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Published: March 9, 2016 at 12:00 p.m.
Updated: March 9, 2016 at 01:24 p.m.

Worst free-agent signings in NFL history

The free agent marketplace has historically been littered with big hits and big misses. This is a look at the worst signings since free agency became a thing in the NFL in 1993.

» WATCH: 5 worst free-agent signings of all time

16 Photos Total

  • Scott Mitchell, Detroit Lions (1994) 16

    Tom Pidgeon/Associated Press

    Scott Mitchell, Detroit Lions (1994)

    After four years of backing up Dan Marino in Miami, Mitchell was signed by the Lions and plugged into an explosive offense that already featured running back Barry Sanders, and receivers Herman Moore and Brett Perriman. Mitchell's best season came in 1995, when the Lions finished 10-6 and featured the NFL's second-best offense. However, one of the franchise's most promising seasons came to a devastating end, as Mitchell threw four interceptions in a 58-37 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Two years later in another playoff embarrassment, Mitchell completed just 10 of 25 passes with an interception in a 20-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

  • Chuck Smith, Carolina Panthers (2000) 15

    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Chuck Smith, Carolina Panthers (2000)

    Smith earned a reputation as one of the NFL's top defensive ends while with the Atlanta Falcons -- for whom he helped lead to Super Bowl XXXIII following the 1998 season. Smith left the Falcons as the franchise's all-time sacks leader (and remains to this day with 58.5 sacks) to sign a a five-year, $21 million contract with the division-rival Panthers. An injury-plagued 2000 season saw Smith play in just two games and then retire following the season.

  • Ahman Green, Houston Texans (2007) 14

    Dave Einsel/Associated Press

    Ahman Green, Houston Texans (2007)

    Between 2000 and 2004, Green had more rushing yards (6,848) than any other player in the NFL. He left Green Bay following the 2006 season after getting a four-year, $23 million contract from the Texans. Unfortunately for Houston, Green couldn't replicate the immense production he enjoyed in Green Bay, rushing for just 554 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons with the Texans. In 2009, Green returned to the Packers to become the proud franchise's all-time leading rusher.

  • Dana Stubblefield, Washington Redskins (1998) 13

    Ron Edmonds/Associated Press

    Dana Stubblefield, Washington Redskins (1998)

    Stubblefield anchored a San Francisco 49ers defense that helped the team capture its fifth Lombardi Trophy following the 1994 season. In 1997, Stubblefield earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Redskins -- embarking on an epic run of free-agency failures -- gave Stubblefield a six-year, $36-million contract. Stubblefield, who had 15 sacks in his great 1997 season, recorded just seven sacks in three seasons with the Redskins.

  • Jeff Garcia, Cleveland Browns (2004) 12

    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Jeff Garcia, Cleveland Browns (2004)

    Garcia led the San Francisco 49ers to consecutive playoff appearances in 2001-02 and was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls. The Browns gave Garcia a four-year, $25 million contract. Garcia's time in Cleveland turned out to be a blemish on his otherwise solid NFL career. Garcia played in just 10 games, going 3-7 in those games and was shown the door after one year with the team.

  • Dale Carter, Denver Broncos (1999) 11

    G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press

    Dale Carter, Denver Broncos (1999)

    Carter -- one of the pre-eminent shutdown corners in the NFL in the 1990s -- got a four-year, $22.8 contract to bounce from the Chiefs to the division-rival Broncos. Carter's numerous off-the-field issues came to a head in Denver, where he was suspended for the entire 2000 season for repeated substance abuse violations. In 2001, he was finally released.

  • David Boston, San Diego Chargers (2003) 10

    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    David Boston, San Diego Chargers (2003)

    The Chargers gave Boston a seven-year, $47.4 million contract in 2003, and in return Boston provided one year of forgettable service. The Chargers won just four games with Boston on the roster, and the receiver turned into a locker-room liability. He was suspended for one game for conduct detrimental to the team, and then dealt in 2004 to the Miami Dolphins. After that, his once-promising career faded into the wilderness.

