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    Ranking the Top 10 Worst Free Agent Signings in NFL History

    Who are the worst free agent signings in NFL history? Pro Football Network is counting down the top 10. Where do Le'Veon Bell and Nick Foles rank?

    The NFL opened the financial floodgates in 1993 when it instituted unrestricted free agency, allowing players to enter the open market and sell their services to the highest bidder.

    While free agency allows teams to bolster their rosters with veteran contributors, it also lets clubs make plenty of mistakes. At times, general managers might wish they could undo some of the more costly contracts they’ve handed out in the heat of the free agent moment.

    What are the worst free agent signings in NFL history? Pro Football Network is counting down the top 10.

    Top 10 Worst Free Agent Signings in NFL History

    10) Neil O’Donnell, QB, New York Jets | 1996

    Contract: Five years, $25 million

    While Neil O’Donnell was roughly a league-average starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1990s, everything fell apart after the veteran quarterback signed with the New York Jets in 1996.

    O’Donnell guided the Steelers to a 39-22 record as a starter and made the Pro Bowl in 1992. Pittsburgh wanted to retain him four years later, but the former third-round pick decided to join Bill Parcells and the Jets while moving closer to his native Madison, New Jersey.

    In his Gang Green debut campaign, O’Donnell went 0-6 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. In 1997, O’Donnell started 14 games but was briefly benched in favor of backup Glenn Foley. O’Donnell refused to accept a pay cut heading into the following season and was cut after two disastrous years in New York.

    9) J.C. Jackson, CB, Los Angeles Chargers | 2022

    Contract: Five years, $82.5 million

    When Bill Belichick decided not to re-sign a defensive back, the rest of the NFL should’ve listened.

    J.C. Jackson became a star for the New England Patriots after going undrafted in 2018, becoming a full-time starter by 2020 and a second-team All-Pro by 2021. His 17 interceptions and 37 pass deflections ranked first in the NFL over those two seasons.

    The Los Angeles Chargers made Jackson one of the league’s highest-paid corners in 2022, hoping he’d be the missing piece for their defense. Jackson’s tenure started off on the wrong foot, though, as August ankle surgery caused him to miss the preseason and the regular-season opener.

    Jackson was a mess once he returned. He allowed 19 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns on just 27 targets. He also gave up a 152.4 passer rating, the worst mark among corners with at least 100 snaps in coverage.

    Jackson was briefly benched for fellow CB Michael Davis before suffering a patellar tendon rupture that ended his season in Week 7. He returned for two games in 2023 before being traded back to the Patriots in October.

    8) DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles | 2015

    Contract: Five years, $42 million

    DeMarco Murray’s 2014 season with the Dallas Cowboys remains one of the best running back campaigns in recent memory. He won Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 1,845 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. His 2,261 yards from scrimmage were the NFL’s 14th-most since the merger.

    In the 2015 offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles’ reported agreement with free agent RB Frank Gore fell through. Instead, Chip Kelly’s squad decided to sign two running backs: Ryan Matthews and Murray, the latter of whom got $42 million over five years.

    Neither player was all that effective in Philadelphia, but Murray drew far more ire thanks to his contract. One season after dominating on the ground, Murray topped 90 rushing yards just once for the Eagles and finished the season with 702 yards and six touchdowns.

    Murray got the last laugh, rebounding with a 1,287-yard season with the Tennessee Titans in 2016 after being cut by Philadephia. He played one more year in Nashville before hanging up his cleats.

    7) Kenny Golladay, WR, New York Giants | 2021

    Contract: Four years, $72 million

    While Kenny Golladay had been a 1,000-yard receiver for the Detroit Lions in 2018 and 2019, his 2020 season was a nightmare. The 6’4″ wideout missed the first two games of the year with a hamstring issue, then went down with a season-ending hip injury upon his return.

    The New York Giants still decided to sign Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal in 2021 that included $28 million in fully guaranteed money.

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    Golladay missed three games with a hyperextended knee in his debut Giants season, but health wasn’t his primary issue — production was. He finished the year with just 37 catches for 521 scoreless yards, and things only got worse in 2022.

    Golladay fell further out of favor with New York’s coaching staff and missed more time with injuries in his second Big Blue season. He played more than 50% of the Giants’ offensive snaps just twice (Weeks 1 and 18) before being released in March 2023.

    6) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles | 2011

    Contract: Five years, $60 million

    It’s not as if the Eagles went out on a limb by signing CB Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million contract as part of their “Dream Team” offseason in 2011.

    Asomugha was generally considered the NFL’s best corner and the top free agent on the open market. He’d been a first- or second-team All-Pro in four of the previous five seasons for the Oakland Raiders.

