Worst Free Agent Signings in Detroit Sports
As sports cities go Detroit is a rather lucky. They have a team in all four major sports and each with a fairly rich history. Of course most fans don’t really care what a team did in the 20’s and 30’s so even just looking at the past 30 years it has been good to be a Detroit sports fan. They have seen their Tigers win one world series while playing for a second. The Pistons have played in five championship rounds winning three of them and the Red Wings have played for the Stanley cup six times winning it four times.
Of course not everything is perfect as the Lions are coming off one of the worst decades any team in any sports has had to go through. However if you ask your grandparents, there was actually a time when the Lions were a dominant team.
Even with the numerous championships not everything goes right for the Detroit teams. As seen by the list, there have been several bad contracts. Luckily for Detroit fans most of these contracts are in the past.
This list covers free agents that were brought here and not players that resigned. That way we can save the nightmare of the Higginson, Robertson and Easley contracts for another list. Here are the 12 worst Free Agent contracts in Detroit Sports History.
12 Az-Zahir Hakim Lions
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Az-Zahir Hakim Lions 5yr $16 million
You knew there was going to be Matt Millen’s fingerprints on this list. Let’s start it off with one of Millen first “big” free agent signings.
Hakim gets a bit of a break on two points. First his numbers with Detroit were basically in line with his numbers before he got here and secondly nagging hip, leg and ankles injuries, which he would try to play through, limited his effectiveness.
The problem with his numbers staying the same is that the contract he signed necessitated him having much higher production on the field. During his four seasons with the St Louis Rams, he averaged 42 catches, 549 yards and five touchdowns. In Detroit he averaged 39 catches, 507 yards and 3 TDs per year. The bigger issues is that his St Louis numbers were as the 3rd or 4th wide receiver on the team,
With the Lions he was a starter so his numbers should have been much higher.
11 Fernando Vina Tigers
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Fernando Vina Tigers 2yr $6 million
The Tigers thought that they were getting a deal when they signed the former all-star and gold glove winner coming into the 2004 season.
Instead they got a player who only played in 29 games while hitting .226.
The 29 games he did manage to play in all occurred during his first season before a leg injury forced him the miss the rest of the season plus the entire 2005 season. There are rumors that Vina knew of his leg issues before the signing the contract but hid them from the Tigers in order to sign a big contract
10 Mike Moore Tigers
Mike Moore Tigers 3yr $10 million
After a solid career for the Mariners and A’s, Moore signed with the Tigers going into the 1993 season. While in Detroit his three year ERA average was 6.05. In his previous ten season Moore had averaged 138 strikeouts per season, once in Detroit he never topped 90.
In 1995, his final season, Moore hit rock bottom going 5-15 with a 7.53 era.
9 Carlos Guillen Tigers
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Carlos Guillen 4yrs $48 million
When healthy Guillen is still a solid batter and early in the contract had some very good numbers. In his first seasn with the Tigers he lead the team in seven different offensive categories. The problem is staying healthy. He has missed 40% of the team’s game since signing the contract.
These injuries have slowed him in the field and greatly affected his ability to cover his position. In 2006 he lead the Majors in errors for shortstops. Since then he has bounced around the field playing first, second and third base as well as left field. He also fills the DH spot often.
8 Scott Mitchell Lions
Vincent Laforet/Getty Images
Scott Mitchell Lions 3yr $11 million
After playing as Dan Marino’s backup in Miami, Mitchell had his chance to shine when Marino went down with an injury in 1993. After seven starts the Lions thought they had seen enough to offer Mitchell a free agent deal.
Mitchell’s numbers were not all bad however he never matched the hype, hope and expectations of the Lions or the fans. He did post team records for the Lions in 1995 when he passed for 32 touchdowns and 4,338 yards but he ended up throwing four interceptions in a nightmare loss to the Eagles in the playoffs.
Things got ugly in Detroit when after being benched by coach Wayne Fontes, he showed up dressed like Fontes and imitating him in some rather unflattering ways. Eventually Mitchell worked his way down to
the 3rd string QB as rookie Charlie Batch took over the starting job.
7 Uwe Krupp Red Wings
Ian Tomlinson/Getty Images
Uwe Krupp Red Wings 4yr $16.4million
The Red Wings thought they were solidifying their blue line when they signed the imposing hard nosed Krupp. Instead Krupp played in just 22 games for the Wings during the 98-99 season, sat out two years then played eight games during the 01-02 season. Despite the Wings winning the Stanley Cup, Krupp didn’t play enough games to have his named engraved.
The team suspended Krupp when they found that he was dog sled racing instead of recovering from back surgery. The team eventually tried to void his contract which resulted in a messy battle. He eventually was able to keep about half the contract.
