NFL Free Agency: 50 Biggest Free-Agent Signing Busts in NFL History

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIFebruary 23, 2012

NFL Free Agency: 50 Biggest Free-Agent Signing Busts in NFL History

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    NFL free-agent signings are just like the NFL Draft. Some work out great and some go down in flames. We are now entering the start of the 2012 offseason free-agency period and just witnessed the Kansas City Chiefs sign ex-Oakland Raiders corner Stanford Routt to a new three-year deal this week.

    There is a rich history of free-agent signings that have helped a team improve, or make a team implode. 

    Signing the right free agent can turn above-average teams into playoff teams; signing the wrong free agent can turn good teams into terrible teams.

    An expensive free-agent signing is a gamble. You enter into the deal with the best intentions, but you are also sending a loud message to the rest of the players on your team when you spend a ton of money on one player. Look at this guy, we think he is special. Hopefully, he backs up management with a good year. If not, the entire organization looks like idiots.

    If you are a big fan of the Washington Redskins, we would strongly advise you to skip this article as reading this might be detrimental to your health. If you do not have a strong heart, we would advise you not to go any further, as you are going to subject yourself to pain, bad memories and possible nightmares. Okay, you have been warned! 

    Welcome to our presentation of the 50 biggest free-agent busts in NFL history.

The Kings of Free-Agent Busts: The Washington Redskins

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    Who is this man and why is he smiling? If Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder were to reflect on some of the decisions that his front office has made over the years on expensive free agents, he would certainly change his expression.

    This is a video clip from NFL Films, which shows just some of the free-agent disasters that the Washington Redskins have made since Snyder assumed ownership of the team.

    Whenever I read articles that talk about how much money the Washington Redskins have available to spend in the 2012 offseason, I really can't help but to wonder how many new entries they will be making on the list of 50 free-agent busts.

    For what it is worth, 27 NFL teams are represented in this presentation. The Redskins lead the parade with eight busts, while there are three teams that are tied for second with four busts.

    Can you guess who those three teams are off of the top of your head, without peeking? I will reveal the answer at the bottom of the final slide.

50) Cleo Lemon, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    In 2008, the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted to bring in another quarterback to offer some competition for starter David Garrard. The Jaguars signed free agent Cleo Lemon to a three-year deal for $9 million.

    Lemon had been with the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers earlier in his career.

    So, what did the Jaguars get for their investment? Lemon appeared in two games for the Jaguars, both in 2008. In those two games, he failed to complete either pass and rushed two times for negative three yards.

    Lemon never started a game for the Jaguars. This isn't a huge bust due to the smaller financial investment, so that is why is just barely made the list at No. 50.

49) Sean Mahan, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking for a starting center, and when they saw that ex-Buccaneers center Sean Mahan was a free agent, the Steelers moved in with a five-year deal for $17 million.

    Mahan started for the Steelers in 2007, but the team was not overwhelmed by his level of play. The Steelers then drafted Justin Hartwig in 2008, and promptly traded Mahan right back to where he originally came from, the Tampa Bay Bucs.

    So instead of becoming one of the Steelers' most famous centers in franchise history, Mahan is thought of as more of a bust. It is uncanny how many busts wind up going right back to the team that they played for previously.

48) Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns

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    The Cleveland Browns needed to identify a starting quarterback. In 2009, they went with Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, who will make an appearance later in the presentation. Those two led them to a record of 5-11.

    Delhomme had plenty of starting experience and had led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl, so he was thought to be an upgrade over the combination of Quinn and Anderson. The Browns signed Delhomme to a two-year deal and released Anderson. In the 2010 draft, the Browns picked up Colt McCoy from Texas.

    The trio of Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and McCoy all got starts in the 2010, and the Browns repeated their 5-11 record. For his part, Delhomme went 2-3 as a starter but didn't help his cause by throwing just two touchdown passes to seven interceptions.

    During the 2011 offseason, the Browns released Delhomme.

47) Jason David, New Orleans Saints

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    When teams win a Super Bowl, the other 31 NFL teams are threats to aggressively go after their free agents. That strategy allows the other teams to gain players with playoff experience and puts pressure on the Super Bowl champion's salary structure and salary cap.

    Such was the case after the Indianapolis Colts won Super Bowl XLI. The Colts had a starting corner Jason David, who was set to become a free agent for the 2007 season. The New Orleans Saints were looking for help at corner, so they stepped up and made a four-year offer sheet to David, which he signed.

    The Colts had seven days to match the offer. If they chose not to, they would receive a fourth-round draft pick from New Orleans. The Colts opted for the draft pick instead, so the Saints got a new corner.

    Perhaps his debut with the Saints would be a good example of what was to follow. David recovered a fumble for a touchdown, but was also beaten on touchdown passes that went for 27, 28 and 45 yards against his old team, the Indianapolis Colts.

    Getting beat often seemed to be par for the course for David. The Saints gave David his walking papers after two years with the team. They had seen enough.

46) Emmitt Smith, Arizona Cardinals

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    Emmitt Smith became a free agent prior to the 2003 season. He was no longer close to the player that had been so dominating for the Dallas Cowboys over the span of his career. He was on his last legs, but surely there was an owner that recognized that Smith was closing in on breaking the all-time NFL rushing record and could use that as a marketing strategy to boost attendance.

    There was an owner—his name was Bill Bidwill and he owns the Arizona Cardinals. Bidwill offered Smith a two-year deal for $8 million.

    In reality, Smith didn't even remotely resemble his old rushing style. He was slow and he lacked the power and fluid running style that we had been used to watching. In 2003, Smith rushed the ball 90 times for 256 yards for the whole year. That amounted to an embarrassing 2.8 yards per rush.

