Every NFL Team's Worst Free-Agent Signing of the 2021 Offseason
The 2021 NFL offseason has been loaded with impactful signings. Not all have been positive, however, as quite a few teams have put themselves in a precarious position by committing valuable salary-cap space to players who may not be worth the cost.
Whether that is because the free agent in question has a history of injuries, is fading into the twilight of his career or is simply overpaid for his production, nearly every team has made at least one questionable decision on the open market.
Keep that in mind during this division-by-division look at every team's worst free-agent signing so far this offseason.
Buffalo Bills: WR Emmanuel Sanders
The Buffalo Bills are coming off a promising run to the AFC Championship Game, an impressive finish to their best season in decades. They had a few holes to fill early in the offseason, including at the wide receiver spot after losing John Brown to the Las Vegas Raiders on a one-year, $3.75 million contract.
While finding someone to replace Brown was important, the Bills elected to acquire an aging veteran in Emmanuel Sanders, the former New Orleans Saints wideout who was one of many salary-cap casualties in the Big Easy.
Sanders is now 34 years old and beginning to reach the final stages of his career. While he still produced at a respectable level—especially while filling in for an injured Michael Thomas—it's a gamble that he will be able to keep it up as he prepares for his 12th season as a pro.
Buffalo may have been better served shoring up more positions of need than spending $6 million on a No. 3 wideout.
New England Patriots: WR Nelson Agholor
The New England Patriots made one of the most puzzling moves of the entire free-agency period when they elected to dole out a head-scratching two-year, $22 million contract to Nelson Agholor.
It's a sizable amount of money for Agholor, who looked to be a middle-of-the-road option in a crowded receiver class that had an ice-cold market out of the gate. He produced inconsistently during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles and only slightly revitalized his career as a deep threat with the Raiders last year.
Despite never recording more than 896 yards or 64 receptions in his six-year career, the 27-year-old is now making more annually than a proven producer in Marvin Jones Jr. and a high-upside talent in Will Fuller V. Fuller is a year younger and has career numbers within 300 yards and two touchdowns of Agholor while playing in 34 fewer games. He settled for a one-year, $10.6 million deal with the rival Miami Dolphins.
The Pats had plenty of money to throw around this spring, but they should have been patient and waited to pick up better production at a cheaper cost.
New York Jets: WR Corey Davis
Like the Patriots, the New York Jets may have jumped the gun on the receiver market and allocated a bit too much money to a player who has not exactly lived up to lofty expectations.
Gang Green seems to have dished out a little too much cash for Corey Davis. The former Tennessee Titan inked a three-year, $37.5 million contract early in the new league year, becoming one of the first wideouts to find a new home.
At first, it seemed that the Jets, who were flush with cap space, may have been setting up to sign another player at the position. But now that the dust has settled, it is readily apparent that Davis will be their No. 1 option for the 2021 season.
It's a risky move, especially since Davis projects to be a solid No. 2 at best after four seasons in the NFL. Once considered among the most exciting young prospects in the league—hype that helped him become the first wide receiver off the board in the 2017 draft—he settled into a respectable role as the second option in Tennessee's offense.
Davis is coming off his best year yet, amassing 65 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdowns, but he has much to prove if he is going to be worth the investment. Given the club's uncertainty under center, there is a good chance this ends up being an overpay.
Miami Dolphins: C Matt Skura
The Miami Dolphins just missed out on making the postseason and were one of the more enjoyable young teams to watch last year. There was much optimism going into the offseason, but it appears the organization is floundering a bit as it prepares to make a tough decision on its future.
As of now, the 'Phins are set to go into 2021 with Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback, but they may need to come up with a better option to snap him the ball.
Miami downgraded rather significantly at the center position after incumbent Ted Karras signed with the rival Patriots. To replace him, the Dolphins came to terms with Matt Skura, who spent most of the last four seasons starting for the Baltimore Ravens.
The biggest issue is that Skura lost his job last year due to snapping issues. That's a major red flag for a center, especially one who will be working with a developing quarterback. If he can figure those problems out, he's still a decent pass protector, but that is quite a gamble.
