The money being thrown around in NBA free agency is ridiculous. One dimensional players like Timofey Mozgov are getting $64-million contracts. A conversation with a Laker fan friend of mine after Mozgov cashed in got me thinking. Bad free agency signings are by no means limited to the NBA. Here are four of the worst in recent NFL history.
Dwayne Bowe (Cleveland Browns, two years, $13 million in 2015)
The Browns needed talent everywhere at the time. Quite frankly, they still do. Thus, signing a guy who never caught less than 45 balls in 8 years with the Chiefs was actually solid logic, but it backfired horribly. Conflicts with the coaching staff were immediate. The shady injury reports came next. Bowe was only active for seven games last year catching just six passes for the season. He was released after just one season. Even at just 31 years of age, it is hard to envision him finding another NFL home. As with all of these deals, only a fraction of the money is guaranteed. This is one major difference between the NFL and NBA. In this case, it was $9 million that the talent starved Browns could have spent elsewhere.
Matt Flynn (Seattle Seahawks, two-year $26 million in 2012)
This situation is pretty unique. It was a bad deal, but everyone came out smelling like a rose. While starter Aaron Rodgers rested, Flynn started the 2011 regular-season finale against the Lions. He set the Packers’ franchise single-game records with 480 yards and six touchdowns. Based on that one game, Seattle signed Flynn to a big-time free-agent deal. This was another $9 million of guaranteed money. However, the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the same off-season in which they signed Flynn. Wilson beat out Flynn for the starting job and the rest is history. The Seahawks were quite happy to pay their big free-agent signing a ton of money to sit on the bench. Flynn never started a regular season game for Seattle. He was traded to Oakland after one season.
photo from philly.com
Nnamdi Asomugha (Philadelphia Eagles, five years $60 million in 2011)
The first two deals I mentioned are a case of hindsight being 20/20. My last two were terrible ideas from the start. Asomugha was the epitome of a shutdown cornerback when he was with the Oakland Raiders. He was thrown at less than 100 times by opposing quarterbacks from 2007-2009. He was named to the NFL’s all decade team in 2010. Yet, when the Eagles signed him to a free-agent mega-deal worth close to $30 million guaranteed, they asked him to play all five positions in the secondary.
Despite being named a Pro-Bowl alternate in his first season as an Eagle, too much was on his plate. He was released after just two seasons in Philadelphia and never regained the mojo he had in Oakland. He always was a shutdown corner. Why would anyone ask him to see playing time at any other position, much less four? I never understood it.
Albert Haynesworth (Washington Redskins, seven years $100 million in 2009)
When it comes to bad free-agent signings, the Redskins should get their own article, and this one is the worst of the worst. Despite being a bit of a problem child in the locker room and a lengthy criminal record, the Redskins signed Haynesworth to one of the largest free-agent contracts in history following the 2008 season. The deal included $41 million guaranteed and $32 million in the first 13 months. Even though Haynesworth was a very productive player with the Titans, this kind of money was and is unheard of for a defensive lineman.
The marriage in DC was doomed from the beginning. Haynesworth publicly criticized the Redskins defensive scheme and was unable to complete head coach Mike Shanahan’s basic conditioning test. In two years with the Redskins, he combined for just 42 tackles and 6.5 sacks, including career lows across the board in 2010. After a few suspensions for “conduct detrimental to the team”, the Redskins finally cut their staggering losses following the 2010 season. Haynesworth had two more unsuccessful seasons with New England and Tampa Bay to close out his checkered career.
Regardless of an organization’s logic, one thing is certain. If a team misses on a big-time free-agent signing, they will be sometimes first, and always second guessed.