Hope springs eternal for NFL teams who have landed big-ticket free agents this week. Some teams have improved their rosters and have a lot to look forward to in 2016.
Some teams, however, made moves that they’ll regret. They either overpaid for players, botched negotiations with their own players or just put too much emphasis on free agency.
Here are the 10 worst moves made since the start of the free-agency signing period.
No. 10: Broncos trade for Mark Sanchez
According to Mike Klis of KUSA in Denver, the Broncos have traded a conditional draft pick to the Eagles for Mark Sanchez.
This is a low-risk move for the Broncos, so it’s not a terrible move. But it’s also not going to fill the void at quarterback left by Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler signing with the Texans.
Sanchez: career Total QBR of 35.9, 2nd-lowest among 38 QBs w/1,000 pass att. in that span (Blaine Gabbert – 27.4) https://t.co/QCfuG9KUNR
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 11, 2016
It’s likely that the Broncos are hoping that Sanchez backs up Colin Kaepernick, but even Kaepernick would be a risk.
No. 9: Texans signing Brock Osweiler for $18 million a year
This could turn out to be a good move for the Texans. But until Brock Osweiler becomes the Texans’ franchise quarterback and consistently gets them into the playoffs, the move cracks this list because of the $72 million over four years that Osweiler is getting.
The Texans paid what they had to pay in the current quarterback market. Sam Bradford is getting $17.5 million a year in his two-year deal with the Eagles, but at least Bradford has two full seasons as a starter under his belt despite his injury history. He would have had three if he didn’t miss two games last season.
Osweiler, meanwhile, has seven starts to his credit. The Broncos probably don’t get to the Super Bowl if he doesn’t go 5-2 as a starter with Peyton Manning injured, but in five of his seven starts his passer rating was below 85 and he ultimately lost his starting job to a broken-down Manning.
Osweiler is making more per year than Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer. Unless his half-season as a starter is a jumping-off point to a superior career than those three quarterbacks, then the Texans overpaid.
No. 8: Jaguars overpaying for Tashaun Gipson
Overall, the Jaguars have been one of the winners in free agency with Chris Ivory and Malik Jackson their prized pickups.
The price for safety Tashaun Gipson is a little steep, however.
The former Brown signed a five-year, $36 million deal with $12 million guaranteed. That’s in the same ballpark as the deal that safety Rodney McLeod signed with the Eagles. That contract is five years, $35 million with $17 million guaranteed.
Both players are 25. McLeod, however, improved in each of the last three seasons with the Rams according to Pro Football Focus grades. He’s also started every game for three straight seasons.
Gipson, on the other hand, had a career year in 2014 with six interceptions but had just two picks and two passes defended last season. Gipson also has missed eight games over the past two seasons.
No. 7: Jets’ quarterback situation
Both the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick are making bad moves in their contract negotiations.
Fitzpatrick wants more money than the Jets seem willing to pay, according to the New York Daily News, but it doesn’t look like Fitzpatrick will get what he wants anywhere else. The Broncos seem more interested in Colin Kaepernick than Fitzpatrick.
The two sides need to find a middle ground. Fitzpatrick set a franchise record with 30 touchdown passes in 2015 and brought the Jets to within a win of the playoffs. Even though they signed Matt Forte, if they have to start over at quarterback they’re probably facing a longer road to the playoffs.
The Jets are risking another team signing Fitzpatrick and leaving them with Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Robert Griffin III and Kaepernick as their options. Griffin was scheduled to visit Friday according to Pro Football Talk.
That probably will put a further strain on their negotiatons with Fitzpatrick.
No. 6: Dolphins trying to replace Lamar Miller with C.J. Anderson
The Dolphins are trying to replace a legitimate starting running back with a part-time running back.
Lamar Miller signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Texans. The Dolphins have signed C.J. Anderson to a four-year, $18 million offer sheet that the Broncos can match, according to Pro Football Talk.
Miller ran for 1,099 yards, at 5.1 yards per carry, and eight touchdowns in 2014. He followed that with 872 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and eight more TDs last season. Anderson has 1,607 rushing yards in his three-year career, and 648 of those yards came in the last six games of 2014. He’s been sharing the load with Ronnie Hillman.
The Dolphins wouldn’t be paying as much for Anderson as they would have for Miller, but this would be a downgrade at running back.
No. 5: Falcons sign Mohamed Sanu
Mohamed Sanu went from a career-high 56 receptions in 2014 to 33 last season. He went from five touchdowns in 2014, also a career high, to none last season.
