2011 NFL Free Agency: The 10 Most Crippling Free-Agent Contracts in NFL History

Josh McCainSenior Writer IMay 12, 2011

2011 NFL Free Agency: The 10 Most Crippling Free-Agent Contracts in NFL History

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 27:  Albert Haynesworth #92 of the Washington Redskins battles D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of the New York Jets during their preseason game on August 27, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Pho
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    From the outside looking in, picking free agents in professional sports should be a no-brainer.

    After all, it's not like drafting a kid out of college where you have to project how well he should fair in the NFL

    No, most free agents have spent three-to-five years in the league, so general managers and owners should have a pretty good idea how good a player is.

    In spite all of that, teams still manage to screw it up and toss a ton of money at players who don't live up to their paychecks.

    Here is my top 10 list of crippling free-agent signings in the NFL.

10. Andre Rison, Cleveland Browns 1995

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    3 Dec 1995:  Running back Andre Rison #80 of the Cleveland Browns carries the ball upfield against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Chargers defeated the Browns 31-13.  Mandatory Credit:  Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Andre Rison was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons, and when he became a free agent in 1995, the Cleveland Browns pounced on him in hopes of regaining the notoriety they once had in the late 80s.

    Unfortunately for the Browns, Rison produced career lows with his then record-setting wide receiver contract to the tune of five years for $17 million.

    He only had 47 receptions for 701 yards and a measly three touchdowns. At the end of the season, the Browns decided they'd seen enough and cut Rison.

    That would be the last blunder these Browns would make.  After being released, Rison would soon land in Green Bay and win a Super Bowl, where Cleveland would undergo yet another sports heartache, as then-owner Art Modell would move the team to Baltimore, where they would eventually win a Super Bowl that has so eluded Cleavland.

9. Ahman Green, Houston Texans 2007

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    GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 18:  Running back Ahman Green #30 of the Houston Texans carries the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during their NFL preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium August 18, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Get
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Things were starting to look up for the young Houston franchise.

    The Texans had just hired Mike Sherman as their head coach and people started talking about them not only climbing out of the seller of the AFC South, but maybe making a bid for a Wild Card spot.

    One thing the team lacked was a big, impact running back.

    Ahman Green, who produced so well for Sherman in Green Bay, was brought in to carry the load. 

    In spite of coming off injury, Green was signed to a four-year, $23-million deal. However, in two seasons with the Texans, Green only played in 14 games, rushed for 554 yards and scored five touchdowns.

    This signing set the franchise back a couple of seasons and really hurt its cap number. 

    Sherman was later fired and Green was cut.

8. Neil O'Donnell, New York Jets 1996

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    12 Oct 1997:  Neil O''Donnell of the New York Jets during the Jets31-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Mandatory Credit: Tomasso Derosa  /Allsport
    Tomasso Derosa/Getty Images

    Mention Neil O'Donnell's name to a Steeler's fan and they are liable to punch you, then curse his name for his absolutely dreadful Super Bowl performance in Super Bowl XXX.

    Mention it to a Jets' fan and they might say: "Who, oh, the Steeler's quarterback."

    A year before Bill Parcells signed on to coach the Jets, ownership wanted to make a big splash by signing O'Donnell to a five-year, $25 million deal.

    This was to mark a new era in Jets football, and they'd finally be able to compete in the AFC East.

    O'Donnell only started six games his first season before separating his shoulder, and the Jets finished 1-15 that year.

    The next season, the newly-hired Parcells benched O'Donnell several times for ineffective play and then finally released him at the end of the season.

    The O'Donnell signing could have been a lot worse had Parcells not come in and coached the team, but the cap money and wasted draft picks hamstrung the Jets, who were almost never relevant in the 90s.

7. Lawrence Phillips, San Francisco 49ers 1999

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    12 Sep 1999:  Lawrence Phillips #33 of the San Francisco 49ers is brought down by Donovin Darius #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jaguars defeated the 49ers 41-3. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Lawrence Phillips doesn't make this list because of any high-priced, salary-cap crippling during his ineffective half season with the 49ers.

    No, Phillips makes this list because of his whiff on a block of cornerback Aeneas Williams which would result in Steve Young's final play.

    I think it goes without saying that the Niners haven't been the same since Young's departure.

6. Dana Stubblefield, Washington Redskins 1998

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    6 Sep 1998:  Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield #94 of the Washington Redskins looks on during the game against the New York Giants at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Redskins 31-24. Mandatory Credit: David Seeli
    David Seelig/Getty Images

    A lot of Redskins fans like to lump Dana Stubblefield in with the numerous Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato signings that have made a once-proud franchise a laughingstock.