  • Neil O'Donnell, New York Jets (1996) 9

    Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    Neil O'Donnell, New York Jets (1996)

    O'Donnell took the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl, then cashed in with the biggest free-agent contract in Jets history at the time, a five-year, $25 million pact. O'Donnell didn't quite measure up to Joe Namath, and started just six games in a 1-15 season.

  • Andre Rison, Cleveland Browns (1995) 8

    National Football League

    Andre Rison, Cleveland Browns (1995)

    Rison was one of the game's best receivers while with the Falcons, but flamed out in a disaster of a season in Cleveland (the result of which saw the team move to Baltimore and the franchise go on a three-year hiatus). Adding injury to insult for Browns fans was that a year later, Rison won a ring with the Green Bay Packers.

  • Larry Brown, Oakland Raiders (1996) 7

    Al Golub/Associated Press

    Larry Brown, Oakland Raiders (1996)

    Fresh off make two critical interceptions in the Dallas Cowboys' victory in Super Bowl XXX, Brown -- the SBXXX MVP -- parlayed that performance into a lucrative contract from the Raiders. The Raiders got little in return for their investment. Brown started just one game (playing in 12) in two seasons with the Silver and Black.

  • Desmond Howard, Oakland Raiders (1997) 6

    Al Golub/Associated Press

    Desmond Howard, Oakland Raiders (1997)

    The Raiders failed to learn their lesson with Brown (fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, something something ...). Howard, fresh off earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XXXI, became the second consecutive Super Bowl MVP to get a fat contract from the desperate Raiders. Howard -- while a productive return man -- couldn't recapture the magic of his spectacular 1996 season with the Green Bay Packers.

  • Alvin Harper, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995) 5

    David Stluka/Associated Press

    Alvin Harper, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995)

    Harper was a key component to one of the NFL's greatest dynasties, but then fell far short of his production with the Dallas Cowboys after signing with Tampa Bay. Harper's career ended unceremoniously with the XFL's Memphis Maniax.

  • Adam Archuleta, Washington Redskins (2006) 4

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Adam Archuleta, Washington Redskins (2006)

    At the time, the Redskins made Archuleta the highest-paid safety in NFL history with a six-year, $30 million contract. The payoff was seven starts in just one season in Washington. After spending the 2007 season with the Chicago Bears, Archuleta's NFL career was done.

  • Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins (2009) 3

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins (2009)

    Over the past decade and a half, no team had been more proactive in free agency than the Redskins. The result was an expensive lesson that money doesn't buy championships. Haynesworth is the gold standard of horrific free-agent signings, and this pathetic play against the Philadelphia Eagles on national television is his lasting legeacy.

  • DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles (2015) 2

    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles (2015)

    Coming off a league-leading 1,845 yards rushing for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, the Eagles signed the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year to a five-year, $40 million deal. Murray was to share carries in the Eagles' backfield with another free-agent signing, Ryan Mathews. This arrangement did not work out. Murray's production dropped to just 702 rushing yards in 2015 -- a decrease of more than 1,100 yards year-over-year. After one disappointing season in Philadelphia, the Eagles traded Murray to the Tennessee Titans.

  • Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles (2011) 1

    Brian Garfinkel/Associated Press

    Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles (2011)

    Asomugha was coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Oakland Raiders when he signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles, whose offseason roster overhaul inspired backup quarterback Vince Young to call the Eagles a "Dream Team." Asomugha was the top free-agent player available in 2011, but the move didn't pay off in Philadelphia. The Eagles were 12-20 in the two seasons with Asomugha on the team, and he was released following the 2012 season. Asomugha played one more season in the NFL in 2013 with the San Francisco 49ers, but the career of one of the top cornerbacks in the league crashed and burned in a hurry after leaving Oakland.

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