    Cardinals fans probably felt hoodwinked. In 2004, Smith did improve his game, as his average jumped up to 3.5 yards per rush and he gained 937 yards for the year. His touchdowns increased from two to nine in his second year.

    Although Smith did set the NFL all-time rushing record, the type of football being played was more of a sham than anything else. Gaining between 2.8 and 3.5 yards per rush is the type of performance that guarantees you won't be playing any more.

    Smith didn't play any longer after the 2004 season.

45) Edgerton Hartwell, Atlanta Falcons

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    Edgerton Hartwell was basically a special teams player for the Baltimore Ravens. When he became a free agent after the 2004 season, the Atlanta Falcons thought that he was going to become something more than just a special teams player, because they signed him to a six-year deal for $26.25 million.

    What did Atlanta get from Hartwell? Not very much. He played in just 13 games, registering one sack and 63 tackles. He was beset by injuries in the two years that he stayed with the Falcons.

    Rather than prolong the misery, the Falcons released him in 2007.

44) Nate Odomes, Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks made an offer to ex-Buffalo Bills All-Pro CB Nate Odomes after the Bills had made their run of four straight Super Bowl appearances from 1990-1993. Odomes had just led the NFL in interceptions and he was a hot free-agent commodity in 1994. Odomes made the All-Pro team in 1992 and 1993.

    The Seahawks signed Odomes to a four-year deal for $8.4 million. The offer included a signing bonus of $2.2 million.

    Prior to the start of the 1994 season, Odomes wound up playing in a charity basketball game and injured his right knee. Odomes required surgery to fix the injury and missed the entire season. When he completed rehab in 1995, he attended mini-camp for the Seahawks. Odomes then blew the same knee out and had to sit out that year as well.

    As a result, Odomes never played a single down for the Seahawks, which has to go down as a complete bust.

43) Mike Vanderjagt, Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys thought they were adding a vital piece to their overall team in 2006, when they decided to sign free-agent kicker Mike Vanderjagt to a three-year deal for $4.5 million, which came with a $2.5 million bonus.

    Vanderjagt had practically been automatic for the Indianapolis Colts, kicking inside of the dome all those years. He held the NFL record for accuracy, so how could this possibly be a bust signing?

    Chalk it up to kicking in a new environment, the snapper, the holder, the fans, the cheerleaders...who knows, but Vanderjagt wasn't able to perform to the degree that he demonstrated for the Colts. Maybe he just felt a different pressure to kick in Dallas than he did in Indianapolis, but the results were alarming.

    In Dallas, he wound up making only 13 of 18 kicks from less than 50 yards away. He missed one (6-of-7) in the 20-29 yards range, missed one (5-of-6) in the 30-39 yards range and then missed three (1-of-4) in the 40-49 yards range. The ironic part is that he made his only attempt from 50 yards or longer.

    After just 11 games into the season, the Cowboys had seen Vanderjagt blow enough games that they had run out of patience and released him. He never kicked for another team again.

    Vanderjagt wound up making only 72.2 percent of his kicks in Dallas, which lowered his career percentage to 86.5 percent.

42) Thomas Smith, Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears thought that they had landed an important addition to their defense in 2000, when they convinced free-agent corner Thomas Smith to sign a five-year deal for $22.5 million.

    Smith had been a first-round draft pick of the Bills and had seven years of experience. He had played in the Bills' final Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XXVIII.

    The signing didn't help the Bears improve, and it is possible that it made the Bears worse. They wound up starting out the year 1-7, on the way to a 5-11 finish. Smith wound up playing just one year in Chicago, so his five-year deal didn't amount to very much.

    After the 2001 season, Smith's career in the NFL was over. One more free-agent bust signing to add to the list.

41) Jeff Garcia, Cleveland Browns

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    In 2004, the Cleveland Browns were in search of a top quarterback, and they believed that they found one when they signed free agent Jeff Garcia to a four-year deal for $25 million.

    The Browns had high expectations for Garcia, who appeared in three Pro Bowl games with the San Francisco 49ers. But the end results didn't match what the Browns had paid for.

    Garcia started 10 games that season, and he managed a ratio of 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions. The Browns could have received production like that from a number of impostors and saved themselves a ton of money.

    Perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back was the effort Garcia turned in against Dallas. Garcia was 8-of-27 for 71 yards and three interceptions. His QB Passer Rating was a zero, which established his career low. The Browns saw enough and released him after the 2004 season.

    Well, at least he met his wife in Cleveland, so the entire year wasn't a complete waste.

40) Bruce Smith, Washington Redskins

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    In 1999, Daniel Snyder had purchased the Washington Redskins and by the 2000 offseason he had started to throw some of his fortune around to attract ex-NFL All-Pro players that were past their prime, hoping that this would boost attendance by the fans.

    One example was defensive end Bruce Smith, and there will be others that are featured later on.

    Smith had spent his entire 15-year career with the Buffalo Bills and was a nine-time First-Team All-Pro. Smith was closing in on the all-time NFL sack record held by Reggie White, so Snyder thought Smith could help the team sell some tickets and watch history in the making. 

    The Redskins signed Smith to a five-year deal for $25 million. There was also a signing bonus of $4.25 million. The signing was announced by this CBS Sports article, written by Len Pasquarelli, who projected that the Redskins only figured that Smith would play in 2000 and that would be the end of it.

    Smith was motivated to break the sacks record and he wound up playing four years in Washington. Smith managed to collect 29 sacks during the four years that he spent in Washington. Those 29 sacks were enough to break the all-time record of Reggie White.

