15 Worst NFL Free Agent Acquisitions in 2011
Vince Young and Braylon Edwards head the list of the most disappointing acquisitions from the frenzied 2011 NFL free-agent signing period.
Never before has the NFL seen such a harried and hurried offseason. Coming out of the lockout, NFL teams and free agents were locked in a high-stakes game of musical chairs. Both sides were forced to make quick decisions before the season began.
Some of those decisions led to success for both player and team (I’m looking at you, Jason Babin), but unfortunately, not every marriage is built to last.
Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles QB
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Heading into the season, Vince Young seemed like the perfect choice to back up Michael Vick for the Philadelphia Eagles. It seemed like Young could build a symbiotic partnership with his new coach, quarterback guru Andy Reid.
His running ability would allow Reid to maintain his offensive approach when Vick was out of the lineup, and under Reid’s tutelage, Young might be able to tap into some of the potential that he showed early in his career in Tennessee.
While the former did happen, the latter certainly did not. Six years into his career, Vince Young made it very clear that he has no plans to tap into his formerly limitless potential anytime soon.
Young was terrible as a starter, completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes and tossing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Heading into next season, Reid and the Eagles would be smart to seek out other options for their backup quarterback.
Ronnie Brown, Philadelphia Eagles RB
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Ronnie Brown was signed as a backup, but with LeSean McCoy emerging as one of the best backs in the league, it’s tough to find carries for a second running back in Andy Reid’s offense.
Brown didn’t get much of an opportunity to produce. He never received more than eight carries in any game all season. Still, that doesn’t excuse his career-low average of just 3.4 yards per carry and a feeble total of only 122 rushing yards on the season.
Even as a backup, Brown is not a productive player anymore. His breakout season was all the way back in 2006, and his per-carry average has been in a downward spiral over the last few seasons.
If any team does give Brown a chance in 2012, expect him to show up on this list once again.
Steve Smith, Philadelphia Eagles WR
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Steve Smith was one of the best third-down receivers in football as a member of the New York Giants. When the rival Philadelphia Eagles signed him this summer, he seemed to be a great fit for Andy Reid’s intermediate passing offense.
Smith was hampered by a few injuries throughout the season, but those troubles don’t excuse his lack of production. Whatever the reason, he was never able to carve out a role in the Eagles offense. After catching no fewer than 48 balls in each of his last three seasons, Smith stumbled to a total of just 11 catches this year.
When healthy, Smith is still a talented player who can be effective in the right role. Whether it’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere, expect a bounce-back year in 2012.
Braylon Edwards, San Francisco 49ers WR
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The San Francisco 49ers have enjoyed an incredible renaissance this season. The acquisition of Braylon Edwards has had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Edwards was supposed to add a vertical threat to the Niners offense, but he wasn’t able to consistently stretch defenses. He set a career low with an average of just 12.1 yards per catch and didn’t record a reception longer than 24 yards all season.
Edwards did battle injuries that limited him to just nine games of action, but grabbing only 15 catches in those games is unacceptable.
The Niners apparently agreed. The team released Edwards last week.
Michael Crabtree has bloomed into a nice target on the outside, but after averaging under 200 passing yards per game this season, expect San Francisco to make adding a wideout an offseason priority once again.
Charlie Johnson, Minnesota Vikings OT
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Knowing that Christian Ponder might eventually get a shot as the quarterback, it seemed like a good idea for the Minnesota Vikings to pick up a veteran offensive tackle to keep their young passer on his feet.
Signing pass-blocking specialist Charlie Johnson from the Indianapolis Colts was a perfect fit. At least it seemed like one, until Johnson and the rest of the offensive line allowed the fourth-most sacks in the NFL and allowed Vikings quarterbacks to be hit nearly five times per game.
Johnson is still a decent player and will probably stick around in Minnesota, but he doesn’t have the capability to reroute an offensive line that’s among the worst in the league. If the Vikings are really serious about keeping Ponder upright, they’d be wise to look for upgrades at offensive tackle.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks WR
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As he has throughout his entire career, Sidney Rice flashed a brilliant skill set on a few occasions this season. However, as he has throughout his career, the frequency of those occasions was limited by nagging injuries.
In a bad passing offense, Rice managed just 32 catches and 484 yards in nine games. He scored only two touchdowns and topped 80 receiving yards in a game just twice.
Those are terrible numbers for a No. 1 wide receiver, but for Rice, it’s actually the second-best statistical season of his five-year career.
Rice is a good player, but he isn’t a $41 million player. His dream season in 2009 was an exception, not the norm. He would be at his best as a No. 2 in a great passing offense, in a role like the one Malcolm Floyd plays with the San Diego Chargers.
Seattle likely won’t be able to unload his contract in a trade, so they’ll be back in the market for a top target heading into 2012.
Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks TE
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From the moment that the Seattle Seahawks signed Zach Miller away from the Oakland Raiders it was a puzzling move. With John Carlson already established as a solid starting tight end, why spend valuable cap space on an overqualified backup?
With a season’s worth of stats to look back on, the move still doesn’t make much sense.
