Now that free agency is upon us in the National Football League, it’s time to recall some of the not so great deals that have been agreed to over the years. No player tries to underperform on purpose and each team thinks they are getting better with every addition. But it doesn’t always work out that way. There are so many deals that have gone bad that it’s impossible to list them all here. So we will take a look at some of the agreements that have worked out the worst for teams. A lot of players have made a lot of money without having to try all that hard, but you have to love the ones that got the big payday, and then never played a game.
15 Nate Odomes – Seattle Seahawks
Odomes was one of the best defensive backs in the league during his time with the Buffalo Bills. He was a main reason they went to four consecutive Super Bowls. Before the 1994 season he joined the Seahawks on a four year contract that was worth $8.4 million. He suffered from lingering knee injuries and ended up never appearing in a game for Seattle. It isn’t reported how much he got guaranteed but you know that he was given some kind of signing bonus. Whatever it was, it turned out to be free money for him and a major Seattle free agent bust.
14 Cleo Lemon – Jacksonville Jaguars
Cleo Lemon’s contract with the Jaguars wasn’t one of major proportions but he still made out like a bandit. In 2008 he was brought in to provide competition for starter David Garrard. So he was given a deal for three years at $9 million. Prior to joining the Jags he had played with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. You may not recognize his name because he didn’t play well in either place. That’s why the contract was surprising. Lemon made out like a thief on the deal as he only appeared in 2 games for Jacksonville and didn’t complete a pass. In his defense he only attempted two of them. So during his time in Jacksonville he earned a cool $1.5 million per pass attempt. Who says that practice doesn’t pay off?
13 Matt Flynn – Seattle Seahawks
Every once in a while a player is able to ride a big game into a huge contract, and in rare cases, they can even make an entire career out of one good game. See Doug Flutie for that one. But here we have Matt Flynn who was the backup quarterback with the Green Bay Packers and sat in for a resting Aaron Rodgers one Sunday afternoon. Flynn passed for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. The Seahawks thought that he could do that all of the time and signed him to a three-year deal that was worth $26 million. Flynn ended up playing in just three games before being replaced by rookie Russell Wilson. He appeared in 3 games and had a total of 5 completed passes for Seattle. That works out to about $1.7 million per pass completion. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
12 Chuck Smith – Carolina Panthers
Chuck Smith had some good years with the Atlanta Falcons. He was considered one of the top defensive ends in the NFL and he was part of a team that went to Super Bowl XXXIII. When he left the team he was the franchise leader in sacks and the Carolina Panthers thought that he could do the same for them. So they brought him in and signed him to a five-year deal that was worth $21 million. Before he retired he played in only two games with the Panthers and made one single tackle. So the financial breakdown is that he earned about $4 million for that one tackle. All in a day’s work right?
11 Adam Archuleta – Washington Redskins
The Redskins have been the victims of too many bad free agent deals to count. But at least they keep trying. In 2006 Archuleta signed a seven-year contract with Washington for $30 million. He didn’t like the way that he was used and the safety complained quite loudly about it. After one season with the Redskins he was traded to the Chicago Bears. His time in Washington saw him get one sack, for which he was paid about $4 million for. That was his lowest sack number on a season for his career. But it was possibly the most lucrative sack of his career.
10 Jerry Porter – Jacksonville Jaguars
Porter was a great wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders and was part of the team that lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 Super Bowl. He rode the success of that season to a six-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars that was worth $30 million. He suffered a hamstring injury that severely limited his play that season and he had only 11 catches and just one for a touchdown. He was then released by the team after being paid around $5 million for that one touchdown reception.
9 Larry Brown – Oakland Raiders
Brown had a monster season in 1995 with the Dallas Cowboys and he ended up as the MVP of Super Bowl XXX. So it was no surprise that a lot of teams wanted to add the cornerback to their defense. The Raiders were the lucky winners by signing Brown to a $12.5 million contract over five years. He played two seasons on the Raiders roster and only appeared in 12 total games, making one lone interception. The financials worked out to be about $5 million for that one interception.
8 Albert Haynesworth – Washington Redskins
In 2009 the Washington Redskins thought that Albert Haynesworth was going to solve all of their problems on defense. But all they got was one more very expensive problem. They gave him a seven-year contract that was worth $100 million. That made him the highest paid defender ever at the time. During his two years there he was a major problem for the coaches and he only sacked the quarterback 6 times. They eventually traded him to the New England Patriots for just a 5th round draft pick. But his two years with the Redskins earned him a little under $5 million per sack.
