive receiver in his prime, but a terrible deal for a player who is nothing more than a stopgap. He's better than anyone currently on the Cleveland receiving corps, but that isn't saying much, considering the complete lack of talent on the unit. Britt may have some success just because there's nobody else for the (yet undetermined Browns quarterback) to throw to, but that doesn't mean he'll be worth such a high price tag. This was a bad signing, but the Browns have very little to lose.
6 Nick Fairley
Fairley is to the Saints defense what Britt is to the Browns offense; a pure stopgap who they could afford to overpay for, creating the illusion that they are a better player than their history indicates. Sure, Fairley has been serviceable during his time in the league. He's a solid interior defensive lineman that can be relied on for quality play. But he isn't worth $14 million guaranteed, and at this point, New Orleans is scrambling to improve a defensive unit as a whole that has little in the way of up-and-coming players. Fairley is hovering around the age of 30, and while he'll hold his ground with the Saints, he won't be the impact player that some expect him to be, making this signing an example of dead weight.
5 Robert Woods
The contract that the Rams ended up giving Woods just showed how crazy the wide receiver market was for this free agency period. He was a marginal player in Buffalo, and ended up getting a multi-year deal worth $15 million in guarantees. He's not a terrible player, but he certainly isn't worth that kind of money. It seemed to be a reactionary signing after the Rams lost Kenny Britt, so the increased cost may have had something to do with that. Either way, it's hard to see a player like Woods living up to a deal like that. For a better value, it would have been a nice pickup for a team who needs to give the young Jared Goff some offensive weapons, but at that price, this deal is a complete head-scratcher.
4 Pierre Garcon
The 49ers have a new general manager in former All-Pro safety John Lynch, and he made no bones about spending some serious cash right out of the gate in his first offseason. The moves he did make however, were questionable to say the least. Garcon is an aging receiver who can still play, but it's no doubt that his best days are behind him. He would have been worth a modest deal, but paying him $20 million guaranteed is absolutely ridiculous, and is just spending money for the sake of spending it. The 49ers have no quarterback on the roster who is any good to begin with, and paying a receiver that much money, considering they won't be elevating a young talent under center, is just foolish. Not a good start to the John Lynch era as general manager, and it wasn't even the worst signing he made this offseason.
3 Mike Glennon
The Bears have officially entered a full-scale rebuilding period after moving on from Jay Cutler, and Glennon is there stopgap quarterback for the next few years while that process develops. After one year as the starter in Tampa Bay, he then sat behind Jameis Winston for a few seasons, riding the pine as the the backup. It's understood that Glennon won't be the team's quarterback of the future, but still, paying him $18 million in guaranteed money is a bit of a stretch, when that money could have been spent at other positions of need. Glennon has barely played the past couple of years, and isn't even a guarantee to save face at the quarterback position. A questionable move by Chicago, who already know they aren't expecting to compete for the next couple of seasons.
2 Kyle Juszcyk
It's hard to believe that Lynch could top himself on the Garcon deal, but he did. He actually was willing to give a fullback $21 million over four years, in the landscape of 2017 NFL rosters. That's simply unfathomable, and it shows that Lynch has a wildly different idea for San Francisco's roster than just about anybody expected. There's no question that Juszcyk is a good fullback, but the position simply doesn't decide games anymore like it used to years ago. It's a plug-and-play position, normally only used in certain packages, for only a portion of the game. Why it was valued by Lynch so highly, who knows? It's difficult to see this move as anything else than a waste of money. The difference with this signing as compared to others on this list is that it's at a position that isn't even used by every NFL team anymore.
1 A.J. Bouye
It was predicted before free agency began that some team was going to give Bouye a huge contract, and the Jaguars took the bait. Last season on the Texans, Bouye was able to show that he was a nice player, but he's never played a full season as a starter, and just has limited experience in that role. That didn't stop Jacksonville from giving him almost $30 million guaranteed over a five year deal. A contract like that for a player who hasn't produced over the course of an entire season is completely ridiculous, and indicative of the Jaguars' "spend first" mentality that they have cultivated over the past several offseasons. Could it work out? Sure, but paying that much to find that out for a player with such limited experience is a sucker move. This could end up being a big mistake for Jacksonville, who already has a bunch of money tied up to other players who the next few years.