    However, Asomugha struggled through 31 starts for Philadelphia before being released in 2013. The Eagles’ shift toward zone coverage was a popular theory on his rapid decline, but he was also 30 years old for his first season in Philly. Cornerbacks have been known to fall off cliffs without much warning, and that’s probably what happened to Asomugha.

    5) Javon Walker, WR, Oakland Raiders | 2008

    Contract: Six years, $55 million

    Although Javon Walker was a talented receiver, it’s also fair to say the Raiders ignored the blinking-red injury concerns around the former first-round pick when they gave him a six-year, $55 million deal in 2008.

    Walker tore his ACL with the Green Bay Packers in 2005, then underwent another knee surgery in 2007 as a member of the Denver Broncos. Even though he missed two-thirds of the previous season, Oakland still gave Walker a pact with $16 million in guaranteed money.

    He managed just 15 catches for 196 yards in 2008 before suffering an ankle injury and missing the rest of the year. Walker appeared in three games for the Raiders in 2009 but recorded no statistics.

    4) Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets | 2019

    Contract: Four years, $52.5 million

    Le’Veon Bell was one of the NFL’s most productive running backs during his time with the Steelers, serving as a multi-faceted weapon who could contribute on the ground or through the air.

    Bell earned first-team All-Pro honors after totaling nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring 11 touchdowns as Pittsbugh’s franchise player in 2017. After the Steelers tagged him again in 2018, Bell opted to sit out the season rather than play on another franchise tender.

    Free to sign with a new team in 2019, Bell landed a four-year deal with the Jets that included $27 million in guarantees. But he was never able to recapture his success with the Steelers.

    Bell rushed for just 3.2 yards per carry on 245 attempts in his debut New York campaign. His 40.4% rushing success rate ranked dead last among RBs with at least 175 touches. Bell didn’t improve in 2020, and New York eventually released him in mid-October.

    3) Brock Osweiler, QB, Houston Texans | 2016

    Contract: Four years, $72 million

    Here’s how awful the Houston Texans’ 2016 contract for Brock Osweiler turned out: they had to give up a draft pick just to get another team to take Osweiler’s money off their hands.

    Osweiler had been a part-time starter for the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos in 2015 but hadn’t shown enough to land a four-year deal worth $72 million. Houston quickly found that out after Osweiler threw 16 interceptions against 15 touchdowns in 2016 and finished 22nd in QBR.

    Osweiler was benched for Tom Savage at the end of the season but regained his starting job for the playoffs after Savage suffered a concussion in Week 17.

    The following offseason, the Texans traded Osweiler, a 2017 sixth-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2017 fourth-rounder. Giving up draft capital in order to get Osweiler’s $16 million salary off its books was a disaster for Houston.

    2) Nick Foles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars | 2019

    Contract: Four years, $88 million

    The Jacksonville Jaguars were seemingly the only team willing to pay up for quarterback Nick Foles during the 2019 offseason. While Foles had guided the Eagles to an unlikely Super Bowl LII win and helped them advance to the Divisional Round in 2018, he’d rarely been a full-time NFL starter.

    However, the Jaguars still decided to guarantee him over $50 million on a four-year, $88 million contract. Reports suggested that Jacksonville paid Foles more than the market bore in order to give him locker-room credibility — talk about a flawed process.

    Foles attempted just eight passes before breaking his left clavicle in Week 1 of his Jaguars debut season. He made three starts after returning in Week 11 but was benched in favor of Gardner Minshew. Jacksonville somehow convinced the Chicago Bears to trade a fourth-round pick for Foles after the 2019 campaign.

    1) Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington | 2009

    Contract: Seven years, $100 million

    Washington had high hopes for Albert Haynesworth after making him the NFL’s highest-paid player in 2009.

    The 15th overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, Haynesworth had been dominant in his previous two seasons with the Tennessee Titans before landing in the nation’s capital. From 2007 to 2008, Haynesworth totaled 14.5 sacks, earned two first-team All-Pro nods, and claimed second- and fourth-place finishes in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

    However, Haynesworth was a problem in Washington from the get-go. In 2009, he criticized defensive coordinator Greg Blache’s scheme. Later in the year, head coach Jim Zorn sent Haynesworth home from practice for disciplinary reasons.

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    Things didn’t change when new HC Mike Shanahan took over in 2010. Haynesworth boycotted Washington’s offseason program and twice failed a training camp conditioning test.

    In December, Washington suspended Haynesworth for the season’s final four games after he “consistently indicated” he would not play in specific personnel packages and refused coaches’ directions. He was traded to the Patriots in July 2011, having been paid nearly $35 million for 2.5 sacks and 15 games.

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