7 Nnamdi Asomugha – Philadelphia Eagles
Three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons can net you a really good pay day. See what Asomugha did for a good example. He turned his three straight Pro Bowl years with the Oakland Raiders into a five-year contract with the Eagles that was worth $60 million. He was THE top free agent in 2011 and the Eagles thought they had won the lottery. That was when Vince Young called the squad the “Dream Team”. Well things didn’t turn out so well for the Eagles, but Asomugha sure cleaned up. In his two years in Philadelphia he notched a total of four interceptions. So before he was released, the cornerback earned over $7 million per interception. Not too shabby.
6 Javon Walker – Oakland Raiders
When the Raiders lost Jerry Porter to the Jaguars, they thought they were getting a great deal by bringing in Javon Walker for 6 years in a deal that was worth $55 million. It turns out that both Porter and Walker took the money and ran. But not into the end zone. In 2008 Walker got into just 8 games and had one touchdown reception. For that touchdown he made about $9 million. So between Porter in Jacksonville and Walker in Oakland, the two combined that season for 2 touchdowns receptions for about $14 million. Talk about a waste of money. Wow.
5 LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
LeSean McCoy wasn’t officially a free agent as he was traded to the Buffalo Bills by then Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly. McCoy then agreed to a new contract with the Bills as part of the trade so that’s good enough to be included on the list.
During his time with the Eagles he brought an electricity to the air and was a player that the defense always had to know where he was. He is a true game breaker in every sense of the word. Well, he was until he went to the Bills anyway.
Buffalo signed him to a 5-year contract that was worth $40 million, and $26.5 million of that is guaranteed. After one season in Buffalo he has been pretty much a non factor and had three touchdowns. So to this point in the contract he has earned about $9 million per touchdown. The Bills can only hope that he gets back to his old self and brings that number down. If not, Rex Ryan might not last very long in Buffalo.
4 C.J. Spiller - New Orleans Saints
When the Buffalo Bills drafted C.J. Spiller, their fans erupted like they had finally won a Super Bowl. It was quite amazing to see such a reaction from nothing but a draft pick, one that wasn’t even a top pick. He never became the feature back that the Bills had hoped he would become and when his time was up in Buffalo he moved on to the New Orleans Saints.
Spiller has played one season of a 4-year deal that was worth $16 million, but $9 million of that money is guaranteed. He rushed for 112 yards last season and zero touchdowns, which basically makes his $9 million nothing more than free money. There is still time for him to turn things around but to this point in his contract, the Saints are looking quite foolish.
3 Edgerton Hartwell – Atlanta Falcons
Edgerton Hartwell played special teams for the Baltimore Ravens. He wasn’t anything special but in 2004 the Atlanta Falcons thought that he was going to be. So they signed him to a six-year contract that was worth $26.25 million. He made out quite well as he spent two years with the Falcons, played in only 13 games, and registered just one sack. So the financial breakdown he earned per sack was about $12 million. Apparently that didn’t fly well with Atlanta and they released him after two seasons.
2 LeCharles Bentley – Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are forever trying to improve via free agency. You have to give them credit as they are not afraid to take a risk to improve the team. The only problem is that most of the risks that they take don’t end up working out.
One of their worst deals was with LeCharles Bentley, who had been a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the New Orleans Saints. In 2006 the Browns were happy to sign him to a six-year contract for somewhere between $30-36 million. There was $12.5 million that was guaranteed. Signing day was Bentley’s most active day for the team.
On the first day of training camp he ruptured his patellar tendon. At some point during the follow-up appointments, rehab, operations, and procedures, he developed a staph infection. He wasn’t the only one as several other Cleveland players had the same thing happen to them. When Bentley learned of this, the relationship between team and player was pretty much over. As a matter of fact, he came very close to losing his leg during the infections. He never took the field for the Browns and was paid $12.5 million. When you consider what he had to go through though, you can’t call it free money. But it certainly was a waste of money for the Browns.
1 Ndamukong Suh – Miami Dolphins
The front office of the Miami Dolphins must have been drinking when Ndamukong Suh came to town to visit the team during free agency. He ended up signing a huge contract with them. Yes the defensive tackle was very good during his years with the Detroit Lions, and yes he is only one full year into the contract that he signed, but to this point he has been one of the biggest busts of all time.
Suh’s deal pays him an average of over $19 million per year. He also received $25.5 million as a signing bonus AND $60 million in guaranteed money. So to total that up, in his first season with the Dolphins he earned over $104.5 million. He finished last season with a total of 6 sacks. So to this point in his contract he has earned over a whopping $17 million per quarterback sack. That’s simply amazing. The Dolphins can only hope that he improves over the rest of his contract to bring that number down. If not, it will be considered the biggest bust of all time.