    The level of Smith's play wasn't what he had exhibited in Buffalo, but how could it have been after all those years in the game?

39) Edgerrin James, Arizona Cardinals

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    Edgerrin James became a free agent in 2006. James was voted to the previous two Pro Bowl teams with the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals thought he would provide a big boost to their running game.

    Arizona gave James a four-year deal for $30 million with $11.5 million in bonuses.

    Jones played three years in Arizona, and during that time he had a clear regression. He averaged 3.4, 3.8 and 3.9 yards per rush, which is not the kind of production you expect to receive from somebody you are paying top dollar.

    In the 2008 season, James was replaced by Tim Hightower, and that was the end of his career with the Cardinals.

38) Jeremiah Trotter, Washington Redskins

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    Most of you will notice a pattern during this presentation. A player makes the All-Pro team or the Pro Bowl team and then becomes a free agent. Maybe he has been playing at that level for a couple years in a row. He is viewed as the best player at his position in the free-agency market, and so the suitors line up for him.

    The results are mixed, unless the team in question is the Washington Redskins.

    Jeremiah Trotter was a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was named to the Pro Bowl in both 2000 and 2001 and then he became a free agent. The Eagles didn't want to lose Trotter, so they offered him a franchise tag. Trotter instead wanted long-term financial security, so he turned the franchise tag offer down.

    The Washington Redskins then stepped up an offer because it helped strengthen their defense and would weaken NFC East rival Philadelphia at the same time. The Redskins offered Trotter a seven-year deal for $36 million.

    Trotter played for the Redskins for two years, but it was clear that he wasn't the player that they thought he was going to be. After the 2003 season, the Redskins released Trotter and he went right back to Philadelphia a much richer man than when he originally left.

37) Laveranues Coles, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Laveranues Coles was a nine-year NFL veteran that had gained over 8,000 yards in receptions in his career and scored 44 touchdowns. He was a proven commodity, and the Bengals were confident he would continue producing at a high level.

    So, when Coles became a free agent in 2009, the Bengals stepped up with an aggressive offer by giving him a four-year deal for $28 million.

    Coles responded with only 43 catches for the year, which totaled 514 yards and an average of 12 yards per catch. The average of 43 yards per game wound up being his lowest career average since his rookie season.

    The Bengals saw enough, so after the 2009 season, he was released and Coles went back to the team he had just played for the year before, which was the New York Jets.

36) Derek Anderson, Arizona Cardinals

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    While the jury is still out on the Arizona Cardinals acquisition of Kevin Kolb (bust or good move?), the jury has returned the verdict on the Cardinals decision to sign free-agent quarterback Derek Anderson. It was an epic bust.

    If the Cardinals needed any proof as to how bad a quarterback Anderson could be, all they had to do was pull up tape of the Cleveland Browns' 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 of the 2009 season. Anderson went 2-of-17 for 33 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, in one of the worst NFL games that I ever had the misfortune to write about for Bleacher Report.

    His QB Passer Rating was 15.1. In the second half, his passer rating was zero. Yet somehow, the Browns won.

    In 2010, the Cardinals were coming off of their loss in Super Bowl XLIII, and Kurt Warner had retired. Before the start of the regular season, the Cardinals released first-round draft pick Matt Leinart. The Cardinals signed free-agent Anderson to a two-year deal for $7.25 million. During the 2010 season, Anderson would share starts with the likes of Max Hall, Richard Bartel and John Skelton.

    Anderson went on to play in 12 games, completing just 51.7 percent of his passes (169-of-327) and threw seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He had a QB Passer Rating of 65.9, which is "NFL slang" for bust. Anderson only stayed in Arizona for the 2010 season.

35) Lawrence Phillips, San Francisco 49ers

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    Sometimes a free-agent bust costs a team lots of money, or when offer sheets weren't matched, high draft picks. How many free agents caused their starting quarterback's career to end?

    That was the case with Lawrence Phillips and the San Francisco 49ers. Phillips was a talented running back from Nebraska who couldn't seem to stay out of trouble. He failed with the St. Louis Rams and then with the Miami Dolphins.

    Nobody wanted him in the NFL, so he went off to play in NFL Europe. After paying his dues abroad, the 49ers decided to sign the free agent for the 1999 season.

    What Phillips will be remembered for is whiffing on a block when he was asked to pass protect for Steve Young. The ensuing hit caused Steve Young to suffer an injury that ended his career. Did Phillips miss the block on purpose? We are left to wonder.

    Phillips since then was sent to jail for hitting children with his car. He is going to be in prison for a long time. Clearly one of the worst free-agent moves in 49ers team history.

34) Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker, Buffalo Bills

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    Marv Levy is in the NFL Hall of Fame because of his expertise as a head coach, not as a general manager. Levy was calling the shots as a GM in 2007 when he was asked to bolster the Buffalo Bills offensive line.

    Levy decided to go nuts in free agency and put together two outrageous bids to free-agent linemen Derrick Dockery and Langston Walker. Dockery was a starting guard for the Washington Redskins and Walker was a starting tackle for the Oakland Raiders. Together, this duo combined equates to a huge free-agency bust.

    The Bills offered Dockery a seven-year deal for $49 million, which included a signing bonus of $18 million. That deal was the third-richest contract in NFL history for a guard. Dockery lasted only two years in Buffalo and then they had seen enough. The Bills gave him his release prior to the 2009 season.

    As for Walker, the Bills gave him a five-year deal for $25 million, which also included a signing bonus of $10 million. Walker played right tackle for the Bills, and when the team traded Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles, many expected Walker to slide in to the vacated left tackle.

    For some reason, the Bills decided to trade Walker, and when those efforts came up empty, they surprised everybody by giving Walker his release instead just before the start of the 2009 season.