    However it wasn't Snyder's fault. Stubblefield and his enormous six-year, $36 million contract, with an $8 million signing bonus was done the year before Snyder took ownership of the team.

    But it was the start of the Redskins constantly chasing big names with big money to only have minuscule results.

    Who knows, Snyder could have seen this signing and thought that is how one runs an NFL franchise. Either way, the Redskins from 1998 to 2009 have had one of the highest payrolls in the NFL and are usually amongst the worst teams.

5. Javon Walker, Oakland Raiders 2008

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Javon Walker #84 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    For a rundown, Javon Walker missed half of the 2007 season with injury. The Broncos released him and Al Davis, who never saw a bad deal he didn't like, offered the injury-prone receiver a six-year $55 million deal, with $16 million guaranteed.

    Walker would miss half the 2008 season due to injury, not from the football field mind you, but from being beaten and robbed at a Las Vegas casino. He played in eight games that year with only 15 catches.

    His final season as a Raider (2009), he caught zero passes. He was then released at the end of the season. If you break down just his guaranteed money, that's a little over $1 million a catch.

4. Adam Archuleta, Washington Redskins 2006

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    LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 26:  Adam Archuleta #40 of the Washington Redskins looks on during the game against the Carolina Panthers on November 26, 2006 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    It's amazing that we've come this far in the list and have only seen two Redskins (don't worry, there are more on the way).

    After the 2005 season, owner Dan Snyder was once again convinced the Redskins were just a few players away from a Super Bowl.

    He started tossing a lot of money around at various free agents. 

    Probably the biggest waste of money was the seven-year, $35-million deal with $10 million guaranteed, that went to Adam Archuleta.

    The problem here was Archuleta didn't fit defensive coordinator Greg William's scheme. Archuleta didn't grasp the defense and was often out of position.

    He spent the majority of his only season in Washington riding the bench, while the player who the Redskins released (Ryan Clark) to make room for Archuleta, began to flourish in Pittsburgh

3. Chuck Smith, Carolina Panthers 2000

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    17 Sep 2000:  Chuck Smith #91 of the Carolina Panthers reacts during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ercsson Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Packers defeated the Eagles 6-3.Mandatory Credit: Craig Jones  /Allsport
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Smith was signed by the Panthers to a five-year, $21-million deal in 2000 to help bolster the rising teams' defensive pass rush.

    Smith hurt his knee and played in only two games of the 2000 season, and then retired afterward. 

2. Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins 2009

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 02:  Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth #92 of the Washington Redskins stands on the sidelines during preseason NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Albert Haynesworth, in spite of glaring character issues, was signed in the wee hours of the morning on the first day of free agency, signing in 2009 to the tune of $100 million.

    In just two seasons, Haynesworth has amassed only 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He's also amassed an assault charge from a motorist in Reston, Virginia, as well as a sexual-fondling charge in Washington, DC.

    However, he did teach us all to worm on Monday Night Football last season, when the Redskins received a well-deserved beating from the visiting Philadelphia Eagles.

    Hayneworth's signing wasn't only crippling to the Redskins, but may have well been crippling to other defensive tackles in the league.

    After his "take the money and run" attitude, other franchises (Redskins and Raiders excluded I'm sure) probably won't pony up as much cash to sign free agent DTs.

1. Deion Sanders, Washington Redskins 2000

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    12 Aug 2000: Deion Sanders #21 of the Washington Redskins stretches out on the field before the game against the New England Patriots at the FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  The Redskins defeated the Patriots 30-20.Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger  /Al
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Deion Sanders (who could be joined by Bruce Smith, who the Skins also signed in 2000) gets the distinction of the No. 1 slot, not just because of the outrageous eight-year, $56 million deal with an $8-million signing bonus.

    It's also not because he spent just one season in D.C.

    Though those two were contributing factors, what pushed Deion over the deplorable Albert Haynesworth was the fact that owner Dan Snyder forced Brian Mitchell (the Redskins all-time leading kick/punt returner) out the door to make room for Prime Time.

    Where Deion didn't produce anything for the Redskins, Mitchell kept producing for NFC East rival Philly and later for the New York Giants.

    Deion Sanders, along with Bruce Smith, were the beginning of Dan Snyder's true madness as the Redskins' owner.

    The 2000 offseason, with these two and few more, were the ultimate downfall of the franchise.

    They went from winning the NFC East in 1999, to finishing 8-8 after firing Norv Turner, while the team was still in playoff contention.