You're an NFL franchise in need of help, so you turn to free agency, hoping that, when you land a big name and pay him the big bucks, he produces and makes a difference.
The history of free agency has proven that not all signings go as planned, but which move has been the worst of the last 10 years? One continues to come up with our experts.
The Washington Redskins have turned this into an art. They have melded gratuitous and inexact overspending in ways few others would have even considered, and they've done it with stunning regularity.
<table align="right" width="315px"> <tbody> <tr> <td> <content:static src="/widgets/custom/packages/latest_debates.html"></content:static></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> So, it becomes awfully hard to pick one (Jeff George, Deion Sanders, Albert Haynesworth?). So I'm instead going to include one massively unproductive, but quite pricey, free-agent class of 2005. Coming off a rare playoff appearance, then-coach Joe Gibbs decided to change the offense again and welcome in another big group of players that included receivers Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd, defensive end Andre Carter, safety Adam Archuleta, quarterback Todd Collins, and tight end Christian Fauria. The limos were lined up at Redskins Park for the wining and dining. Archuleta, relegated to the personal protector on the punt team within weeks, became the NFL's highest-paid safety. The enigmatic Lloyd and Randle El were paid like starting receivers, but neither performed like one. Fauria and Collins rarely played. Carter stuck around for several years with sporadic production.
A free-agent class that was supposed to lift the franchise to a Super Bowl instead became an albatross from a salary cap and roster standpoint, and came to symbolize the kind of ineffectiveness of the Redskins' approach to free agency.
Can there be another answer besides the Redskins' signing of Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million contract in 2009? That has to rank as one of the all-time worst investments in NFL history. Haynesworth has been a colossal bust on the field. His disconnect with coach Mike Shanahan, the rest of the Redskins' coaching staff, and his teammates for a variety of reasons (but most notably his hatred of the team's switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme in 2010) has made him nothing but a massive nuisance in the locker room. Once regarded as arguably the NFL's most dominant defender when he was with the Tennessee Titans, Haynesworth now draws far more attention for his habit of running afoul of the law than he does for playing football.
Albert Haynesworth is easily the worst free-agent signing over the past 10 years. He was signed to a monster contract worth $100 million -- with $41 million guaranteed -- to lead the Redskins back into contention, but he has provided little production or leadership since his arrival. He has repeatedly feuded with players and coaches over his role, and his lack of effort after landing a huge paycheck has made him the poster boy for free-agent failures.
This might seem pretty obvious, but it's Albert Haynesworth. My justification is that this was a double-sided bad move. This wasn't an awful signing in terms of Haynesworth dismantling a franchise and ruining things for years. He didn't play up to his potential, but he didn't wreck the team. It was already unstable when he arrived. This was bad because Washington, once again, way overpaid a player most teams knew could be a problem once he got paid. Heck, I didn't have to do a massive background check to know he wasn't a great teammate. I simply talked to his teammates in Tennessee. I would have thought Washington would have at least done that amount of due diligence. The Redskins played themselves, especially since they've already paid him $41 million.
The signing is also a disaster from Haynesworth's side. Sure, he got paid. But he made things a lot tougher for his peers, especially on the defensive line, to ever get the type of free-agent deal he received. Players have told me as much, which is why he isn't the most popular guy among his peers.
There are inevitably a number of players who get paid tons of money to leave one team and join another, with the teams signing them hopeful of gaining the same production that earned these players big contracts. In my mind, the worst move of the last 10 years has to be the Redskins deciding to pay Albert Haynesworth, whose behavior and lack of effort set back free agency and ultimately scared many teams about dropping that kind of money ($100 million, with $41 million guaranteed) on a player. I wonder how many free agents looking for a big pay day won't see big money because of Haynesworth. He clearly looks like a guy who wanted a big deal with little intention to live up to the contract and, even worse, respect his new teammates.
I'd like to get creative here, but is it possible to not go Haynesworth? He's been in Washington two years, has collected $41 million, quit on two different coaches, and his signature moment in burgundy and gold came lying flat on his belly seemingly without a pulse as Michael Vick danced around and through the Redskins' pass rush to buy time and throw a touchdown pass. But maybe the worst thing about it? The 'Skins should've seen it coming. The Titans were more than happy to franchise Haynesworth in 2008 and guarantee they wouldn't do it again, knowing they had a perfect-storm scenario -- the big man in a contract drive with perhaps the only man who could drive him, Jim Washburn, pushing the buttons. The result: Tennessee went 13-3 with Haynesworth at his best, and Washington got conned. Badly. Then, Mike Shanahan had to live with Vinny Cerrato's mistake, which helped turn his first year in D.C. into a circus. Safe to say that the league's first $100 million defender wasn't worth the freight, or the trouble.