Thursday, March 14, 2013

Top Ten Thursday: Top Ten NFL Free Agency "Busts"

The NFL Offseason is here and free agency has had some surprises already.  But I cannot escape the memories of past free agency “busts”.  So, its Thursday and its time for my Top Ten for the week.  Lets review my list of Top Ten NFL Free Agency “Fails” from past off-seasons.

10. Jeff Garcia (Left the San Francisco 49ers, Signs with Cleveland Browns in 2004)

After being selected to the Pro Bowl three times in four years, Garcia was a hot commodity when he hit the free agent market in 2004.  The Cleveland Browns coveted a talented starting Quarterback after years of debacles at that position.  But signing Garcia to a 4 year, 25 million dollar contract didn’t fix anything.  Garcia was 3-7 as a starter and played mediocre.  Garcia showed though that the problem was the Browns, not him, because he resurrected his career in 2006 when he played stellar football for the Philadelphia Eagles then became a Pro Bowler again in 2007 in Tampa under the guidance of QB guru Jon Gruden. 

9. Ahman Green (Left Green Bay Packers, Signed with Houston Texans in 2007)

Green was a consistent performer in Green Bay rushing for 1,000 yards six times in seven years.  In 2007 the Houston Texans were still in the “football wilderness” trying to find the key to being a winning team in the NFL.  They thought one of keys to winning would be a good running back.  But when Houston gave Green a four year, 23 million dollar deal they did not know that Green would never again rush for more than 300 yards in a single season.  Maybe with a last name like “Green” he was only meant to ever be successful in “Green Bay”.  Of course, getting older and playing a position in the NFL that gets a lot of punishment might be a better explanation for Green’s career downturn.

8. Desmond Howard  (Left Green Bay Packers, Signed with Oakland Raiders in 1997)

After leading the NFL in Punt Return Yards and Touchdowns, Desmond Howard had a breakout game in the Super Bowl.  His 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown set the tone for the Packers as they would win Super Bowl XXXI.  That offseason Oakland Raiders pursued Howard hard and signed him to a four year, six million dollar deal.  While this is the smallest deal of the “fails” on this list, what made Howard’s tenure in Oakland a “bust” was the fact that the Raiders tried to convert Howard in to a playmaker at Wide receiver.  And the Raiders failed.  Interesting that Howard would return to the NFC after two seasons in Oakland and THEN he got selected to the Pro Bowl as a member of the Detroit Lions in 2000.

7. Nnamdi Asomuga (Left Oakland Raiders, Signed with Eagles in 2011)

There was a time in the NFL when Asomugha was in the discussion as one of the top defensive backs in the NFL.  After an season with eight interceptions then three straight Pro Bowl selections, Nnamdi was considered one of the top free agents available in 2011.  Asomugha got paid by the Philadelphia Eagles but that investment didn’t pay off on the football field.  Despite snagging four interceptions in two seasons Asomugha played average at best and never lived up to the hype of him as an elite cornerback.  He got beat on numerous plays and after two seasons the Eagles released him back into the world of free agency.

6. Elvis Grbac (Left Kansas City, Signed with Baltimore Ravens in 2001)

Elvis Grbac was coming off the best season of his career and a Pro Bowl selection.  People in the media thought Grbac was entering the prime of his career.  The Baltimore Ravens were looking to upgrade at Quarterback after Head Coach Brian Billick expressed his frustration with the previous starting Quarterback Trent Dilfer even though the team just won the Super Bowl.  When Grbac arrived in Baltimore he made the bold statement “This is a great team…I am going to make it better.”  Instead, Grbac played mediocre throwing 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions and was outplayed by older, backup QB Randall Cunningham when Grbac got injured mid-season.  After losing in the playoffs, the Ravens asked Grbac to restructure his contract to help the Ravens with cap room, Grbac was indignant and the Ravens released him.  Shortly thereafter, Grbac retired unceremoniously. 

5. Larry Brown (Left Dallas Cowboys, signed with Oakland Raiders in 1996)

Another Super Bowl MVP who got a payday from the Oakland Raiders.  In Super Bowl XXX Larry Brown had the great fortune of being the “other cornerback” opposite of Deion Sanders and because the Steelers didn’t gameplan to avoid Larry Brown, he ended up with 2 interceptions and a Super Bowl MVP.  So when Larry Brown was given a five year, 12.5 million dollar contract, Brown should have given Deion Sanders a cut of that money.  Brown had more interceptions in that Super Bowl than the rest of his career, 2 in the Super Bowl, 1 in next three seasons.   

4. Alvin Harper (Left Dallas Cowboys, Signed with Buccaneers in 1995)

Another Dallas Cowboy who couldn’t perform up to the expectations of a big free agency contract.  After four seasons in Dallas Harper signed a four year, 10.6 million dollar contract and was expected to be the Buccaneers top receiver.  In two seasons in Tampa he caught three touchdowns total and was out of the league within four years.  Harper found out how hard it is to rack up big statistics and win games when you don’t have Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith as teammates.

3. Dana Stubblefield (Left san Francisco 49ers, Signed with Washington Redskins in 1998)

From 1993 to 1997 as a San Francisco 49er Stubblefield was a Pro Bowl selection three times and recorded 15 sacks in 1997.  In 1998 he received a six year, 36 million dollar deal under the expectations he would continue to be a great player.  Instead Stubblefield had a total of seven sacks and 87 tackles.  Underwhelming numbers for a guy who was making an average salary of six million per year.  Ironically he returned to the 49ers after being released by the Redskins and in two seasons Stubblefield produced a total of seven sacks and 53 tackles.  Seems like he should have never left San Francisco.

2. Jeff George (Left Minnesota Vikings, Signed with Washington Redskins in 2000)

Another free agency bust for the Redskins happened a couple years later when they didn’t realize Jeff George was “fool’s gold”.  After a surprising 12 game run in Minnesota when George racked up 2,816 passing yards and 23 touchdowns in just 12 games, he got “rewarded” a four year, 18 million dollar contract and the starting QB job in Washington.  He proceeded to throw 7 touchdowns, 9 interceptions in 8 games over two seasons and had confrontations with members of the media and the Redskins coaching staff.  The former number one overall draft selection has not played in a NFL regular season game since 2001.

1. Albert Haynesworth (Left Tennessee Titans, Signed with Washington Redskins in 2009)

For the Redskins, Haynesworth was more than just another free agency “bust”, he was an epic failure after signing a seven year, 100 million dollar contract.  Within three years Haynesworth found himself on the outside looking in as NFL teams banished him for his lack of work ethic, bad character, and his poor performance.  After being selected to the Pro Bowl in two consecutive seasons and racking up a total of 14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, Haynesworth was obviously only in it for the money.  He made sure he worked the system and got around 42 million of that 100 million dollar deal he signed.  Apparently buying boats and criticizing other players was a better use of Haynesworth’s than playing up to expectations or his abilities.   

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