    What is really interesting is that after this dynamic duo were released by the Bills, they both wound up going back to their original teams. The Bills had nothing to show for all of their money, other than bad memories and two colossal busts.

33) Daryl Gardener, Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos were seeking an impact player on the defensive line, and they were delighted to see Daryl Gardener as a free agent in 2003.

    The Broncos made Gardener a generous offer, which was a seven-year deal for $34.8 million with a signing bonus of $5 million.

    Once the season got underway, the Broncos realized that they had a problem on their hands. Gardener was suspended twice that year by the team for conduct issues. He also was thought to be a cancer in the locker room, and once you have that label, it is hard to shake.

    His seven-year deal resulted in five games in Denver and two starts.

    So, after the 2003 season, the Broncos released him and Gardener never played in the NFL again. In 2011, he was involved in a domestic issue, when he head-butted his girlfriend in a fight.

    Stay classy, Daryl.

32) Chuck Smith, Carolina Panthers

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    Chuck Smith was the all-time sacks leader in Atlanta Falcons history. When he became a free agent in 2000, the Carolina Panthers signed Smith to a five-year deal for $21 million.

    If his uniform looks like it was hardly worn or used, that is because it was exactly the case.

    Smith appeared in two games for the Panthers, but suffered injuries to his right knee that forced him out of the NFL. He lost not only the rest of the 2000 season, but the rest of his career, to injuries.

31) Chester McGlockton, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Chester McGlockton was an impact defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders, having been named to four All-Pro teams. So when he became a free agent in 1998, the Kansas City Chiefs were delighted to sign him.

    During that time period, NFL teams had to surrender two first-round draft picks to take a designated franchise player from another team. Well, that was the scenario with McGlockton. The Raiders had designated him as their franchise guy. The Chiefs had to give Oakland two first-round picks, which was a serious investment, not to mention the added cost of the contract itself.

    So, what did Kansas City get from McGlockton? He wound up playing for the Chiefs for three years. During that time span, he managed to record seven sacks. When teams realized how badly the free-agent move had burned the Chiefs, nobody was willing to take that risk again.

    This one was an epic bust.

30) Kerry Collins, Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders were delighted when they signed free-agent quarterback Kerry Collins to a new deal in 2004, thinking that he would lead the Raiders to the playoffs.

    Instead, Collins led the Raiders to a record of 7-21 as a starter and proved to be a complete bust. In 2004, Collins threw 21 touchdown passes to 20 interceptions.

    The Raiders weren't able to win more than four games in either season that Collins ran the offense. That was all the proof that the Raiders needed to know that he was not the answer.

29) Adalius Thomas, New England Patriots

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    Adalius Thomas was coming off of his first season as being named as a first-team All-Pro after the 2006 season. Thomas was a free agent, so the New England Patriots decided that he could be a key ingredient to improving their defense.

    The Patriots signed Thomas to a five-year deal for $35 million, which included $20 million guaranteed. The Patriots used him as an inside linebacker until injuries forced him to go to outside linebacker. He continued to play outside in 2008 until he suffered a season-ending arm injury in Week 10. He then went on I.R.

    In 2009, Thomas came back healthy and was playing, but head coach Bill Belichick decided to put him on the inactive list in October. This seemed to be a turning point in his relationship with the team. Things continued to get worse later in the year, when he was late for a meeting and the team sent him home.

    Thomas reacted to the motivational ploys being used on him and thought they were childish. The Patriots showed him how serious they were about everything when they decided to release him one day after the conclusion of the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas hasn't been heard from since.

28) Dunta Robinson, Atlanta Falcons

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    From questionable hits to getting burned by one wide receiver after another, the Atlanta Falcons realize that they made a terrible mistake by giving a $57 million, six-year free-agent offer to corner Dunta Robinson.

    Robinson originally played for the Houston Texans and the Falcons decided to make him the highest-paid corner in the NFL. According to this article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this deal is a real head-scratcher because the Falcons money suggests that Robinson is a shut-down corner, when in reality he is anything but. 

    The sad part is that Robinson has been outplayed by Brent Grimes. Now that Grimes is a free agent, the Falcons might wind up losing him due to all of the money they have committed to Robinson. You can call that a double-whammy. The Falcons guaranteed $5 million of the $6 million that they are giving Robinson in 2012, so there really isn't anything the Falcons can do, except grin and bear it. 

    During his stay in Atlanta, Robinson has only managed three interceptions in 31 games and Pro Football Focus graded him at No. 101 out of 109 qualifying corners for the 2011 season for overall play. As for pass coverage, they ranked him at No. 105 out of 109, courtesy of an update on Rotoworld.

    In short, Robinson is one of the worst corners in the NFL and this deal will be remembered as a huge bust.

27) Jevon Kearse, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Jevon Kearse, otherwise known as simply "The Freak" was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004 to make an impact on their defense, when he became a free agent. Kearse was signed to an eight-year deal for $65 million. The deal was a record at the time, including a signing bonus of $16 million.

    Kearse played well for the first two years of the deal, but then his game started heading downhill. He hurt his knee in 2006 and his play started to really suffer from then on. Because he was paid so much, he attracted tons of attention. He was noticed out partying quite often and that didn't endear him to the team since he wasn't playing to the level of his contract.

    Finally, things had spiraled so badly that the Eagles benched Kearse in favor of Juqua Thomas. Before the 2008 season began, Kearse was released by the Eagles, so they could get out from under the rest of the contract. During his Philadelphia years, Kearse made 75 tackles and 22 sacks. It cost the Eagles almost $30 million to learn that "The Freak" wasn't very good any more.