With better options still on the table—David Andrews, for instance—the 'Phins elected to take a budget, stopgap approach, and it will likely come back to haunt them.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Sammy Watkins
The Baltimore Ravens were linked to several high-profile wideouts at the start of the new league year but ultimately came away with one who will not excite fans in Charm City. They had reportedly reached out regarding Kenny Golladay, but the gem of the 2021 receiver class ended up signing with the New York Giants
They signed Sammy Watkins to a one-year, $5 million contract, kicking the tires on a receiver who has not lived up to the immense hype that followed him from his Clemson days.
Watkins fell out of favor with the Kansas City Chiefs last year, hauling in a meager 37 catches for 421 yards and a pair of scores. He was a complete non-factor during the team's most recent playoff run, catching just one pass for 13 yards in Super Bowl LV.
The Ravens may have missed a great opportunity to improve their receiving corps at a cheap cost. They settled for Watkins instead of going after a guy like Kendrick Bourne or Jamal Agnew, both of whom signed similarly valued contracts.
With Watkins failing to reach his potential in the electrifying Kansas City passing attack, he almost certainly isn't going to get any better with Lamar Jackson under center in a run-focused Baltimore offense.
Cincinnati Bengals: DE Trey Hendrickson
The Cincinnati Bengals parted ways with one of the best pass-rushers of the 2021 free-agent class when Carl Lawson signed with the New York Jets. His absence left a major void, but the Bengals were perhaps a bit too overeager to replace their star defensive end.
Cincinnati wound up giving Trey Hendrickson a four-year, $60 million deal, and that was the same exact annual value at which the Jets acquired Lawson.
Hendrickson is a quality pass-rusher who will help the Bengals attack the opposing quarterback, but he's a clear step down from Lawson. The latter may have only had 5.5 sacks in 2020, but advanced metrics showed he was often the first man to beat his defender and was among the best in the league at creating sacks for his teammates.
Hendrickson recorded a respectable 13.5 sacks last season, but it was the only time in his four-year career that he was on the field for more than 50 percent of his squad's defensive snaps. The 26-year-old needs to prove he can continue to produce at the highest level to live up to the dollar figure at which the Bengals valued him.
Cleveland Browns: K Cody Parkey
It is hard to fault the Cleveland Browns for trying to bring some stability to the roster and retain as many of their own free agents as possible, especially after they made the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and won a postseason game for the first time since 1994.
But they should have heavily considered a change at kicker. The franchise elected to retain veteran Cody Parkey for a second consecutive season and third overall on a one-year, $1.2 million contract.
While the money wasn't an issue—he signed the least expensive deal of any placekicker this offseason—the seven-year veteran has been plagued by inconsistency and has struggled mightily in the clutch.
Best known for his "double doink" that cost the Chicago Bears a postseason win a couple of years ago, Parkey started to fall apart when Cleveland needed him most last year. He missed three of 10 extra points between Weeks 14 and 16, and the coaching staff only entrusted him with two field-goal attempts in that span. He connected on just one.
Parkey likely saved his job by making all three field goals and all eight extra points in the postseason, but Cleveland may end up costing itself in a must-win game by opting to retain the incumbent kicker instead of finding a more consistent option in the draft or free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Joe Haeg
The Pittsburgh Steelers were never going to make a splash in the open market due to salary-cap constraints, but they didn't do the greatest job of patching the holes left by departing players.
After losing five starters on defense, the Steelers failed to pick up any notable replacements. One of their out-of-house signings was offensive tackle Joe Haeg, a five-year veteran who spent last season as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl-winning roster.
Haeg agreed to a two-year, $4.6 million contract with Pittsburgh, which sets him up to be a swing lineman. It wasn't exactly a position of great need following the organization's postseason failures, and it's one the cash-strapped team shouldn't have invested in after so much key defensive talent departed.
While Pittsburgh will almost certainly find a use for Haeg, the money allocated to a swing tackle would have been better served going toward a rotational linebacker or pass-rusher who could make more of an impact.
Houston Texans: RB David Johnson
The Houston Texans' approach to free agency has been akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
The club has signed a slew of low-price free agents as part of a complete roster overhaul, but it has yet to sort out its massive issue under center. The trade request from Deshaun Watson, who has since been accused of sexual assault and misconduct in multiple lawsuits, is presumably still on the table. The organization appears to be teetering on the brink of a complete collapse after years of being a mid-range contender.
One of the more questionable decisions was signing a trio of backs who all appear to be making a desperation stop in Houston before their time in the league is up. The club has come to terms with David Johnson, Mark Ingram II and Phillip Lindsay in the last few weeks, crowding the backfield with aging veterans.
