With every team having played at least eight games I wanted to look back at free agency and look at how some of the signings have fared. For this post we will look at who, thus far, looks to be the worst signings of the year (don’t worry we will have a best of list soon enough). Many of these looked like good signings when made and illustrate how difficult free agency can be to project even when you have years and years of footage of the player. To qualify you had to switch teams this year in free agency, so a free agent opting to return to his former team would not count (i.e. Jameis Winston) nor would a contract extension (i.e. Aaron Rodgers). The year is still young and some of these players will have plenty of time to turn things around.
10. C.J. Uzomah, Jets- 3 Years, $24M, $15M guaranteed
Most things have gone right for the Jets this year, but they missed on Uzomah who was targeted to be a receiver in the offense and has instead simply played the role of an expensive, average blocker. Uzomah had a career year with the Bengals in 2021, playing over 70% of the snaps and snagging 49 receptions. This year he is playing under 50% of the offensive snaps and may not reach 20 receptions. Uzomah has $7 million guaranteed next year and a cap hit of $10.3 million.
9. Russell Gage, Buccaneers- 3 Years, $30M, $20M guaranteed
I guess the Bucs envisioned Gage as the 3rd big weapon in a big passing attack, but instead he is the third target in a pretty anemic offense. Gage is on pace for under 500 yards on the year and seems like an afterthought on offense more often than not. His $10M 2023 salary is guaranteed for injury with $5 million of it already fully guaranteed. Gage’s cap charge next season is $12.16 million, a big number for a team with cap troubles and perhaps no QB.
8. Chase Edmonds, Dolphins- 2 Years, $12.1M, $6.1M guaranteed
How bad was this addition? The Dolphins traded him away as part of the Bradley Chubb deal after paying out nearly $5 million of his $6.1 million salary. Prior to the trade Edmonds was averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per attempt and had just 120 yards for the season. The team just misjudged everything about this one from the contract total down to the fit with the offense.
7. D.J. Chark, Lions- 1 Year, $10M, $10M guaranteed
Everyone understood this signing when it happened- it was a one year gamble on a player who had over 1,000 yards with the Jaguars a few years ago and an injury last season kept him from being a possible marquee free agent- but that doesn’t mean it wound up a good one. Chark has again nursed injuries, only appearing in 3 games this year. In those three games he has yet to reach the 100 yard mark for the entire season. He is currently on IR and will likely sign elsewhere for a fraction of this price in 2023.
6. Julio Jones, Buccaneers- 1 Year, $6M, $6M guaranteed
What the Buccaneers saw in Jones last year with the Titans that made them think signing him made sense is anyone’s guess, but Jones has again struggled with injuries and has largely been ineffective with a total of 8 receptions for 125 yards. Of those 125 yards, 69 came in week 1. Perhaps he can re-find the fountain of youth if they make the playoffs. Jones will have $3.5M in dead money next year when his contract voids.
5. Folorunso Fatukasi, Jaguars- 3 Years, $30M, $20M guaranteed
Fatukasi left the Jets to join the Jaguars in free agency, but it has been a rough change so far for the defensive lineman. Fatukasi is grading under 60 on the year by Pro Football Focus. He has been credited with 15 tackles, none for loss, a big drop from last year where he had 46 tackles, 5 for loss with the Jets. You would expect these numbers from a sub $3 million player. He has provided similar pass rush numbers to last season but the Jaguars are looking for more overall consistency. He has a $12.8M cap figure next season and his salary is guaranteed.
4. Allen Robinson, Rams- 3 Years, $46.5M, $32.1M guaranteed
The Rams took a shot on the talented Robinson and assumed his disappointing 2021 season was due to unhappiness with the Bears and the talent he was playing with Chicago. Unfortunately, things have not changed much this year. Robinson is on pace for just 530 yards and hasn’t shown much chemistry with Matt Stafford. His 31 YPG would be a career low for any season in which he appeared in more than 1 game. Finding a trade partner may be difficult but this has the feeling of one of those Rams contracts that they admit the mistake on and move on despite the cost associated with it.
3. Cedrick Wilson, Dolphins- 3 Years, $22M, $12.8M guaranteed
Wilson had the few breakout games in the second half of last season which caused the Dolphins to aggressively go after Wilson in free agency. Unfortunately for Miami, Wilson has more or less gone back to matching his earlier years in Dallas with just 6 receptions for 63 yards on the year. He is only logging 20% playing time in Miami and it is looking less and less likely that this changes. Miami’s passing attack has been on fire with the addition of Tyreek Hill so they aren’t sweating this miss too much, but it was a clear miss. $5 million of Wilson’s salary in 2023 is guaranteed which probably makes him a strong “pay and trade” candidate next offseason.
2. Chandler Jones, Raiders- 3 Years, $51M, $32M guaranteed
The Raiders expected big production from Jones and it hasn’t happened so far. In 8 games Jones has just 0.5 sacks and 1 tackle for loss while his 17 pressures rank just 57th among edge defenders. In contrast Von Miller, who was the other available veteran pass rusher, has 7 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 29 pressures. Jones’ cap number jumps to $19.4 million in 2023 so the disappointing Raiders are going to need him to recapture some of that Arizona magic over the next year and a half to justify this decision.
1. J.C. Jackson, Chargers- 5 Years, $82.5M, $40M guaranteed
While many questioned how Jackson would perform outside of New England, I don’t think anyone expected the drop off that occurred this year. Jackson was graded by PFF at a lowly 28.7 on the season and our valuation of Jackson is under the minimum for the year, basically putting him in the category of players fighting to stick it out on the roster each week. Jackson, whose big claim to fame was big interception totals with the Patriots, failed to snag one this year and was pulled midway through a game this season before suffering an injury that will force him to miss the rest of the year. The Chargers frontloaded his contract this year ($28M as a first year salary) in hopes that he would be a big part of the defense but they will have to wait until next season to see if he can make the contract look like a better decision.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.