    Kearse wound up going back to the Tennessee Titans, where he played for two more years. Kearse has been out of the NFL since 2009.

    If ever there was a free agent who was a lock to produce, Kearse was the guy. Just goes to show you that there is no sure thing in NFL free agency, ever.

26) Yancey Thigpen, Tennessee Titans

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    Yancey Thigpen had been a solid wide receiver for six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tennessee had recently drafted Steve McNair and were looking for weapons that McNair could throw to.

    When Thigpen became a free agent in 1998, Tennessee stepped in with a big offer. The contract was a five-year deal for $21 million, which at that point in time made Yancey the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL, as per this article from Sports Illustrated.

    This was a hard lesson for Tennessee to learn. Thigpen was only able to average 30 catches per season in Tennessee. He played for just three more years and his career was over at the conclusion of the 2000 season.

    Thigpen was just one more free-agent bust.

25) Elvis Grbac, Baltimore Ravens

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    Elvis Grbac paid his dues as Steve Young's backup in San Francisco and then got the chance to start with Kansas City for four years, which he capped off in 2000 with a season that saw him throw for 4,169 yards, 28 touchdowns and be named to the Pro Bowl team.

    That was his last year under contract with the Chiefs, so he was a hot free agent prior to the 2001 season.

    The Baltimore Ravens had just won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer as their quarterback, so how much better could the Ravens become if they upgraded Dilfer with Grbac? The Ravens dumped Dilfer and signed Grbac to be the starter.

    From an article on by Adam Rank, he wrote that Grbac threw more interceptions than touchdowns (18 to 15) and Dilfer actually got the Ravens further in the playoffs the year before. Grbac led the Ravens to one playoff win, but they eventually lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Ravens were willing to give Grbac another shot in 2001, but they needed some more flexibility with salary cap, so they asked Grbac to rework his contract. Grbac refused the Ravens request, so they decided instead to release him. Grbac never played for another NFL team.

    When Grbac started in Baltimore, he could only lead the defending champions to a 8-6 record. That qualifies as a busted free-agent move. Ravens fans probably can still recall the fans yelling out "Elvis has left the building."

24) Hugh Douglas, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars were looking for some explosive defensive personnel in 2003. They noticed that defensive end Hugh Douglas was a free agent and so they made Douglas their top priority. Douglas was named All-Pro in 2000 and 2002 and had been named to the previous three Pro Bowl teams. He was the kind of impact player the Jaguars defense needed.

    So the Jaguars overwhelmed Douglas with the best offer, as they gave him a five-year deal for $27.11 million and a $5 million signing bonus. Douglas, however, had already played for eight years, and he was starting to slow down.

    Douglas' impact in Jacksonville was minimal at best. He came up with an underwhelming three and a half sacks for the 2003 season. When they saw Douglas in training camp in 2004, they released him before the year started. Of course, Douglas went right back to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he had all his success, and finished his career there in 2004.

    Douglas was an expensive bust for the Jaguars.

23) Joe Johnson, Green Bay Packers

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    Defensive end Joe Johnson had a solid eight-year run in New Orleans, where he earned two Pro Bowl trips and recognition as a solid defensive end.

    Johnson became a free agent in 2002, so Green Bay decided to offer him a six-year deal for $33 million. Johnson only wound up staying with the Packers for two years. In those two seasons, he was limited due to injuries and could only play in 11 games total.

    In 2003, Johnson started six games and then ruptured his right quadriceps tendon, which ended his season.

    The Packers cut Johnson in June 2004.

22) Jeff George, Washington Redskins

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    Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder added aging NFL defensive stars Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders in 2000. In 2001, Snyder decided the offense needed an aging star, so he signed quarterback Jeff George.

    What was interesting about this move was that the Redskins already had a very competent Brad Johnson at quarterback. But why not mess with a good thing when you have the chance to add a bigger name, right?

    George was offered a four-year deal for $18 million. George only appeared in eight games during the 2001 and 2002 seasons and then he was gone, just about as quickly as he had entered.

    George started seven games over the two-year span, and his record was an ugly 1-6. As the Redskins quarterback, George threw seven touchdown passes to nine interceptions. Just one more notch for Daniel Snyder's belt.

21) Duane Starks, Arizona Cardinals

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    Duane Starks made a big impact on the rest of the NFL when he began his career by coming up with 20 interceptions in his first four years with the Baltimore Ravens.

    So, when Starks became a free agent in 2002, the Arizona Cardinals decided that they wanted him badly. They gave Starks a five-year deal for $23 million.

    Things started going south when Starks suffered a knee injury and had to miss the entire 2003 season. Starks played in 2002 and 2004 for Arizona, and came up with just five interceptions in the two years.

    Before the 2005 season began, the Cardinals decided it was time to unload Starks and see what they could get for him. They found a taker in the New England Patriots, who gave up a third-round draft pick for him.

    What the Cardinals learned was that Starks was able to be a better player in Baltimore because of their system and the talent he had around him. Without the rest of the Ravens defense next to him, Starks wasn't that great. 

20) Bert Emanuel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Bucs had been watching Bert Emanuel catching passes against them for years with the Atlanta Falcons, so when he became a free agent in 1998 the Bucs decided to sign him instead of defending against him.

    The Bucs gave Emanuel a four-year deal for $16.4 million.

    As we just saw in the previous slide with Duane Starks, sometimes it is hard for teams to project how a player will fit in their system, compared to the system he was coming from.