And his salary has almost tripled.
The Falcons signed Sanu to a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the hopes that he becomes the No. 2 receiver next to Julio Jones. During that 2014 season, Sanu was third on the Bengals in receptions, but he also tied for second in the league with nine dropped passes according to Sporting Charts.
Mohamed Sanu: targeted on 50 of his 383 routes last season (13%), the 4th-lowest % in the NFL out of 133 players with at least 50 targets
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 10, 2016
At 27, Sanu is seven years younger than Roddy White, who the Falcons released. It remains to be seen, however, if Sanu is his prime will be better than White in his prime.
No. 4: Giants paying Olivier Vernon more than J.J. Watt
The Giants used the draft to help build championship teams in 2007 and 2011. Even though they’ve fallen on hard times, they ought to know the risks of taking the Dream Team approach to rebuild a roster.
Among their signings was Olivier Vernon, a promising defensive end with the Dolphins. It’s not a bad move. Vernon can help their defense. The problem is he’s making more than J.J. Watt.
Vernon will be making an average of $17 million on his five-year, $85 million contract. That annual salary and guaranteed money are slightly more than Watt, who in five years has 74.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles and 45 passes defended.
In four years, Vernon has 29 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was fifth in the league with 15 tackles for loss in 2015, and of his 7.5 sacks 5.5 came in the second half of the season. Vernon is on an upward trajectory and has shown the potential to be a game-changing defender like Watt, but the Giants are paying him like he already is.
No. 3: Giants overpaying for Janoris Jenkins
Only Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis have more guaranteed money in their contracts than Janoris Jenkins.
The Giants signed the 27-year-old Jenkins from the Rams for $62.5 million over five years, with $28.8 million guaranteed. While Jenkins has broken up 48 passes in his first four seasons, he’s never intercepted more than four passes in a season. That four-pick season came in his rookie year and he returned three of them for touchdowns.
Jenkins is a playmaker, but he also can get burned. Since he came into the league, he’s allowed 39 plays of 20 or more yards according to Pro Football Focus, fifth-most in the NFL.
The Rams drafted Jenkins in the second round of the 2012 draft and they drafted another cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, in the third round. They opted to keep the more consistent Johnson, who’s made 15 interceptions and defended 43 passes.
If Jenkins gives up a big play in a big spot, he’ll be back-page fodder for the New York tabloids.
No. 2: Dolphins moving down in draft
The Dolphins don’t seem to be learning their lesson. They grabbed the top free agent on the market last season, Ndamukong Suh, and slipped to 6-10 after two straight 8-8 seasons.
So instead of trying to build through the draft, the Dolphins are again making noise in free agency while moving down five spots in the first round of the draft for two players who were disappointments in Philadelphia.
The Eagles traded cornerback Byron Maxwell and inside linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins and in return swapped first-round picks with Miami, moving from 13th to eighth. Maxwell intercepted two passes last season after signing a six-year, $63 million contract. Alonso had one interception last season and missed five games with a knee injury. Pro Football Focus, via Rotoworld, ranked Alonso 49th out of 60 inside linebackers in 2015.
What makes this deal even worse for the Dolphins is that a team needing a running back has moved ahead of them in the draft. The Eagles traded DeMarco Murray to the Titans and now have a shot at Ezekiel Elliott. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are making a play for C.J. Anderson, who hasn’t carried the ball more than 179 times in a season.
No. 1: Browns pulling offer to Mitchell Schwartz
The Browns could have kept right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Instead, the Chiefs have him at a lower price per year.
Schwartz wanted to stay in Cleveland, according to Cleveland.com. Before the NFL Scouting Combine, the Browns made an offer of about $7 million per year. Schwartz was ready to accept that offer just before the free-agency signing period, only to find out that the Browns pulled the offer because he dared to test his value on the open market.
So the Chiefs signed Schwartz to a five-year, $33 million contract and the Browns lost Schwartz and center Alex Mack on the same day. Schwartz started all 64 games for the Browns at right tackle since he was drafted in the second round in 2012, and he didn’t allow a sack to eventual Super Bowl MVP Von Miller when the Browns faced the Broncos in 2015.
Geoff Schwartz, Mitchell’s brother and a Giants offensive lineman, congratulated his brother on Twitter.
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 9, 2016
Judging from Day 1 of free agency, it looks like another year of nonsense in Cleveland.