10 free-agent contracts NFL teams will regret
Free agency is an exciting time, inspiring new hope for teams and fans alike. But plenty of high-profile moves don’t end well.
These 10 signings from the 2020 class are likely to yield regret:
QB Ryan Tannehill ➡️ Tennessee Titans
Contract: 4 years, $118M
In one of the deepest quarterback classes in free-agency history, the Titans panicked right before the market opened and overpaid Tannehill. In their defense, no team wants to risk losing its quarterback after reaching the conference title game for the first time in 17 years. Still, $118 million – $62 million fully guaranteed with $91 million guaranteed for injury – is a lot to commit to a guy with a relatively small sample of excellence and a much larger one of mediocrity.
DE Robert Quinn ➡️ Chicago Bears
Contract: 5 years, $70M
This wouldn’t be as bad if the Bears weren’t already spending a boatload of cash on Khalil Mack. Between Quinn and Mack, Chicago will have over $35 million tied up in a pair of edge rushers this season. In 2021, their cap numbers will exceed $40 million combined. Quinn is coming off one of his best seasons, as he totaled 11.5 sacks with the Dallas Cowboys. But he’ll turn 30 years old in May and was on a downward trajectory before 2019. There had to be a more financially efficient way for the Bears to bolster their edge presence.
LB Joe Schobert ➡️ Jacksonville Jaguars
Contract: 5 years, $53.75M
The Jaguars have too many needs to justify paying an inside linebacker over $10 million annually. Schobert is fine against the run, but so are plenty of others available in free agency and the draft. He doesn’t have much value as a pass-rusher and has struggled in coverage for most of his career. Jacksonville has a history of spending on linebackers – Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, and Myles Jack have all been beneficiaries – and its track record suggests this is simply not the best allocation of resources.
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai ➡️ Detroit Lions
Contract: 5 years, $50M
A player with four starts over the past two years got $50 million from the Lions. Yes, Vaitai played well for the Philadelphia Eagles during their Super Bowl year when he filled in for an injured Jason Peters at left tackle, but his consistency has dwindled when pressed into duty since then. The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round last year because they didn’t view Vaitai, who they deployed as a swing tackle, as a viable long-term fixture. The Lions plan to install Vatai at right tackle full time with the hope their counterparts were wrong.
CB Trae Waynes ➡️ Cincinnati Bengals
Contract: 3 years, $42M
The Bengals can get away with overpaying some free agents since the quarterback they draft first overall will come with an affordable contract, but they shouldn’t get reckless. Cincinnati guaranteed $15 million to Waynes, a league-average cornerback who will have $10 million of dead cap money in 2021 and $5 million in 2022. The Bengals needed to upgrade their secondary but should’ve done so without giving Waynes the sixth-highest average annual salary among NFL corners.
DT Michael Brockers ➡️ Los Angeles Rams
Contract: 3 years, $31.5M
If the Rams weren’t willing to match or exceed the three-year, $30-million offer Brockers initially accepted from the Baltimore Ravens, why did they offer more after his agreement fell through? The move to re-sign Brockers for $31.5 million is even more perplexing since the Rams already agreed to a two-year, $17-million deal with A’Shawn Robinson, who’s younger and fills the same role. Los Angeles now has $19 million annually tied up in two defensive tackles not named Aaron Donald, and that’s too much for the perennially cap-strapped Rams.
OT Ereck Flowers ➡️ Miami Dolphins
Contract: 3 years, $30M
To his credit, Flowers revived his career with the Washington Redskins after moving from tackle to guard, but it’s not as if he became a star. The Dolphins badly needed to improve their offensive line and had plenty of cap space, but it’s hard to understand why they didn’t use their flexibility to target better or more established players than Flowers. If the rumblings about his work ethic with the New York Giants were accurate, the Dolphins could quickly regret making Flowers one of the highest-paid voices in their locker room.
WR Randall Cobb ➡️ Houston Texans
Contract: 3 years, $27M
The value of the contract is actually pretty fair; it’s just hard to fathom that Bill O’Brien spent a bunch of money on Cobb immediately after trading DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. If the Texans felt they were going to need a wide receiver after moving Hopkins, why did they settle for a second-round pick and David Johnson’s awful contract in return for Deshaun Watson’s best weapon? Oh, and if you thought O’Brien might be frustrated by all of Will Fuller’s hamstring strains and other soft tissue ailments, wait until he meets Cobb.
RB Melvin Gordon ➡️ Denver Broncos
Contract: 2 years, $16M
The contract isn’t horrible, but the Broncos already had a legitimate workhorse in Phillip Lindsay, who will want to get paid as a restricted free agent in 2021. Gordon gives Denver great depth in the backfield – Royce Freeman isn’t too shabby as a No. 3 option – but running back is one of the easier positions to develop depth at and the Broncos have other needs. It seems inevitable John Elway will come to regret spending $16 million on a part-time player at a position he hardly needed to address.
TE Jimmy Graham ➡️ Chicago Bears
Contract: 2 years, $16M, includes no-trade clause
Graham looked like a shell of his former self over the last two seasons with the Green Bay Packers, if not before then with the Seattle Seahawks. The Bears went into the offseason desperate for help at tight end – a valuable position in head coach Matt Nagy’s scheme – but Trey Burton is still probably their best option. It’s a bad look for general manager Ryan Pace that Graham, who turns 34 years old in November, also secured a no-trade clause.
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