Beginning on March 14, NFL free agency will officially begin and new — and in some cases eye-watering — contracts will be signed. With quarterback Kirk Cousins expected to sign a record-setting deal, and several other valuable players set to hit the market, we can expect the teams with cap space to spend plenty of cash. That said, it’s important to note that not all free agent signings work out. Often, players that sign big deals fail to live up to the big expectations that follow — and as a result, are considered disappointments. With that in mind, here are the biggest free agent cautionary tales since the start of the decade.
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans, 2016
In the 2016 offseason, fresh off a Super Bowl win and boasting a few decent starting performances, Brock Osweiler was viewed as a potential franchise quarterback. Sure enough, the Houston Texans gambled on the quarterback’s upside by handing him a four-year, $72 million deal. Unfortunately, Osweiler flamed out after just one season in Houston before being traded to the Cleveland Browns along with a second round choice in the 2018 NFL Draft before this past season. Houston ultimately found a franchise QB in Deshaun Watson, but this deal shows how risky betting on potential can be in free agency.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles, 2011
In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles made a handful of splashy free agent signings, and chief among them was the acquisition of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. After eight seasons of stellar play with the Oakland Raiders, Asomugha was signed to a five-year, $60 million deal including $25 million guaranteed. After just two seasons of subpar play, the Eagles released Asomugha and to this day he is considered one of the more shocking free agent disappointments in history.
Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints, 2014
Prior to the 2017 season, the New Orleans Saints had long suffered from incredibly poor defensive back play. In 2014, after a season spent giving up big plays at an alarming rate, New Orleans decided to splurge on safety Jairus Byrd, a player who had made a name for himself as a ball-hawking free safety with the Buffalo Bills. In his first season in New Orleans however, Byrd ended up suffering a season-ending knee injury that set the tone for the rest of his underwhelming Saints career.
Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns, 2017
After a breakout 2016-17 campaign with the Los Angeles Rams in which he surpassed 1000 yards receiving, Kenny Britt cashed in last offseason, signing a four-year, $32.5 million pact with the Cleveland Browns. After just nine games however, Cleveland decided Britt was no longer worth the money and released him. Anytime a free agent signing doesn’t work out it certainly stings for the team, but for a signing to be released after just nine games says a lot about the Browns inability to field a competitive team in recent years.
Larry Johnson, Washington Redskins, 2010
At one point in his NFL career, Larry Johnson was one of the NFL’s best running backs, picking up back-to-back 1700 yard rushing seasons in 2005 and 2006, but by the time the Washington Redskins signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract, it was clear Johnson was well past his prime. Indeed, Johnson managed only five carries for two yards in his brief Washington career, effectively making him a huge free agent bust.
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2013
An integral part of the 2012 San Francisco 49ers team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl, Dashon Goldson parlayed his success with San Francisco into a huge contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. Unfortunately, it seemed the league evolved too quickly for Goldson to keep up, making his one-dimensional, big-hitting style of play rather ineffective. After two seasons of mediocre play for Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers actually had to include $4 million in cash just to trade Goldson’s bloated contract to Washington.
Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns, 2010
For those of you that don’t know, the Cleveland Browns have long had a quarterback problem. The team has tried more players at the position than any other team since 1999 and all have failed in some way. Back in 2010, in their attempt to fix the position, the Browns signed Jake Delhomme to a two-year deal worth $9 million despite his problems with turnovers (eight touchdowns to 18 interceptions in 2009). Like every Browns signal-caller before him and every Browns signal-caller after him, Delhomme was unable to offer NFL-caliber play and was released after one season in which he tossed just two touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2015
In the past two off-seasons the Jacksonville Jaguars have done a tremendous job making smart free agency decisions, but in 2015, the team made a particularly disappointing signing in the acquisition of tight end Julius Thomas. A touchdown machine in Denver, the Jaguars bet $46 million over five years that Thomas would continue to shine. Unfortunately, he flopped spectacularly and eventually was traded for a seventh-round draft choice. Despite their recent success in the free agent marker, this signing goes to show that even the best-run teams make expensive mistakes.
DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles, 2015
Speaking of great teams making questionable decisions in the past, the Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles signed their own regrettable free agent deal in 2015 when inking running back DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $40 million contract. Seen as a massive risk at the time due to Murray’s large workload the previous season in Dallas, the deal predictably flopped, with Murray lasting just one season and rushing for only 700 yards. Considering he rushed for 1800 yards and won the league’s offensive player of the year award the season before his massive signing, it’s safe to say the Eagles expected a bit more out of their free agent disappointment.