    Emanuel had been averaging 984 receiving yards for the prior three years in Atlanta. But the results in Tampa Bay were disturbing since they went downhill so fast. In 1998, Emanuel caught just 41 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

    In 1999, they were even worse. Emanuel caught just 22 passes for 238 yards and an average of 10.8 yards per catch. He had just one touchdown catch for the year.

    The Bucs had seen enough. 1999 was the final year that Emanuel played in Tampa Bay.

19) LeCharles Bentley, Cleveland Browns

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    LeCharles Bentley made two Pro Bowl teams playing for the New Orleans Saints. When he became a free agent in 2006, the Cleveland Browns made him a priority player in free agency. The Browns extended a contract for six-years and between $30-36 million, which Bentley signed. The deal included $12.5 million guaranteed.

    That was pretty much where the good news between Bentley and the Browns ended. On the first day of training, Bentley ruptured his patellar tendon. During the follow-up procedures, operations, rehab and appointments that followed, Bentley came down with staph infections.

    Subsequently, Bentley learned that other Browns players suffered from staph infections and things continued to spiral out of control between the two parties. Doctors came close to amputating Bentley's leg due to the infections.

    Bentley never played a single down of football for the Browns, in one of the worst busts in team history.

18) Ahman Green, Houston Texans

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    Ahman Green had been a successful running back for the Green Bay Packers. When he became a free agent entering the 2007 offseason, the Houston Texans thought he would be a good fit in their offense. The Texans offered Green a four-year deal for $23 million.

    Green had been through nine prior NFL seasons, and there wasn't much life left in his legs. Green played in 2007 and 2008 for Houston, but was only able to play in just 14 games during that time period. Green's rushing totals didn't come close to what he did in Green Bay, as he only managed 554 yards in two years.

    Following the 2008 season, the Texans released Green.

17) Antwaan Randle El, Washington Redskins

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    In 2006, the Washington Redskins were looking to add a spark to their offense, and they thought they found the answer in free-agent kick returner and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. Randle El was playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers and had scored on four punt returns there.

    The Redskins considered him to be a dual threat, so they signed Randle El to a seven-year deal for $31 million.

    Randle El played in Washington for the next four years. He did manage to catch eight touchdown passes, scored on one punt return and passed for two touchdowns while with the Redskins. His receiving yards only topped 600 one time (728). While Randle El did some good things in Washington, he failed to deliver for the amount of money he was paid.

    He was no longer with the Redskins in 2010, so of course he went back to his old stomping grounds to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

16) Sean Gilbert, Carolina Panthers

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    The Carolina Panthers were looking to add somebody to their defensive line that would help to elevate that unit coming into the 1998 season. They thought that had found the player that would help them, when they signed free agent Sean Gilbert to a seven-year deal for $46 million.

    As was mentioned earlier in the presentation with the Chester McGlockton slide, this is one more case in NFL free-agency history where a team had to surrender two first-round draft picks for signing away somebody's franchised player.

    Based on the fact that both Gilbert and McGlockton were busts, and the loss of two first-round draft picks set the team back for years. Nobody would be willing to try that move again.

    In five years with Carolina, Gilbert recorded just 15.5 sacks and 141 tackles. That production wasn't even close to what Carolina gave up.

    $46 million and two first-round draft picks. Huge bust.

15) Antonio Bryant, Cincinnati Bengals

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    You can consider wide receiver Antonio Bryant a bonus slide, because he actually was a bust with two different teams.

    The first bust occurred in 2006 with the San Francisco 49ers, where he signed a free-agent deal for four years and $14 million. Bryant continued to clash with the 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, and as a result he only lasted one year in San Francisco before they released him.

    This was not the first coach he had clashed with, as he had issues with Bill Parcells as well in Dallas.

    Despite his checkered past, the Cincinnati Bengals thought it made sense to offer Bryant a four-year deal for $28 million. After that contract was signed, the Bengals were able to ink free agent Terrell Owens to a new deal. Less than one month before the 2010 season started, the Bengals terminated Bryant's contract.

    That was the last time that Bryant has been connected to a NFL team.

14) Scott Mitchell, Detroit Lions

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    Scott Mitchell had been cruising along as the backup to Miami Dolphins legendary quarterback Dan Marino, until Marino got hurt in the fifth game of the 1993 season and suddenly Mitchell had the spotlight all to himself.

    Mitchell played well enough to have multiple suitors when he became a free agent in 1994, so Mitchell signed an offer from the Detroit Lions for three years and $11 million to become their starting quarterback.

    Mitchell had some weapons in Detroit, including Barry Sanders, Herman Moore and Brett Perriman. Mitchell got hurt, so Dave Kreig came in and guided the Lions to the playoffs. 

    To give you a better idea, Mitchell's totals were 78 touchdowns to 54 interceptions. In 1996, his third year in Detroit, he regressed to a 1:1 ratio of 17 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Not the kind of growth you want to see from your starting quarterback.

    Mitchell's best year was 1995 when he threw 32 touchdown passes. Mitchell actually fulfilled his three-year contract and lasted in Detroit up to 1998, when Charlie Batch took over for him.

    The Lions thought they were going to go deeper in the playoffs with Mitchell, but it never really materialized.

13) Jerry Porter, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Notice how many wide receiver free-agency deals don't pan out too well? Chalk this up as one more failed experiment, as the Jacksonville Jaguars went out in 2008 and signed free-agent receiver Jerry Porter to a new contract. The Jaguars gave Porter a six-year deal for $30 million, of which $10 million was guaranteed.

    Porter had been playing with the Oakland Raiders, but he wasn't able to duplicate his success from Oakland. Before the season began, Porter injured his hamstring, and had surgery on it in May. Porter was slow to come around for the surgery, and the results for the 2008 were pitiful.

