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Steven Senne/Associated Press
The 2019 NFL season kicks off at 4 p.m. ET on March 13 with the latest edition of free agency. There’s a good chance that your favorite team is going to be actively adding new pieces—especially if it’s one of the 10 teams expected to have more than $40 million in cap space.
Go ahead and be excited if your team does land one of the big names on the market. Just keep in mind that big money doesn’t always yield big results in the free-agency world.
For proof, we have the 10 best examples from the last decade. These are deals that, in retrospect, were pairings that never really had a chance of justifying the price tag—either because of contract terms, injury risk or because teams simply didn’t properly do their homework.
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Michael Perez/Associated Press
It felt like the Philadelphia Eagles had made all the right moves to ensure a Super Bowl LII berth and subsequent win. With free-agent additions like Nick Foles and Chris Long eventually having a hand in the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy, the 2017 offseason was in stark contrast to the one of 2011.
Yep, that’s the year in which quarterback Vince Young called Philadelphia a “dream team.”
Part of that dream team was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who was given a five-year deal worth $60 million with $25 million guaranteed.
This is the lowest entry on the list because Asomugha was a tremendous player when he was signed. He was a two-time All-Pro and one of the best press-man corners in the league. The problem was that Asomugah was also 30 years old, and his style of play never really fit offensive-line-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator Juan Castillo’s system.
Asomugha was released after just two seasons.
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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
Perhaps the Tennessee Titans were more interested in adding the subject of the film The Blind Side than they were about actually strengthening their offensive line back in 2014. If they had watched any volume of film on Michael Oher during his five years with the Baltimore Ravens, they would have recognized he was a good-not-great player who struggled to find a comfortable home at either tackle position.
Perhaps the Titans should have been tipped off when the Ravens had zero interest in retaining their former first-round selection.
Still, Oher was a five-year starter, so the four-year, $20 million deal he signed that included $9.5 million in guarantees isn’t nearly as bad as some on this list. Heck, that’s $42 million less than the four-year deal Nate Solder signed last offseason.
Unfortunately, Oher struggled in Tennessee, wasn’t cut out for Ken Whisenhunt’s offense, and he played just 11 games before landing on injured reserve and being released the following offseason.
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Michael Perez/Associated Press
In and of itself, signing running back DeMarco Murray to a lucrative contract in 2015 wasn’t a mistake. He had led the the NFL in rushing in 2014 with 1,885 yards with 13 touchdowns and another 416 yards receiving. The fact Philadelphia was taking Murray away from the rival Dallas Cowboys was just icing on the proverbial cake.
Where the Eagles messed up was in giving Murray a lengthy five-year, $42 million deal. Murray was just four years into the NFL, but he endured a heavy workload with the Cowboys. Not only did he have 392 carries in 2014, but he also had 57 receptions. In his four years with Dallas, Murray amassed 1,105 touches.
The wear and tear took its toll, and Murray just wasn’t the same player in Philadelphia. He averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry and produced 1,024 combined rushing and receiving yards. The next offseason, he was traded to Tennessee.
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Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
The fact that the Indianapolis Colts wanted to add wide receiver Andre Johnson during the 2015 offseason didn’t really come as a shock. Johnson was a seven-time Pro Bowler and had tortured the Colts as a member of the Houston Texans for years.
What was surprising was Indianapolis’ willingness to give a 33-year-old wideout a three-year deal worth $21 million. Perhaps the Colts were quick to overpay Johnson because they had competition for his services from the San Diego Chargers, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport (h/t Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).
Whatever the reason, the move was a mistake.
Johnson was coming off a down year in which he had the second-lowest yards-per-catch average of his career to that point, and it was fairly obvious that his ability stretch the field had vanished. Johnson became a pure possession receiver with the Colts, giving them one season and 503 yards before being released.
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Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Tight end Ladarius Green never really shined as a member of the Chargers, but he did show some promise during the 2015 season. He caught 37 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns. This, along with Green’s young age (25) prompted the Pittsburgh Steelers to hand out a four-year, $20 million deal that included a $4.75 million signing bonus.
Obviously, the Steelers saw promise in the young pass-catcher, but that’s still far too much money for a mostly unproven player. Yes, Green was usually playing alongside or behind future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, but he still barely topped 1,000 yards in four seasons with the Chargers.
To make matters worse, Green suffered an ankle injury during the offseason. He appeared in just six games for the Steelers—though, to be fair, he did rack up 304 yards and a touchdown—and was released the following offseason. He hasn’t played in the NFL since.