Johnson earned the most money of the three, picking up a one-year deal worth $5 million. He inked that contract despite participating in just 12 games for the Texans last year and contributing just 147 rushing attempts for 691 yards.
While Johnson is a quality receiver out of the backfield—he caught 33 passes for 314 yards in 2020—he is going to turn 30 during the 2021 campaign and hasn't come close to being the back he was for the Arizona Cardinals during his breakout 2016 season.
The team also committed $3.25 million to Lindsay and $2.5 million to Ingram, and the latter was an especially puzzling move given his career-low 72 rushes for 299 yards with the Baltimore Ravens last year.
Not only did the Texans tie up valuable cap space in these rushers, but they also created a tough situation for their new coaching staff.
Indianapolis Colts: WR T.Y. Hilton
The Indianapolis Colts may have made a big free-agency decision with their hearts rather than their heads.
T.Y. Hilton has been a fixture in Indy since he came into the league as a third-round draft pick back in 2012. He finally hit free agency for the first time in his career but did so at a tough time given the nature of the receiver market and the declining salary cap.
While the Colts didn't have to back up the Brink's truck to pay Hilton, they did allocate $8 million to keep him around for at least one more season. It's a steep cost for a wideout who is 31 years old and has seen his production tail off after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in five of six seasons between 2013 and 2018.
This deal feels like a reward for the contributions Hilton has made to the franchise since he's behind only legends Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison for career receiving yards with the Colts. After all, he caught just 56 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns last year.
The Colts will be starting another new quarterback this coming campaign because of Philip Rivers' retirement, and having Hilton certainly won't hurt the transition. But coughing up that much money—the same amount JuJu Smith-Schuster received to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers—for an aging vet isn't the best financial decision.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren't a marquee franchise, and it's been rather tough for them to court free agents after years of ineptitude. They have had to shell out big bucks to get players to sign, and fans saw that happen again this year.
The Jags came into the new league year with an enviable amount of salary-cap space but ended up having to use large chunks of it to overpay free agents. The most obvious example is the three-year, $40 million deal with cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
Griffin is now being paid like one of the premier players at his position, but his on-field play hardly warrants that kind of compensation. The former Seattle Seahawks defensive back recorded 63 tackles and three interceptions last year. PFF gave his season a grade of 64.1, hardly the type of year that earns a huge contract.
Frustrated fans in Jacksonville also watched the organization dish out a four-year, $35 million contract to safety Rayshawn Jenkins, which shores up a secondary that desperately needed help but at a cost that could come back to haunt the team.
The Jaguars may have bolstered their defense, but they committed a sizable amount of long-term cap space to do so.
Tennessee Titans: OLB Bud Dupree
Bud Dupree was one of the big free-agency winners this year, scoring a five-year, $82.5 million payday with the Tennessee Titans. He was one of the few players on the open market to score a huge contract despite the shrinking salary cap, but it remains to be seen if he can live up to expectations.
Dupree had his 2020 campaign cut short after suffering a torn ACL in December, and there is a decent chance he will not be available for the start of the 2021 season. That hurts a Titans team that is undergoing a big shift this offseason and needs a strong training camp and preseason to jell if it is going to get back to the top of the AFC South.
The bigger concern is whether Dupree can find a way to keep producing at a high level without having superstar pass-rushers alongside him. The 28-year-old is leaving a defense that has several tenacious pass-rushers, including one of the league's best in T.J. Watt.
Even if he makes a full recovery from the torn ACL, the Titans do not have a Watt-caliber pass-rusher who can help ease the amount of focus he will see from opposing blockers. There is a real chance that lack of assistance severely hinders his ability to get after the quarterback and makes him one of the most overpaid players in the league.
Denver Broncos: CB Ronald Darby
The Denver Broncos went into the offseason needing to upgrade their offense, but they mostly came away empty-handed.
They did bring in a pair of cornerbacks to shore up the secondary, inking Kyle Fuller to a one-year, $9.5 million deal and Ronald Darby to a three-year, $30 million contract.
While both are making close to the same amount per year, the decision to give Darby more than a single season is a puzzling one. The defensive back has struggled to put together a pair of consecutive strong campaigns and has dealt with nagging injuries during his six years in the league.