6 Nazr Mohammed Pistons
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Nazr Mohammed Pistons 4yr $25 million
For some reason the Pistons thought that Mohammed could be a productive starting center. He had only averaged more than ten points per game in two of his eleven seasons. His rebounding average, not counting his first three seasons of limited play was only 6.6. Those are not very impressive numbers and certainly not worthy of such a large contract.
Mohammed began the season as the starter, then moved to the bench and eventually to the end of the rotation. He started only 33 games his first season in Detroit and none in his second year prior to being traded the Charlotte Bobcats. His first season numbers where horrific at 5.6 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. During the 21 games he played in during his second season his number were somehow even worse.
5 Brian Williams Pistons
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Brian Williams Pistons 7yr $50 millions
In his first season with the Pistons, Williams set career highs in points (16.2) and rebounds (8.9). Known for sometimes odd and erratic behavior he changed his name to Bison Dele before his second season with the team. His relationship with the team soured and he ended up playing in only 49 games that season.
During the off season before the 1999-2000 season, rather than ask for a trade he decided to retire walking away from the last five years of his contract and leaving $36 million dollars behind. Just think, if he had hung around for his entire contract the Pistons wouldn't have drafted Darko a few years later
4 Bill Schroeder Lions
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Bill Schroeder Lions 4yrs
The $2.5 million signing bonus for such a marginal player left many people scratching their heads.
Schroeder came to the Lions from the Green Bay Packers. Rumors have it that Favre was never too happy with his route running yet somehow Matt Millen and the Lions thought that Schroeder would do better with Joey Harrington throwing to him rather than the Hall of Famer.
He averaged 64 catches a season in his last three years with the Packers yet he only grabbed 36 catches in each season with Detroit. He was known for being very fast however all that meant in Detroit is that he was going to be the first one to miss the ball.
He will best be remembered in Detroit for his Alligator arms.
3 Ben Gordon Pistons
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Ben Gordon Pistons 5 yr $55 million
Gordon was signed to the Pistons to add scoring punch. He had a good career with the Chicago Bulls as the high scoring 6th man who was good beyond the 3pt line as well.
Since coming to Detroit his 3pt percentage has dropped. He averaged 41.4% while in Chicago but only 35.6% in Detroit. Consequently his overall points per game also dropped to career lows of 13.8 and 12.8 in his two seasons in Detroit.
The one hope is that Gordon can still shoot the ball. If Detroit ever decides to not carry nine guards on the team and if they learn how to properly use the players they have then perhaps Gordon will have a chance to move his way off this list.
2 Curtis Joseph Red Wings
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Curtis Joseph 3yr $24 million
The Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2002 then watched Dominik Hasek, their starting goaltender, retire.
In signing Hasek the year before the Wings went with a top notch aging goalie who was nearing the end of their career and hungry for a championship. Since this worked once the Wings went to the same play again when they signed Joseph. He had a rocky start but picked up the pace and was able to lead the team to a division title. They were upset in the first round of the playoffs though, which did not endear him to the Red Wing faithful.
In his second season, he was bumped to backup goalie when Hasek came out of retirement. His $8 million a year salary made him impossible to trade. Later in the season Hasek was injured and eventually retired again, giving the starting job back to Joseph. The Red Wings finished with the best record in the league however once again they were upset in the playoffs, this time losing in the second round.
While his stats were decent in Detroit getting paid $8 million to be a backup and not at least making the conference finals are considered failures in Hockeytown.
1 Charlie Villanueva Pistons
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Charlie Villanueva Pistons 5yr $35 million
After a good rookie season with the Raptors in which he posted 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, Villanueva was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. His numbers dropped while with the Bucks as he averaged 11.8 and 11.7 points in his first two season with a rebounding average of 5.9 and 6.1. During his final year in Milwaukee, Michael Redd the team’s star, was injured and only played in 33 games. Villanueva stepped up and posted his best season with 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds.
The Pistons decided that he was on the upswing and signed him in 2009 to a five year, $35 million deal. The hope was that he could be a dominant big man for the team. Instead his stats have fallen in his season and a half in Detroit. This season he has his lowest averages in points, rebounds and assist. He seems to be afraid of the basket as he spends most of the time standing around the 3-point line hoping for a long range shot.
The biggest travesty is in his defense. The Pistons have a long history of strong defensive players. An opposing team can have a player up on a ten day contract who hasn’t even practiced with the team yet but if Villanueva is guarding him they will feed that player the ball. I’m confident that at least half the people reading this could score ten points on him.
He has moved from starter to bench player and to be honest, if it wasn’t for the contract and the Pistons lack of depth among the big men, he wouldn’t even make the rotation. Sadly with the size of his contract and lack of production, Pistons fans will be stuck with Charlie V for 3 more seasons.