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The worst NFL free agent signings of all time

Profile Picture: Jason Ence

March 20th, 2020

NFL free agency is in full swing, and teams are looking to add the pieces that will help springboard them to a Super Bowl run.

However, a bad free-agent signing can sink a franchise for years. Let’s go over the five worst free agent signings in NFL history.

5. Daryl Gardener, Denver Broncos (2003, seven years, $35 million)

This deal was one of the worst in the NFL at the time, because of the performance-to-money return. Off an impressive first seven years with the Dolphins and Redskins, the Broncos decided to overpay a 30-year-old defensive lineman with off-the-field baggage.

He played just five games, started only two, and did not register a single sack (he had five tackles). He was suspended multiple times and got into a fight at a restaurant, which forced him to undergo wrist surgery. In November of 2003 he went on a radio station and ripped coach Mike Shanahan, which led to a suspension him, and the Broncos later cut him. He never played in the NFL again.

4. Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles (2011, five years, $60 million)

When your fan base starts calling you “toast” as a cornerback, it’s not an endearing nickname. Such was the fate of Asomugha, who went from being one of the best corners in the league to being torched regularly on the field.

Asomugha had gone to three consecutive Pro Bowls with the Oakland Raiders, before he hit the free-agent market in 2011. He landed with the Eagles and many predicted that they would be a force that year.

His first season in Philly was disappointing, but the second saw him fall off a cliff. After three interceptions in 2011, he recorded just one 2012, and was repeatedly targeted by opposing teams. Quarterbacks put up a rating of more than 90 on passes thrown to players he was covering. He was torched numerous times on deep routes, and after he allowed just one touchdown in his dominant, three-year run with the Raiders, he allowed nearly 10 in two seasons.

The Eagles finally cut him, after they went 12-20 with him on the roster, and he played five more games with the 49ers before he retired.

3. Jerry Porter, Jacksonville Jaguars (2008, six years, $30 million)

This one hurts the most, as a Jaguars fan (yes, we exist). The Jaguars were searching for a replacement for Jimmy Smith, who retired two years prior, and decided Porter would be the new primary target in the passing game. The Jaguars gave him a massive deal, including $10 million guaranteed.

It was one of the worst decisions the franchise has ever made (outside of their quarterback choices). Porter recorded only 11 catches and 181 yards during his single season in Jacksonville. Less than two months after he signed the deal, he had surgery to repair a hamstring injury and missed the first three games of the season.

He did not record his second catch until Week 9, and in February the following year, he was cut and never played in the NFL again.

2. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans (2016, four years, $72 million)

After Houston missed out on a few quarterbacks in the 2016 offseason, it gave Osweiler — whose primary claim to fame was being Peyton Manning’s backup in Denver — a massive contract. The Broncos let Osweiler go, after he demanded too much money to replace Manning, which should have been a warning sign for the Texans.

He lasted just one season in Houston. He threw just 15 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions, and did not reach the 3,000-yards mark. He averaged fewer than six yards per pass attempt and was unable to complete much more than dump-off passes. He was benched for Tom Savage in Week 15, but returned for the playoffs when Savage was injured and threw three interceptions in a loss to the Patriots.

The Texans cut their losses after just one year, took a massive dead-space cap hit, and gave the Browns a second-round pick to take the rest of his contract off their hands.

1. Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins (2009, seven years, $100 million)

Ask any NFL writer or analyst who the worst signing of all time is, and Haynesworth will usually be the first name out of their mouth. He’s the consensus pick for a reason. In the era where Daniel Snyder threw money at every big name on the market, the defensive tackle from Tennessee was by far his worst decision.

He was a 4-3 defensive tackle moving to a 3-4 system, which rarely works. He also had anger issues and had been suspended multiple times already in his career. None of that changed when he joined his new team, as he fought with coaches and refused to participate in offseason workouts.

On the field he showed little effort, most famously in a play against the Eagles, where he quit halfway through a play and laid on the ground.

In his two years with the Redskins, he recorded just 53 tackles, and was eventually dealt to the Patriots for a fifth-round pick. Not even Bill Belichick could make something out of him. The Pats waived Haynesworth after only six games, and after he fought with an assistant on the sideline.

He was claimed by Tampa Bay, where he played seven games and was then released, and never played in the NFL again.


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