Every NFL offseason is filled with the excitement of free agency. Each team tries to fill needs and build upon the previous year by signing the correct players. Much of the football jargon turns to contract negotiations and bidding wars. Like an auctioneer at an art gallery, agents and organizations raffle services to the highest bidder.
Sometimes these free agent signings turn teams into immediate Super Bowl contenders. In the 2015 offseason, the Broncos added many integral pieces that led to their eventual World Championship.
However, sometimes these free agents do not pan out, or teams pay an egregious amount of money for mediocre players.
Here are the 10 worst free agent signings of the 2016 offseason:
10. Donald Stephenson – OT / Denver Broncos (3-year $14 Million)
The Stephenson signing is one of the rare misses for General Manager John Elway. Leading up to 2016, Stephenson never started more than 7 games in a season. The Broncos brought him in to be their starting right tackle for a relatively modest price tag. However, Stephenson was a very poor starting tackle in 2016 and was a constant deficiency in a Denver O-Line that was one of the worst in the NFL. I think it’s highly likely that Elway finds a replacement starter for him in 2017, or perhaps, cut him from the roster entirely.
9. Coby Fleener – TE / New Orleans Saints (5-year $36 Million)
The signing of Fleener could still pan for New Orleans, but his 2016 campaign was an extreme disappoint for the hype that followed him to the Big Easy. Fleener was expected to be the heir to the throne that Jimmy Graham once sat, however, he was unable to fill the crown. His 50 receptions were good enough for 18th among tight ends, 631 yards good enough for 13th, and 3 touchdowns were good enough for 20th. Fleener still has time to turn it around, and hopefully, another offseason with Brees and Payton will improve his play, but 2016 was a big letdown.
8. Malik Jackson – DE / Jacksonville Jaguars (6-year $85.5 Million)
After winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos, Jackson signed one of the most lucrative free agent contracts of the 2016 offseason. Jackson had a decent year (33 combined tackles and 6.5 sacks), but when you look at what the Jags paid for him, he was a bit of a disappoint. His 33 tackles were less than all three previous years with Denver (42, 42, 45). When you compare him to other DE signed you can see why this was a bad signing, at least for the 2016 season. Olivier Vernon was signed by the Giants for a relatively similar contract (5-year $85 million), but Vernon posted 31 more tackles and 2 more sacks. Jared Crick, who the Broncos signed to replace Jackson for the low price of 2 years for $4 million, finished with 20 more tackles. The Jags are the loser in this deal so far, but Jackson can easily improve his play to Pro Bowl-caliber.
7. Ladarius Green – TE / Pittsburgh Steelers (4-year $24 Million)
Green is an extremely athletic and talented tight end who came into Pittsburgh with very high expectations. The Steelers already had a prolific offense and Green was to be just another weapon the Ben Roethlisberger’s arsenal. Unfortunately, he was unable to stay on the field during 2016. For the entire season, he only hauled in 18 receptions and one touchdown. In fact, in his entire career, he has only been healthy for 16 games once and he has never posted more than 430 yards, which begs the question, why did the Steelers give him $6 million a year? If he can make a difference in the playoffs then all will be forgiven.
6. Mario Williams – DE / Miami Dolphins (2-year $17 Million)
Another disappointing year for a relatively disappointing NFL player. Williams finished 2016 with a pedestrian 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Reports have already surfaced out of Miami that Williams will be cut from the roster once the team enters the offseason. Something can be said for a team’s dissatisfaction in a player if they plan to cut him while they are on a current playoff run. Or maybe they just want to light a fire under him?
5. Chris Ivory – RB / Jacksonville Jaguars (5-year $32.5 Million)
The Jaguars proved during the 2016 offseason that they had money to burn and a lot of it. With TJ Yeldon and Denard Williams already on the roster, Jacksonville lured the aging back (28) from New York for a hefty price. The season began strangely when a “general medical procedure” kept him out the first two weeks, and then Ivory never really secured the starting role. He finished with 439 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3.9 yards per carry average. $6.5 million per year is a lot of cap space for a running back with such little production. I’m sure a new coaching staff will address this issue right away.
4. Doug Martin – RB / Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-year $35.75 Million)
Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin has really benefited from two good seasons. In his rookie year he posted 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, and last season he finished with 1,402 yards and 6 touchdowns. But that’s it. In 2013 and 2014 he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards, combined. A guy that can’t stay healthy and has struggled with his yards per carry really has me scratching my head why you would sign him to a long-term deal making him the 4th highest paid running back in the NFL.
3. Chase Daniel – QB / Philadelphia Eagles (3-year $21 Million)
Chase Daniel is a fine backup quarterback. He had a great college career and adds stability to the QB room. That’s all fine and dandy, but what makes zero sense is the contract that the Eagles gave Daniel. When they signed him, Bradford was the starting quarterback so he was already in line to be the backup. Then they drafted Carson Wentz with the number two pick in the 2016 Draft pushing him back to the possible number three QB. Then the Eagles traded Bradford to the Vikings before the season started making me believe that Daniel would jump to the starting role while Wentz was being groomed. The contract began looking somewhat understandable. Not so fast. Wentz started all 16 games and Daniel made more money than him sitting on the bench. In fact, Daniel made more money than 6 other NFL starting QBs. It would be one thing if he got paid, played bad and was benched. But he literally got paid to be the backup. Strange move by the Philly front office.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB / New York Jets (1-year $12 Million)
Fitzmagic may have played his final year in the NFL, or at least as a starting quarterback. I’ll give the Jets this much, they look real smart only signing him to a one-year deal instead of long-term. Fitzpatrick finished 2016 with 2,710 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions (3rd most) and a sorry 56.6 completion percentage. He wanted a long-term contract, and I can see why.
1. Brock Osweiler – QB / Houston Texans (4-year $72 Million)
Pretty obvious one here. The $72 million man hasn’t played worthy of a rookie contract in 2016. He finished at the bottom of the league with 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a 59 completion percentage. He was eventually benched for backup Tom Savage and thrust back into the starting role after Savage received a concussion. One could make the argument that the team as a whole was hindered by Brock’s play, and the offense took a huge step backward. If Osweiler performs poorly against the Raiders on WildCard Weekend, the Texans could eat the money and move on from Osweiler completely.