To his credit, Darby entered free agency on the heels of one of his better seasons as a pro, earning a 76.0 grade from PFF and standing out as an excellent defender in man coverage for the Washington Football Team. He saw the field for over 1,000 snaps, accounting for 96 percent of his team's defensive snaps—a huge jump from the 50 percent he saw with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019.
While Darby absolutely deserves accolades for that performance, relying on a corner to maintain a high level of play has burned teams before and could easily cause the Broncos to regret this long-term deal.
Las Vegas Raiders: RB Kenyan Drake
Few teams have been as active as the Las Vegas Raiders, but they hardly improved despite a frenzy of transactions.
While the Raiders addressed arguably their biggest need by signing Yannick Ngakoue to shore up pass-rushing inefficiencies, they basically blew up a quality offensive line and now have major issues on that side of the trenches. They traded away several key contributors—center Rodney Hudson to the Arizona Cardinals and tackle Trent Brown to the New England Patriots—without acquiring suitable replacements.
To make matters worse, Las Vegas decided to give a two-year, $14.5 million deal to running back Kenyan Drake, crowding a backfield that may struggle to find lanes in 2021.
Drake hasn't been a consistently stellar producer during any of his stops in the league, and his presence is likely going to cut into snaps that were set to go to Josh Jacobs. The incumbent back is a power-rusher like Drake, but he is younger and is still on his rookie contract for the next two seasons.
Had the Raiders maintained their offensive line, this acquisition may have made a bit more sense. But for now, it's shaping up to be one of the worst free-agency signings of the offseason.
Los Angeles Chargers: C Corey Linsley
The Los Angeles Chargers had the good fortune of finding a promising rookie quarterback in last year's draft, and they came into the offseason looking to provide Justin Herbert with more protection after the offensive line was one of the league's worst in 2020.
While the Bolts signed a pair of veterans in tackle Matt Feiler and center Corey Linsley, the latter came at a hefty price.
Linsley agreed to a five-year, $62.5 million deal following a stellar 2020 campaign with the Green Bay Packers. But he's now being paid like an All-Pro center, which is something he has only accomplished once in his seven-year career.
Prior to elevating his game last year, Linsley was a decent if unremarkable center who had allowed an average of 22 quarterback pressures per season between 2017 and 2019. He brought that number all the way down to just seven pressures in 2020 for a major improvement in the pass-protection department.
If Linsley regresses, Los Angeles will be overpaying for a player who had never even earned as much as a Pro Bowl nod until his breakout campaign. He has also been prone to injury, suffering a knee issue that landed him on the injured reserve for a stretch last season.
This is quite a gamble for an unproven player, but it's one that could potentially pay off for the Bolts.
Kansas City Chiefs: DT Jarran Reed
The Kansas City Chiefs didn't need to make many moves this offseason after appearing in back-to-back Super Bowls and winning one, but they clearly had to upgrade the offensive line after it was exposed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February.
Kansas City accomplished that by signing an elite guard in Joe Thuney to a long-term deal and picked up another proven interior offensive lineman after courting Kyle Long following his return to the league, but it could have done a bit more before most of the quality veterans were off the market.
Instead of signing tackle depth, which they sorely needed following the release of both starters in Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, the Chiefs used their limited cap space on defensive tackle Jarran Reed. It was a luxury signing that doesn't exactly make sense for the club.
There was not much of a need for an interior defensive lineman thanks to the presence of an All-Pro in Chris Jones. The team still went ahead and allocated $7 million to Reed on a one-year deal, making him Kansas City's second-most-expensive free-agent signing this offseason, and it now has to figure out how to integrate him into the defense.
While Reed likely gives Jones a chance to catch his breath and take some plays off—or even slot over to defensive end—this wasn't a move the Chiefs had to make. It's not a terrible signing by any stretch, but more offensive line help, which is now likely on the way via the draft, would have suited them a bit better.
Dallas Cowboys: DE Tarell Basham
Many expected the Dallas Cowboys to have a superb offseason, and it appeared they would early on. They checked off their biggest to-do item when they finally hammered out a Dak Prescott extension, but their moves in the weeks following left a bit to be desired.
Dallas had plenty of issues to address, but it failed to make flashy signings to fill the gaps. Instead of getting a marquee pass-rusher, the Cowboys' biggest splurge was for a raw talent in defensive end Tarell Basham.