    Porter managed just 11 receptions for the season, good for 181 yards and one touchdown catch. The Jaguars saw enough and released him before the 2009 season. They sure didn't get much for their $10 million guaranteed.

    Porter hasn't played in the NFL ever since.

12) Alvin Harper, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Alvin Harper had been a very successful wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps his success was attributed to all of the other weapons that the Cowboys had on offense, so defenses couldn't devote more attention to him.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pounced on Harper when he became a free agent in 1995. The Bucs offered Harper a four-year deal for $10.6 million, which was a significant deal for that time period. The Bucs were hoping that Harper could come close to what he did in 1994, when he led the NFL with an average of 24.9 yards per catch.

    In 1995, Harper had 46 catches for 633 yards, two touchdown catches and an average of 13.8 yards per catch. In 1996, the numbers were even worse. Harper had just 19 catches for 289 yards and one score.

    After the 1996 season, the Bucs weren't very happy with their investment and they waived Harper.

11) Desmond Howard, Oakland Raiders

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    Desmond Howard had been making a name for himself due to kick return and punt return skills. Howard was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI, so since he was a free agent after the game, he had a number of teams interested in his services.

    The Raiders signed Howard to a four-year deal for $6 million. Maybe Al Davis should have wondered aloud why Howard kept bouncing around the NFL. He wound up playing for three different teams in a three-year span. First it was Washington (1994), then Jacksonville (1995) and then Green Bay (1996).

    Howard did manage to last two years with the Raiders, in 1997 and 1998. During that time frame, Howard was only able to find the end zone one time. Another Super Bowl MVP had turned into a super bust.

    Of course, it shouldn't have come as a surprise, that Howard went right back to play for the Packers in 1999, following his release from Oakland.

10) Dale Carter, Denver Broncos

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    The Denver Broncos had seen enough of defensive back Dale Carter over the years in AFC West battles with the Kansas City Chiefs to know that they didn't like to go up against him. So, when Carter became a free agent in 1999, the Broncos thought, if you can't beat him, pay him a ton of money to join your team.

    The Broncos signed Carter to a four-year deal for $22 million. That deal made Carter the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL at the time.

    This deal was a risky move because even though Carter was a talented player by making four Pro Bowl teams, he also proved that he had some red flags due to being arrested three times.

    But the Broncos decided he was worth the risk. Carter did not do anything special in his first year with the Broncos in 1999. In 2000, the situation got worse real fast, as Carter violated the NFL substance abuse policy and since it was his fourth offense, he was suspended for the entire 2000 season.

    The Broncos realized too late that they had made a poor character assessment, so they released him. Like we said, this was a risky move.

9) Larry Brown, Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders thought they made a major coup when they signed free-agent defensive back Larry Brown. Brown had been with the Dallas Cowboys and had just been named MVP of Super Bowl XXX.

    As NFL general managers have been slow to learn, never ever make an offer to a Super Bowl MVP who becomes a free agent. It is almost a guarantee for bad things to happen, as is appearing on the cover of EA Sports' Madden Football.

    If you happen to be the GM of the Oakland Raiders, you absolutely don't want to even think about extending an offer to a Super Bowl MVP. How many times do you have to get burned before you learn your lesson?

    The Raiders ignored the warnings and stepped up with a five-year deal for $12.5 million, which was a big deal for 1996. 

    For their investment, Brown came up with one interception in two years for the Raiders. Brown only played in 12 games for the Raiders in that time. They promptly released him after the 1997 season, and he went right back to play for the Dallas Cowboys again.

8) Deion Sanders, Washington Redskins

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    Another bust of the Washington Redskins. In this case, it was Hall of Fame corner Deion Sanders. In 2000, Sanders was a free agent. Daniel Snyder decided to offer Sanders a seven-year deal for $56 million, and there was also a $8 million signing bonus.

    Sanders was entering the final stage of his NFL career and it was clear that he was not reacting to passes the way he used to. He only intercepted four passes for the year and his punt return abilities were not up to par.

    So after just one year playing for the Redskins, Sanders announced that he was going to retire from the NFL prior to the 2001 season.

    Of course, we know that he ultimately came back to play for the Baltimore Ravens in 2004, but that doesn't change the fact that Sanders was a complete bust for the Washington Redskins and Daniel Snyder.

7) Neil O'Donnell, New York Jets

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    The New York Jets were looking to find a quarterback that could take over the offense in 1996. They thought they had the answer when they made an offer to free agent Neil O'Donnell, who had been playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Jets made O'Donnell a five-year deal for $25 million.

    O'Donnell started 20 games for the Jets between 1996-1997. He went 8-12 as a starter for the Jets and threw 21 touchdown passes compared to 14 interceptions. He completed between 56-58 percent of his passes in the two years. In 1996, his QB Passer Rating was 67.8 and he improved that mark to 80.3 in 1997.

    However, the Jets had seen enough. The team decided to go in a different direction and O'Donnell moved on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

6) David Boston, San Diego Chargers

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    David Boston was a wide receiver with the Arizona Cardinals and had just come off of a strong 2002 season before he became a free agent. The San Diego Chargers decided to offer Boston a seven-year deal for $47 million. The Chargers guaranteed $12 million over the first two years of the deal to Boston.

    Boston produced solid numbers in 2003, as he made 70 catches for 880 yards and seven touchdown receptions.

    But Boston had a strong personality; he clashed with head coach Marty Schottenheimer and with teammate Reche Caldwell. The Chargers decided that even though Boston was a talented player, he was becoming more trouble than he was worth, so the Chargers traded him away to Miami.

    Another wide receiver free-agent bust to add to our list.

