Skip to content

So we’ve looked at some of the best free agent signings that have been made since free agency (as we know it anyway) started in 1993, however, it doesn’t always end in smiles, wins and Super Bowl rings; so here are some free agency horror stories that will make you want your teams to find talent throughout the draft instead.

After backing up Dan Marino in Miami, Scott Mitchell failed miserably in Detroit. Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk 

1994: Scott Mitchell to the Detroit Lions

After struggling his first year in Detroit, at the end of the 1995 regular season quarterback Scott Mitchell had led the team to a 10-6 record and the NFL’s second best offense. You would think this free agent pick up from the Miami Dolphins was worth every dollar ($21 million dollars to be more specific).

But as I’m sure you have already figured out, he wouldn’t be on my “worst free agent signings of all time” list if that were the case. Surrounded by skill players like the legendary Barry Sanders at running back, and Herman Moore and Brett Perriman at wide receiver, Mitchell threw four interceptions in a 58-37 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then in 1997 Mitchell was able to get the Lions back into the playoffs; times to exercise some daemons right? Wrong.

Completing just 10 of 25 pass attempts for 78 yards and one interception (at least it wasn’t four…) the Lions fell 20-10 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1998 rookie Charlie Batch took over the starting job and after bouncing around a couple of teams, Scott Mitchell was out of the league three years later.

After winning the Super Bowl MVP award the year before, Brown only started one game in two seasons with the silver and black. Photo Credit: raiderswire.usatoday.com 

1996: Larry Brown to the Oakland Raiders

What could go wrong for the Raiders. They were signing cornerback Larry Brown, fresh off of a two interception performance in Super Bowl XXX which helped them beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and who was the game’s MVP award winner?

Turns out, a lot can go wrong.

The Raiders got almost no return out of the five year $12.5 million contract ($3.5 million guaranteed) they gave Brown, who only ever started ONE game in two seasons with the Silver and Black, getting benched and suspended four games for conduct detrimental to the team before being waived in 1998. After a brief stint with the Minnesota Vikings, he would eventually end up back with the Dallas Cowboys before retiring that same year.

Even though his production was good, Boston had enough off the field issues for him to only last one season with the Chargers. Photo Credit: thesportsdrop.com

2003: David Boston to San Diego Chargers

Originally drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1999 with the 8th overall pick, Boston had his best year in 2001 with 98 catches for 1,598 yards and 8 touchdowns. He cashed in on his previous years production in 2003, when the San Diego Chargers signed him to a seven year, $47 million contract ($12 million guaranteed).

However, Boston would only be around for one year with the Chargers, because while he put up decent numbers there (catching 70 passes for 880 yards and 7 touchdowns) he was suspended one game by the team for conduct detrimental to the team; where he cursed out the Chargers’ strength coach and was generally perceived as a locker room liability.

After the 2003 season Chargers’ General Manager A.J. Smith traded the wide receiver to the Miami Dolphins for a sixth round draft pick, where he tested positive for steroids, served a four game suspension and was cut again; where his once promising career soon faded into obscurity.

O’Donnell only lasted two seasons with the Jets, before being waived prior to the 1998 season. Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

1996: Neil O’Donnell to the New York Jets

We mentioned earlier that Larry Brown earned himself Super Bowl XXX MVP honours after picking off the Pittsburgh Steelers twice in a 27-17 win. The quarterback Brown picked off in that game? Neil O’Donnell, who although may have lost the Super Bowl, managed to parlay his work with the Steelers into a five year, $25 million contract with the New York Jets.

Perhaps the Jets should have gone back and watched the Super Bowl though, as O’Donnell went 0-6 as the starter before suffering a season ending shoulder injury. His play did pick up however once new head coach Bill Parcells took over in 1997, but this was short lived.

O’Donnell did not want to restructure his contract for the upcoming 1998 season so Parcells waived him. He ended his Jet’s career with 21 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 8-12 overall record.

Haynesworth only managed 6.5 sacks in two seasons with Washington after signing a seven year $100 million deal. Photo Credit: justsportsjustus.wordpress.com  

2009: Albert Haynesworth to the Washington Redskins

Arguably the poster child for bad free agent acquisitions; you think of poor decisions, you think of Washington’s seven year, $100 million contract they gave to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

That deal included $32 million within the first year and $41 million guaranteed. Then, in a classic case of a player getting paid and immediately throwing in the towel; Haynesworth refused to participate in off-season workouts and when he did eventually turn up (out of shape), he could not pass the basic fitness test all players go through.

If the alarm bells weren’t going off inside the mind of then head coach Jim Zorn and his staff, they really should have been.

He also called out Washington’s defensive coordinator at the time, for running a 3-4 scheme after having played in a 4-3 scheme at Tennessee (something you think both Haynesworth or indeed the Washington front office should have probably checked before getting the contract signed?) and is quoted as saying that he “could not survive another season in this system if it stays the way it is”.

Haynesworth ended up playing only twenty games in his brief two year stint in Washington, totalling 6.5 sacks and is widely considered the worst free agent signing in the last two decades. Money well spent…


Do you know of any free agent debacles that your own team made that you wished you could forget? Let me know in the comments!

Leave your vote

1 point

Total votes: 1

Upvotes: 1

Upvotes percentage: 100.000000%

Downvotes: 0

Downvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Hey there!

Forgot password?

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot your password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Close
of

Processing files…