Basham, a four-year veteran who has just 7.5 sacks during his career, feels like a bit of a settle for the 'Boys. While there is still undeniable upside in signing the 27-year-old to a two-year, $5.5 million contract, he isn't the big-time playmaker who could push Dallas to the next level.
The Cowboys should still be a viable contender as long as Prescott can stay healthy, but they didn't load up for a Super Bowl run and still need to find a consistent pass-rusher to take the defense up a notch.
New York Giants: CB Adoree' Jackson
The New York Giants took a patient approach to free agency, but that doesn't mean they avoided committing too much money to a player who has a high chance of disappointing.
The G-Men pounced on the chance to sign a talented young cornerback after the Tennessee Titans released Adoree' Jackson but had to give up a decent chunk of change to get it done. He signed a three-year, $39 million deal to upgrade the cornerback spot across from Pro Bowler James Bradberry.
Big Blue is now paying a premium for a defensive back coming off a knee injury that cost him 13 games last season. One of the reported reasons for his release was Tennessee's disappointment with his approach to the rehab process, which could be a cause for concern at his next stop.
If Jackson loses a step following the injury, it could severely impact his ability to play at a high level. The cornerback is one of the better athletes at his position, which allows him to make a big impact and atone for any mistakes he might make in coverage.
If the gamble pays off, the Giants will have one of the most feared cornerback duos in the league. If not, they will be learning a rather costly lesson and will have to find a way to shed Jackson's big contract from their books.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Joe Flacco
The Philadelphia Eagles were saddled with salary-cap issues this offseason and had to release a slew of veterans to get compliant for the new league year. They were able to get the job done but basically punted on the 2021 campaign as they prepare for a full rebuild.
While the Eagles hardly had any cap space available to them, they did free up enough money to make a few acquisitions. Some were wise moves—including a one-year, $5 million deal for a quality safety in Anthony Harris—while another is one of the worst pickups of the entire offseason.
Philadelphia's decision to ink Joe Flacco to a one-year, $3.5 million contract is downright perplexing.
The 36-year-old quarterback will almost certainly serve as the backup to Jalen Hurts—or whichever signal-caller the organization may decide to pursue in the upcoming draft. While the former Super Bowl MVP isn't a bad option to hold a clipboard and mentor the younger players in the quarterback room, the price tag attached is far too steep.
No team should be paying Flacco more than the veteran's minimum at this juncture of his career, especially given how poorly he has played when he does see the field. He's won just two of his last 10 starts, including an 0-4 showing with the New York Jets last year. He is also making twice as much money as a similar veteran backup in Mike Glennon, who the New York Giants gave just $1.35 million this offseason.
The Philadelphia brass needs to be more frugal if it is going to turn things around and get back to the playoffs anytime soon.
Washington Football Team: WR Curtis Samuel
Curtis Samuel was one of the more intriguing receivers on the open market because of his status as a versatile playmaker who is a threat to break a home run each time he touches the ball. It's no surprise the Washington Football Team wanted him to fill out a receiving corps that desperately needed to add another weapon next to Terry McLaurin, but this pairing may be ill-fated.
Unfortunately for Samuel, he landed with a team that employs the same head coach he played under during the first three years of his career when he struggled to become the impact player he ultimately developed into following the Carolina Panthers' regime change.
Samuel finally unlocked his full potential last season, reaching career highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (851) while also finding paydirt three times. He was also utilized more out of the backfield, accumulating 41 totes and turning those into 200 yards and a pair of scores.
It won't be a surprise if Samuel regresses a bit now that he's playing under head coach Ron Rivera for a second time. With the team giving out a three-year, $34.5 million contract, getting anything less than the 2020 version of Samuel would result in an ugly blemish on an otherwise-promising free-agency period.
Chicago Bears: QB Andy Dalton
The Chicago Bears made one of the most widely panned free-agency decisions in recent history when they signed Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract this offseason.
They began the offseason by franchising Allen Robinson II to try to lure Russell Wilson, but they couldn't put together a package enticing enough to get the Seattle Seahawks to part with their disgruntled franchise signal-caller.
Instead of getting a game-changing quarterback, Chicago is now saddled with a mid-tier veteran who hardly represents an upgrade over either of last year's starters in Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles.