Miller was never really involved in the Seahawks passing game. He caught more than three passes in a game just once and set career lows in catches, yards, yards-per-catch and touchdowns.
I do think that Miller is a good player, but with a limited passing game and productive tight end already in the lineup, he just doesn’t make much sense in Seattle. An offseason trade would be the best thing for both parties.
Clint Session, Jacksonville Jaguars LB
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Clint Session was productive for the Indianapolis Colts, but his production came in the context of a system that highlighted his talents and covered his weaknesses.
When Session moved on to Jacksonville, he was exposed as a player that could be pushed around in tight quarters. Injuries limited Session to only nine games of action, but he failed to record more than five tackles in any game this season.
Session can still be effective in a situation that allows him to use his speed in open space, but if he stays put in Jacksonville, don’t expect a renaissance in 2012.
Ernie Sims, Indianapolis Colts LB
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As an undersized, speedy linebacker, Ernie Sims seemed like a perfect fit to help fill in for the departed Clint Session on the Indianapolis Colts defense. After a season in which the Colts managed just two wins and ranked 27th in the NFL in total defense, Sims doesn’t seem quite so perfect.
He was able to stay healthy enough to play in 12 games, but managed just 54 tackles on the season. On a defense that succeeds when it uses its speed to force opponents into mistakes, Sims failed to record a sack, interception or forced fumble.
Sims has always been a player whose production has lagged behind his perceived skill set, but in recent seasons, it seems that perception is catching up to reality. Look for Sims to transition to a more situational role in 2012.
Mike Sims-Walker, St. Louis Rams/Jacksonville Jaguars WR
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Mike Sims-Walker was signed by the St. Louis Rams to give Sam Bradford a big target on the outside. By the middle of October, Sims-Walker was out on the street.
He had one good game as a Ram, but gained only 139 yards on 11 catches in four games with St. Louis.
When the Rams released him, Sims-Walker was reacquired by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but only managed one catch in two games before going down with an injury.
Sims-Walker was a great red-zone target for David Garrard back in 2009 and 2010, but after a wildly unproductive season and a quickly-accumulating injury history, there’s not much incentive for any team to take a chance on him heading into 2012.
Jared Gaither, San Diego Chargers/Kansas City Chiefs OT
Jared Gaither was once considered a cornerstone offensive tackle with the Baltimore Ravens. Coming out of the lockout, it seemed like a huge coup for the Kansas City Chiefs to steal the five-year veteran.
However, his time in KC was short-lived. After a few weeks of disappointing play, Gaither was cut after committing a crucial false-start penalty against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gaither has since been signed by the San Diego Chargers and has done an acceptable job filling in for the injured Marcus McNeil, but don’t be surprised if he’s back on the market once again this summer.
Sean Considine, Carolina Panthers/Arizona Cardinals S
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After establishing himself as a starter in Philadelphia and a solid contributor in Jacksonville, Sean Considine bottomed out in 2011.
He initially signed with Arizona, but after recording only eight tackles in seven games, he was cut. Considine caught on with the Carolina Panthers after that, but failed to make a tackle in his four outings as a Panther.
Unless Considine is ready to accept a role exclusively on special teams, he’s not going to be of much use to any team next season.
Marion Barber, Chicago Bears RB
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Even when he began the season sidelined with yet another injury, the Chicago Bears were excited to get Marion Barber into their lineup. The Bears have one of the most productive running backs in the league in Matt Forte, but still believed enough in Barber to give him double-digit carries in four of the nine games in which he shared the load with Forte.
Barber did score six touchdowns on the year, but his unimpressive average of only 3.7 yards per carry doesn’t bode well for future success. Khalil Bell, the Bears’ third-stringer, ran for nearly a full yard better per carry, and figures to get the first crack at the backup job next season.
Coming off of two straight years of poor performance and a checkered injury history, there’s no reason for Chicago to give Barber another shot in 2012.
Abram Elam, Dallas Cowboys S
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When Rob Ryan took over the Dallas Cowboys defense, he brought safety Abram Elam with him from the Cleveland Browns. Elam is a good tackler in run support but doesn’t have great skill in pass coverage.
With the Cowboys, he hasn’t really performed well in either phase of the game. His 58 tackles through 15 games put him on pace for his lowest output since 2007, and he has yet to pick off or even break up a single pass.
In all likelihood, Elam will be back with the Cowboys next season, but even so, Dallas would be wise to prioritize safety as a position of need in the 2012 draft.
Olindo Mare, Carolina Panthers K
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Kickers are important, but they’re also maddeningly fickle and largely interchangeable. Beyond a few elite players, the majority of the NFL, as well as unsigned former starters awaiting an opportunity, are about the same. With a limited number of jobs and a large pool of qualified applicants, there’s no reason to overpay a non-elite kicker.
With that in mind, the Carolina Panthers’ decision to give Olindo Mare a four-year, $12 million contract isn't a sensible one. Mare isn’t a bad kicker, but he’s far from elite. In fact, he tied his career high in misses from inside of 40 yards.
Mare will most likely play out the remainder of his deal in Carolina, occupying valuable cap space and producing at an average level.