The 10 Worst Free-Agent Signings in the Last 10 Years

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The 10 Worst Free-Agent Signings in the Last 10 Years
Brian Blanco/Associated Press

Ah, free agency. It's the NFL's equivalent of the New Year.

It's where players cash in. Teams pay good money to average players, great money to good players and tremendous money to great players.

It's also where teams close to competing for a Super Bowl title will go all-in for a number of players at key weaknesses on their team a la the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 and Denver Broncos in 2014.

Some free-agent signings work out, such as Charles Woodson with the Green Bay Packers or Deion Sanders with the San Francisco 49ers. But many, perhaps even most, don't. Terrible free-agent signings are just a part of the game. They're almost unavoidable. All teams play the free agency game. 

Specifically, a terrible free-agent signing is one that a) is generally considered a stupid move at the time of the signing and b) turns into a stupid signing.

The biggest indication of a terrible contract is the amount of guaranteed money. If a team gives a player a huge contract but not a lot of guaranteed money, they can get out of the deal without serious salary cap ramifications. But if there's a huge amount of guaranteed money, the team is forced to cut the player and deal with the loss, which potentially sets back the franchise a number of years. 

The following counts down the 10 worst free-agent signings in the last decade throughout the National Football League.

Honorable mentions go out to Robert Meachem with the San Diego Chargers in 2012 (four years, $25.9 million, $14 million guaranteed), Eric Wright with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 (five years, $37.5 million), Mike Wallace with the Miami Dolphins in 2013 (five years, $60 million, $27 million guaranteed), Dunta Robinson with the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 (six years, $57 million, $25.5 million guaranteed), Antwaan Randle El with the Washington Redskins (seven years, $31.5 million, $11.5 million guaranteed) and Jeff Garcia with the Cleveland Browns in 2004 (four years, $20 million). 

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington Redskins, 2009

The Washington Redskins handed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth a seven-year deal worth $100 million, including $41 million in guaranteed money. Before Haynesworth played a single snap in a Redskins uniform, the team likely wished they could undo the signing. 

Haynesworth refused to participate in offseason coaching workouts. He arrived at camp in poor physical condition and failed a fitness test. He argued with the coaching staff and expressed his displeasure at playing in a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3. 

He was suspended for the final four games of the 2010 season for conduct detrimental to the club and subsequently released after the year. 

The unfortunate aspect of the Haynesworth signing is that he was actually a really good player when he tried. He just didn't feel like trying all the time. This play epitomizes the Haynesworth era in Washington. 

2. Javon Walker, WR, Oakland Raiders, 2008

Javon Walker had two really good seasons: one with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers in 2004 and the other with Jake Plummer and the Denver Broncos in 2006.

But he caught just 26 passes for 287 yards and zero touchdowns in 2007, his age-29 season. So how he turned that into a six-year deal worth $55 million, including $16 million guaranteed, I'll never understand.

Only the Oakland Raiders would be foolish enough to make that signing. After all, when you have a franchise quarterback like JaMarcus Russell, you've got to get him some weapons, right?

During his first year in Oakland, Walker caught 15 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown. He played in just eight games due to injuries. He played in only three games in 2009, catching zero passes. That means he scored one touchdown for $16 million. 

His most memorable moment in a Raiders uniform might have been getting mugged and beaten unconscious in Las Vegas during the 2008 offseason. 

3. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers, 2011 / Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, 2012

The Carolina Panthers had a really good running game in 2008 and 2009 thanks to the Smash & Dash combination of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. 

But running back is perhaps the most replaceable position in the National Football League, which makes the massive contracts the Panthers handed out to their running backs that much worse.

Williams was handed a five-year, $43 million contract extension, including $21 million guaranteed, before the 2011 season. At 28 years old, he had carried the ball more than 200 times just twice in his five seasons and he was coming off a career-worst, injury-plagued season. He's been solid over the past three years but nowhere near worth the money he's been given. 

Stewart (who was technically not a free agent but entering the final year of his rookie contract) was awarded a five-year, $36.5 million contract, including $22.5 million guaranteed, before the 2012 season. That's an asinine deal for a player who never came close to carrying a full workload or establishing himself as even a top-10 running back in the NFL during his first four seasons in the NFL. 