The Bears have to be hoping they can at least make it back to the postseason with Dalton managing the game and avoiding mistakes, but he's a low-upside, expensive signing who won't help build on an 8-8 season anchored by one of the league's better defenses.
There weren't any better options available on the open market, but the team will remain a wild-card contender at best until a long-term answer is found under center.
Detroit Lions: WR Tyrell Williams
The Detroit Lions weren't ever going to be a big-time market-mover after they blew things up and acquired future value as part of the trade that saw them move on from longtime quarterback Matthew Stafford.
While the team has done a good job facilitating the rebuild by shedding overpriced veterans and clearing the deck for a new regime, it did make at least one questionable signing. The Lions came to terms on a one-year, $4 million contract for wideout Tyrell Williams, who doesn't exactly fit the bill for what the franchise needs right now.
Detroit didn't make a run at retaining its most exciting receiver in Kenny Golladay, who cashed in with a big contract from the New York Giants, and it let a veteran fixture walk in Marvin Jones Jr., so it was a bit of a surprise to see the organization sign a 29-year-old to its depleted receiving corps.
Williams has been a reliable No. 2 option during stops with the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders but missed the entire 2020 campaign due to a shoulder injury. It remains to be seen how that will impact him going forward, especially if he winds up being the No. 1 wideout in Detroit.
As of now, the Lions have no one else to turn to for the job, and signing Williams, along with Breshad Perriman, likely indicates the club isn't going to go that direction in the draft. It is a tall task for a limited wide receiver, especially with a new head coach and quarterback coming in for the upcoming season.
While the wideout is only under contract for a single season and won't impact their long-term plans, the Lions aren't doing Jared Goff any favors if Williams ends up being the top receiving weapon in 2021.
Green Bay Packers: RB Aaron Jones
The Green Bay Packers were one of the quietest teams in free agency, making just a handful of low-key maneuvers ahead of a much more important draft.
You can't blame Green Bay for wanting to keep the nucleus of a team coming off back-to-back NFC Championship Game appearances together, but it did cost a good bit of money to hang onto Aaron Jones. The club retained its starting running back on a four-year, $48 million deal, rewarding him for exceptional play over the last two seasons.
Jones has become a regular playmaker for the Packers, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two campaigns and racking up 25 touchdowns on the ground. He's also a dangerous weapon out of the backfield, piling up 829 yards and five scores on 96 catches over the last two years.
It can be tough to secure a back as reliable as Jones, and the Green Bay brass clearly didn't want to risk striking out when trying to find a replacement.
Still, that option was available to a club that currently holds 10 selections in the 2021 draft. If the Packers had let Jones walk, they could have freed up a significant amount of money to shore up positions at which it's more difficult to draft impact players.
The Packers also had a potential budget in-house option to replace Jones, having drafted AJ Dillon in the second round last season. Dillon only saw action sparingly last year, but had a breakout game in Week 16 when he scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 124 yards on 21 carries. Opting against giving Dillon a feature role in 2021 seems like a questionable decision for a club that invested heavily into acquiring the young back.
If Jones can stay healthy and continue to produce, there will be zero regrets. But history has shown running backs tend to break down quickly after signing their second contract. The Packers are betting against that, but only time will tell if this move was worthwhile.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Patrick Peterson
The Minnesota Vikings were active this offseason, but they may have made a big misstep when tinkering with their secondary.
The team decided to let a solid safety in Anthony Harris leave on the open market and elected to shore up its defensive back stable by signing cornerback Patrick Peterson. At first glance, those moves aren't too bad, but the contract numbers simply don't add up.
After watching Harris sign a team-friendly $4 million deal for the 2021 season with the cash-strapped Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings shelled out $8 million to acquire Peterson on a one-year contract.
Minnesota ultimately ended up paying double what it likely would have taken to retain a steady contributor in Harris while bringing in a defensive back who is a year older and coming off a pair of disappointing seasons. Peterson has clearly lost a step from his early Hall of Fame-caliber days with the Arizona Cardinals and has struggled to keep up in man coverage in recent years.
While the Vikings should still be able to carve out a role for the intelligent cornerback, he isn't going to make anywhere near the type of impact he was capable of just a few short years ago.