5) Javon Walker, Oakland Raiders

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    The Oakland Raiders came up with a big bust when they signed free-agent wide receiver Javon Walker to a six-year deal for $55 million. The Raiders guaranteed $16 million in the contract.

    Walker was with AFC West rival Denver Broncos. The fact that the Raiders were eliminating Walker from the Broncos in addition to bolstering their own offense must have felt like a win-win on the surface.

    During the 2008 season, Walker played in eight games, scored one touchdown and made 15 catches for 196 yards. Then Walker let it be known that he was hurt and would be missing the rest of the season.

    Walker followed that up with another shaky season in 2009. He appeared in just three games, but never made a catch. The Raiders had enough and released him before the 2010 season started.

    So, Walker was paid $21 million for just 15 catches and one touchdown. That comes out to roughly $1 million per catch and $6 million per touchdown. Good work if you can get it.

4) Andre Rison, Cleveland Browns

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    In 1995, the Cleveland Browns were looking for an impact player on offense (has a familiar ring, doesn't it?). When they saw that free-agent wide receiver Andre Rison was on the market, they thought they would make a big splash by landing him to a new deal.

    Rison had been an All-Pro for four straight years and was elected to the Pro Bowl for the last four years. In five years in Atlanta, the least yards Rison had in receptions was 976. The other four years were all at least 1,000-yard-plus seasons. In addition, Rison scored 60 touchdowns in his first six years in the NFL.

    If there was ever a can't-miss receiver, Rison was it. The Browns signed Rison to a five-year deal for $17 million, which was an expensive contract for 1995.

    So, how did Rison perform for the Browns? Rison caught just 47 passes for 701 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch. It was about as bad a year as was imaginable.

    The Cleveland Browns deserted the city of Cleveland to become the Baltimore Ravens, and they decided to part ways with Rison after just the one season.

    One of the most surprising busts in NFL history.

3) Dana Stubblefield, Washington Redskins

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    We are starting to come down to the home stretch, and will close out with three straight colossal busts from the Washington Redskins, thanks to Daniel Snyder and his deep pockets.

    Dana Stubblefield was playing a great defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. Stubblefield was so good that he was named in 1997 as the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Stubblefield became a free agent, so Daniel Snyder stepped in to the fray in 1998 and the Redskins signed him to a six-year deal for $36 million.

    The Redskins envisioned a great defensive line in 1998. Since they expected Dan Wilkinson to be drawing double teams on one side, Stubblefield would be left free to create mayhem. Here is an interesting read on what the Redskins were thinking, courtesy of Peter King of Sports Illustrated.

    But, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Stubblefield wasn't able to maintain the level of play he exhibited in San Francisco. Stubblefield only lasted with the Redskins for three years and then they released him. Sure enough, Stubblefield wound up going right back to the 49ers.

    This phenomena happens so often that teams should write in to free-agent contracts that you can't return back to your former team. Maybe they would actually try harder to make it work out then.

2) Adam Archuleta, Washington Redskins

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    Another one of Daniel Snyder's greatest hits collection. The Washington Redskins made free-agent defensive back Adam Archuleta a seven-year deal of $35 million with $10 million guaranteed. Snyder made Archuleta the highest-paid safety in the NFL with this deal.

    Why? Haven't got a clue.

    The saddest part of this deal is that the Redskins had Ryan Clark sitting on the bench, as they decided to start Archuleta over him. Archuleta lasted just one year with Washington, while Clark went on to become one of the better defensive backs in the NFL, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Archuleta proved that he wasn't up to handling a starting job on defense, so he was relegated to special teams. A football team only has so much wiggle room to make mistakes, and if you keep making one major mistake after another, it is hard to be taken seriously by the fans, the players around the league and the coaches. 

    You might be curious to learn what Snyder got for his investment. Archuleta never intercepted a pass for the Redskins, but he did have one sack. Luckily, the Redskins traded Archuleta to the Chicago Bears after the first year, and then the Bears released him after one year in Chicago. 

    Maybe the 2012 offseason is the year that Daniel Snyder will finally get it. Or not.

1) Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins

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    Albert Haynesworth was a dynamic force on the defensive line early in his NFL career. With his size and power, nobody seemed capable of stopping or hoping to contain him. Haynesworth became a Pro Bowler in both 2007 and 2008.

    When he became a free agent in 2009, teams were lining up for the chance to bid on him.

    Daniel Snyder was no different than the other NFL owners that pictured Haynesworth wrecking havoc. The havoc they imagined, though, was on enemy offensive backfields, not on their own practice field or with their own coaching staff.

    The Redskins signed Haynesworth to a seven-year deal for $100 million, which included $41 million guaranteed. He has come into camp out of shape and has been unwilling to work. He challenged head coaches Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. He became more of a headache to the team than he was a player.

    He was not happy with the role he had in the defensive scheme and that unhappiness carried over into his attitude about practicing and the way he felt about the team. Haynesworth was a terrible ambassador for the rookies or newcomers to the Redskins.

    The situation grew worse, so Zorn suspended Haynesworth for the final month of the 2009 season. In 2010, Shanahan was forced to suspend Haynesworth. He wound up with making just 13 tackles for the year and had only two-and-a-half sacks in eight games during his final season.

    The Redskins had reached their boiling point with the disgruntled player, so before the 2011 season began, the team traded Haynesworth to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    Due to the very limited production the team got from him, compared to the amount of money they paid out, it will be difficult for anybody to ever bump Haynesworth from the No. 1 free-agent bust in NFL history.

    I promised an answer as to the three teams that were tied for second place on our presentation with four busts each. Those three teams were: Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.

    Thanks for reading the presentation. We hope you enjoyed it.


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