Stewart has been awful over the past two years, rushing for a combined 516 yards and one touchdown. He's been unable to stay healthy or even remotely productive.

So, to recap, that's $43.5 million in guaranteed money the Panthers gave to a pair of running backs. One was 28 years old and on the decline. The other had never been a starter. 

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

4. Cortland Finnegan, CB, St. Louis Rams, 2012

One of the better cornerbacks in the NFL during his time with the Tennessee Titans, Cortland Finnegan earned a five-year deal worth $50 million, including a whopping $27 million in guaranteed money, before the 2012 season. That's more money than Nnamdi Asomugha, widely considered the second-best cornerback in the NFL, earned from the Eagles before 2011. 

He played really well during his first year in St. Louis, intercepting three passes and allowing no touchdowns. But he was benched during his second year with the Rams and finished the 2013 season as Pro Football Focus's second-worst cornerback. He allowed a 136.0 passer rating, the third-worst mark in the NFL

5. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles, 2011

The most memorable signing from the Eagles' infamous Dream Team signing spree, as Vince Young called it, Asomugha entered Philadelphia with a reputation as one of the two best shutdown cornerbacks in the game. While playing with the lowly Oakland Raiders, Asomugha was so good that opposing quarterbacks would target him just once or twice all game. 

Asomugha was OK in 2011, allowing an 88.6 passer rating and intercepting three passes. He was even selected as a Pro Bowl alternate. But he recorded seven penalties, missed 12 tackles and earned a reputation as one of the softest players on the Eagles' defense.

The 2012 season was a total disaster. Asomugha looked completely lost, surrendering a 120.6 passer rating before he was benched in the final game of the season. That was the fifth-worst mark in the NFL. 

He was released following the 2012 season, just two years into his contract. 

6. Laurent Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2012

You could see this one coming a mile away. Laurent Robinson had never been a productive receiver until he became a starter when both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin suffered injuries during the 2011 season. In his place, Laurent Robinson caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars jumped all over Robinson in free agency, inking him to a five-year deal worth $32.5 million, including $14 million guaranteed. Expected to be the No. 1 receiver for Blaine Gabbert, Robinson's tenure in Jacksonville went about as well as Gabbert's did. In fact, the failed first-round quarterback lasted one more season than Robinson. 

Here's how Robinson did in 2012: 24 catches for 252 yards and zero touchdowns. He was released following his disastrous season, ending his NFL career at age 27. 

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7. Jerry Porter, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2008

Jerry Porter gave the Oakland Raiders eight mediocre seasons as the team's No. 2 wide receiver, parlaying his moderate success into a six-year contract worth $30 million, including $10 million guaranteed.

He underwent surgery on his hamstring soon after signing his new contract and missed the first three games of the season. He caught just one pass in the first four games he played, finishing the season with 11 catches, 181 yards and one touchdown in 10 games.

He was released following the season, ending his NFL career. 

8. Adam Archuleta, S, Washington Redskins, 2006

Adam Archuleta was a good starting safety for the St. Louis Rams for five seasons before the Washington Redskins, specifically owner Daniel Snyder, decided to make him the highest-paid safety in the history of the NFL. Archuleta's contract was a five-year deal worth $35 million, including $10 million in guaranteed money. 

He started just seven games before he was benched for veteran Troy Vincent, mainly due to struggles in the deep passing game. He finished the season as a special teams player and was released after the year. 

9. Ahman Green, RB, Houston Texans, 2007

Three weeks after he turned 30, the Houston Texans made the decision to sign running back Ahman Green to a four-year deal worth $23 million, including $8 million in his first season. 

Green gave the Texans just two injury-plagued seasons, rushing for a total of 554 yards and five touchdowns before the Texans released him before the 2009 season. 

10. Matt Flynn, QB, Seattle Seahawks, 2012

A dominant performance against a terrible team in the 2011 regular-season finale earned Matt Flynn a three-year deal worth $20.5 million, including $9 million guaranteed, from the Seattle Seahawks. 

Flynn didn't even make it out of camp as the starter, as he was beat out by rookie third-round pick Russell Wilson. Flynn was a total non-factor for the Seahawks. He threw nine passes all year, meaning he earned $1 million per pass attempt. 

He was released following the season and has since bounced around between the Oakland Raiders (another failed contract), the Buffalo Bills and back to the Packers. 

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