Atlanta Falcons: RB Mike Davis
The Atlanta Falcons are at a crossroads, but this club seems afraid to make a decision on where to head next. It has yet to go for a full-blown rebuild by trading veterans like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones but hasn't brought in enough supporting talent to have a realistic chance at making a playoff run, either.
Atlanta didn't have the cap space needed to make a flashy signing this offseason and opted against making any blockbuster trades, instead deciding that overpaying a 28-year-old running back would be the best option.
The Falcons inked Mike Davis to a two-year, $5.5 million contract, paying a relatively large amount for a player who served as the backup running back for the rival Carolina Panthers last year.
While Davis was one of the better backup options in the league in 2020, even proving himself a competent starter during Christian McCaffrey's absence, he's now earning some serious cash for a player who was claimed off waivers in November 2019. He amassed 642 yards and six touchdowns on 165 carries last year, all career highs for the sixth-year man out of South Carolina.
This seems more like the type of signing a contending team with a bit of spare cap space might make to shore up the running back platoon, and that's not exactly a fitting description for a Falcons franchise coming off a four-win campaign. While Davis will be a helpful addition to the backfield, he barely moves the needle and costs this squad some valuable cap space in the process.
Carolina Panthers: OT Cam Erving
The Carolina Panthers are floundering through the offseason as they try to figure out how to get the franchise quarterback they so desperately need.
Despite not having a cornerstone signal-caller, the Panthers have been reworking the offensive line in preparation for when one finally arrives. They signed guard Pat Elflein to a three-year deal to bring some stability to the interior of the line and even splurged to acquire a swing tackle in Cam Erving.
The Erving signing doesn't make a great deal of sense, however, as Carolina ponied up $10 million over the next two years to acquire the former New York Jet. That's quite a large contract for a player PFF graded as the absolute worst of the 151 offensive linemen who have played at least 1,500 snaps since the start of the 2018 season.
Erving, a first-round pick in 2015, has bounced around the league while enticing teams with his incredible athletic abilities. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old has never found a way to put it all together as both his pass-protection and run-blocking ability leave much to be desired.
With six seasons under his belt, it's unlikely Erving finally finds a way to live up to his potential. The Panthers will almost certainly regret signing him, especially if they aren't able to unearth a franchise signal-caller via trade or the upcoming draft.
New Orleans Saints: FB Alex Armah
The New Orleans Saints came into the offseason with more salary-cap issues to sort out than any other team. They had to make myriad moves to get under the cap before the new league year, releasing numerous veterans and overhauling the roster significantly in an effort to shed salary.
The Saints were able to get it done and still found enough money to make a few minor signings, but one of them is hard to make sense of given the wide variety of needs they now have up and down the roster.
New Orleans came to terms with fullback Alex Armah on a one-year, $1.1 million contract, snagging a contributor from the Carolina Panthers in the process. While it's generally not a bad thing when a team can improve while taking away from a divisional rival, this does seem to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
Armah had been a solid lead-blocker during his tenure in Carolina, helping Christian McCaffrey lead the league in yards from scrimmage and rank second in touchdowns back in 2019, and he projects to serve in the same role for Alvin Kamara in New Orleans. But the cap-starved Saints have quite a few holes to fill at more important positions.
After losing contributors like Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins and Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans should be kicking the tires on veterans or gambling on younger players who didn't pan out with their former teams. Investing in a fullback after turning over a large portion of the roster isn't the right move for a team that could still get back to the playoffs with a strong draft and shrewd free-agent acquisitions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Leonard Fournette
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not want to mess with a formula they knew worked, opting for a free-agency strategy that focused on retaining players from their Super Bowl-winning roster.
The team accomplished its goals by franchising Chris Godwin and re-signing Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski and Ryan Succop. They also agreed to a one-year, $3.25 million deal with running back Leonard Fournette, who wasn't a big factor in the team's up-and-down regular season but came into his own during the playoffs.
Keeping Fournette around is far from a mistake by the Bucs, but it could be tricky for head coach Bruce Arians to integrate him into the offense while still keeping him fresh for the title defense come playoff time.
Fournette was also far from perfect during his first season in Tampa, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. He dropped seven balls thrown his way, including some that could have been quite costly in the postseason.
There isn't much else to harp on here given how well the Bucs performed on their way to a title, but Fournette is a luxury signing for a club that could have opted to add depth at other positions.