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Al Behrman/Associated Press
A wide-receiver deal worth $28 million over four years would be considered team-friendly in today’s NFL. However, it was quite sizeable back in 2010 when the Cincinnati Bengals gave one to Antonio Bryant. It was also a deal that just didn’t make much sense, for multiple reasons.
Cincinnati had won the AFC North the previous year and was looking to take the next step, but overpaying Bryant was a mistake. He was coming off a year hampered by injuries with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had undergone knee surgery August 2009, was out of football for all of 2007 and had just two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume.
In addition, Bryant had never endeared himself to a franchise. After spending his first three seasons with the Cowboys, he never lasted more than two years with any one franchise.
Making the deal look even worse in retrospect is the fact that Bryant struggled so much in preseason that he was released before the start of the 2010 season. In fact, he never played in a regular-season NFL game again.
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Evan Vucci/Associated Press
This is probably the deal that first sprang to mind. Almost exactly 10 years ago, the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a massive seven-year deal worth $100 million with a then-record $41 million in guarantees.
Not only was this a ridiculous amount of money 10 years ago, it was particularly unbelievable for a player who carried multiple red flags. Haynesworth had already played seven years in the NFL, but he hadn’t played a full 16-game season since his rookie year. He was also labeled a dirty player after receiving a five-game suspension in 2006 for stomping on the head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode.
What made the contract even worse is that the Redskins were paying Haynesworth to be a player he wasn’t. As Haynesworth later explained in a letter to his younger self for the Players’ Tribune, he wanted to attack the quarterback, while head coach Mike Shanahan simply wanted him to be a space-eater.
“You will lose your passion for football in Washington, and it will be impossible to get back,” Haynesworth wrote.
Haynesworth played just 20 games for Washington before he was traded to the New England Patriots. This proved to be a disastrous contract, but it’s not quite the worst of the last 10 years.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Somehow quarterback Sam Bradford just seems to keep fleecing teams. He convinced the Arizona Cardinals to give him a two-year, $40 million deal last offseason that included a $10 million signing bonus and a $5 million guaranteed salary in 2018.
This was obviously a bad contract decision by the Cardinals, especially considering Bradford had suffered two previous ACL tears and had dealt with more knee issues during the 2017 season. On some level, though, it made sense.
The Cardinals couldn’t have known at the time that they’d get a crack at UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in the draft. Even if they thought they could nab a rookie quarterback, Bradford could be part of the mentoring process, and it’s not like he didn’t play well when fully healthy in 2016 (3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, five interceptions) or throughout his career when healthy.
Still, giving out that kind of cash to an immobile, oft-injured quarterback when the Cardinals knew their offensive line was a mess was shortsighted. Bradford made just three starts for Arizona before being replaced by Rosen and eventually released.
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Steven Senne/Associated Press
What’s even worse than giving a banged-up Bradford $40 million is giving a mostly unproven Brock Osweiler $72 million. That’s exactly what the Houston Texans did in 2016, though, on a deal that included $37 million fully guaranteed.
Houston handed out the deal after Osweiler made just seven career starts for the Denver Broncos, all in 2015 and all in games in which he was decidedly just above average. Osweiler posted a respectable passer rating of 86.4 in 2015 but was replaced by an aged and injury-hampered Peyton Manning before Denver’s Super Bowl run.
This proved to be an awful contract for Houston, as Osweiler struggled with accuracy, made bad decisions and ultimately started just 14 games for the franchise. He was so bad that the Texans sent the Cleveland Browns a second-round pick just to take Osweiler and his contract off their hands after one season.
“We’re really excited to acquire a second-round draft choice in this trade,” former Browns president Sashi Brown said at the time, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Cleveland, in turn, dumped Osweiler before the start of the 2017 season.
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Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
In terms of raw numbers, the contract quarterback Matt Flynn received from the Seattle Seahawks back in 2012 wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as Haynesworth’s Washington deal or the one Osweiler got from Houston. Flynn signed a deal worth $26 million over three years with $10 million guaranteed.
This wasn’t outlandish money for a quarterback seven years ago, and it pales in comparison to the three-year, $84 million deal Kirk Cousins signed last offseason.
What makes this contract the worst of the last decade is the fact that general manager John Schneider gave him the deal based on two career starts.
Yes, Flynn played well when he got chances with the Green Bay Packers’ starting offense. Yes, he lit up the Detroit Lions for 480 yards and six touchdowns in the 2011 season finale. But handing out starting-quarterback money for a guy who had a pair of good garbage-game performances on his resume was downright foolish.
Of course, the Seahawks went on to draft Russell Wilson in the third round the same year, and garbage time is all Seattle fans ever saw from Flynn.