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Worst free agent signings in NFL history

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

March 23rd, 2020

Free agency is an exciting time for fans of the National Football League. Franchise players change teams, and we wonder how these new faces will adjust to their new surroundings. Sometimes, things work out great. Other times… yeesh.

We’ve come up with a list of five of the worst free agent signings in NFL history. These players flopped for various reasons, and it’s always fun to examine things with the benefit of hindsight.

5. Edgerton Hartwell (2005, Atlanta Falcons)

Hartwell emerged as a reliable starting linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and 2003, when he made 240 tackles, combined. Injuries mostly kept him on special teams in 2004, but it wasn’t a shock that another team gave him a shot when he entered free agency after the season.

What was shocking was the contract he got. Hartwell signed a six-year deal worth more than $26 million, and he fell far short of Atlanta’s expectations. Two years and just 13 games played later, Hartwell’s NFL career was over.

4. Larry Brown (1996, Oakland Raiders)

Brown won three Super Bowl rings as a defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. He was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXX, after he intercepted off two passes in the second half of the 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. After that performance, Brown looked to cash in, and he signed a five-year, $12.5 million deal with the Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders would soon regret the signing. The cornerback who recorded two interceptions in 30 minutes during Super Bowl XXX tallied just one in 12 games for Oakland, and he left the team after the 1997 campaign.

3. Joe Namath (1977, Los Angeles Rams)

“Broadway Joe” spent 12 seasons with the New York Jets, a time that included three passing titles and a win in Super Bowl III, over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. However, he went just 4-17 over his last two seasons in New York, where he combined for just 19 touchdowns against 44 interceptions.

Hoping to revive his career, Namath moved west to play for the Rams. Things didn’t pan out, though. He played just four games, completed 46.7% of his passes, and retired at the end of the year.

2. Antonio Brown (2019, New England Patriots)

After he was traded from Pittsburgh and cut by Oakland, the polarizing wide receiver signed a one-year, $15 million contract with the New England Patriots. Visions of Tom Brady reviving Brown’s career, and the wide receiver staying on the straight and narrow, undoubtedly danced in the heads of Patriot fans.

That didn’t happen. Brown played one game with New England, and after further criminal allegations surfaced against the seven-time Pro Bowler, he was released less than a month after signing. Brown’s NFL career may very well be over.

1. Albert Haynesworth (Washington Redskins)

Haynesworth established himself as one of the league’s better defensive tackles during a seven-season stretch with the Tennessee Titans. His performance in 2008 included 8 1/2 sacks, and it earned him the second of back-to-back invitations to the Pro Bowl.

Washington coveted Haynesworth enough to sign him to a seven-year, $100 million contract. He lasted just two seasons with the Redskins, because of differences with the coaching staff and a poor fit in the team’s 3-4 scheme. He was traded after the 2010 season and was out of the league in 2012.


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