Arizona Cardinals: WR A.J. Green
The Arizona Cardinals seem to believe they have what it takes to be a contender in 2021 and have been splurging on veteran pieces to round out their roster.
They'll be relying on wideout A.J. Green, who signed in free agency after spending his first nine years with the Cincinnati Bengals. He inked a one-year, $6 million deal that shows the Cardinals still believe he has something left in the tank.
While kicking the tires on Green makes sense for any contending team seeking to add a veteran to its receiving corps, the price tag Arizona paid is awfully high for a player who hasn't produced at a high level in nearly a half-decade.
It has been four years since Green's last good campaign. The wideout has recently struggled with injuries, participating in just nine games during the 2018 season and missing all of 2019 with an ankle issue. He returned to play a complete season in 2020 but only contributed 523 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 47 receptions.
Those are far from the Pro Bowl-tier numbers to which fans in Cincinnati were accustomed—Green amassed 8,213 yards and 57 scores during his first seven seasons—and it's a stretch to think he will be able to regain that form with the Cardinals.
Los Angeles Rams: OLB Leonard Floyd
The Rams decided to go all-in on winning a Super Bowl by swinging a blockbuster deal to upgrade from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford at quarterback. They already boasted the best defense in football last year and didn't make any major changes to it this offseason, but they did use the little cap space they freed up to ensure some stability with a big signing.
The team retained outside linebacker Leonard Floyd by giving him a four-year, $64 million extension, keeping a player who piled up some impressive statistics during his debut campaign with the Rams.
Floyd played out the 2020 season on a one-year deal after spending four campaigns with the Chicago Bears, reaching or tying career highs in tackles (55), fumble recoveries (two), forced fumbles (one) and sacks (10.5). While those numbers look great on paper, this is a hefty price for a player who benefited heavily from the overabundance of talent on the Rams defense.
Look no further than Dante Fowler Jr. for an example of how the Rams defense can skew a player's stats. Fowler racked up 11.5 sacks during his only full season with Los Angeles back in 2019, and then he signed with the Atlanta Falcons and recorded just three quarterback takedowns last year.
If Floyd can keep producing at the same level for the next four years and the team remains a contender, the Rams almost certainly won't regret their decision to extend the 28-year-old. However, if he falls off or L.A. flames out, having this much cap space tied up in a player who ultimately may have been replaceable at a cheaper cost could come back to haunt the franchise.
San Francisco 49ers: DE Samson Ebukam
The San Francisco 49ers should be happy with how the offseason has gone for them, especially after they earned a signature from transcendent left tackle Trent Williams to keep him with the club for the next six years.
However, they may have made a mistake in signing defensive end Samson Ebukam. The former Ram pass-rusher agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with the franchise, but he will have to overcome some hurdles to be worth that investment.
The first is that the 25-year-old will have to continue developing and show an improvement upon what he was able to produce for L.A. Ebukam has yet to miss a game during his four-year career but has racked up just 14 total sacks.
The bigger issue is that Ebukam now has to transition to a new position as part of San Francisco's 4-3 base defense after playing in the Rams' 3-4 scheme his entire career. It's an adjustment he should be able to make smoothly, but players have struggled with the transition in the past.
Given how much Ebukam is set to make, the Niners could have tried to land a more consistent, proven veteran to help get them back to the playoffs next season.
Seattle Seahawks: RB Chris Carson
The Seattle Seahawks needed to address their running back situation and elected to go with an in-house option by retaining Chris Carson. He decided to remain with Seattle by signing a two-year, $10.4 million deal, and the move solidifies the backfield platoon he has spearheaded for the last three seasons.
While Carson has more than exceeded expectations as a seventh-round draft pick in 2017, he hasn't been the picture of health, either. He has missed 19 games during that span, most recently sitting out four contests during the 2020 campaign as he dealt with a foot injury.
Durability is an issue with many lead backs, and the Seahawks did a nice job limiting their financial exposure. But there is still a chance he breaks down before completing the terms. The team hasn't been able to find a consistent change-of-pace back to rotate in after 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny went down with a torn ACL in 2019.
The Seahawks need to put less of a burden on Carson to prolong his career, and getting Penny back in the fold—or moving on from him and acquiring a more reliable scatback—should be a top priority. There's a strong chance Carson ends up missing a decent percentage of games before his new deal expires in 2023, which makes this is a risky free-agency decision.