10 worst free agent signings through Week 8

Eric Eager gives the worst 10 free agent signings in terms of production and value this season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

10 worst free agent signings through Week 8

In yesterday’s installment, we listed the top 10 free-agent acquisitions from this past offseason through eight weeks. While the teams that acquired those 10 players should be feeling good about their decisions, some teams may be wishing they had their money back. Let’s take a look at the bottom 10 free-agent acquisitions, in terms of value, through the first eight weeks of 2015:

1. Brandon Browner, CB, Saints (three years, $18 million, 30.9 overall grade)

PFF’s second-lowest graded cornerback through eight weeks, Browner has continued his habit of committing penalties (a league-high 14). He has been poor in coverage, allowing the 15th-most yards per coverage snap (1.56) and surrendered a 101.1 passer rating on passes thrown into his coverage.  He is allowing 16.8 yards per completion, including 5.9 YAC per completion, on passes thrown in his direction, due in large part to 10 missed tackles, second-most amongst NFL CBs.

2. Jermey Parnell, OT, Jaguars (five years, $32 million, 45.0 overall grade)

After a good season for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, Parnell was acquired to help improve the Jaguars’ struggling offensive line.  He has yet to do so, posting the 50th-ranked overall grade among tackles so far, with the seventh-worst pass blocking efficiency (92.1 percent) among qualified offensive tackles.  He has allowed 11 QB hits and 18 hurries through the first eight weeks of 2015.

3. Curtis Lofton, LB, Raiders (three years, $18 million, 35.4 overall grade)

This signing was puzzling at the time, given Lofton’s performance in the past (average or below average season grades the last three years).  Little has changed with the change in scenery, as he has the second-worst run stop percentage (4.2) amongst qualifying ILBs. He has surrendered 18 completions on 19 targets in coverage, including three touchdowns.

4. Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets (four years, $32 million, 44.5 overall grade)

In his return to the Jets, Cromartie ranks 90th among NFL cornerbacks this season. He has surrendered five touchdowns in coverage through seven games, giving up a 132.5 passer rating on targets thrown his way. Cromartie has five missed tackles while only producing three stops.

5. Marshall Newhouse, OT, Giants (two years, $3 million, 32.9 overall grade)

While the Giants didn’t break the bank for Newhouse, they probably should have more thoroughly explored other options. He has posted a negative grade in all but one game this season, had the 10th-worst pass blocking efficiency (92.9) among qualified OTs, and has been equally poor as a run blocker (33.4 run blocking grade, 33.2 pass blocking grade).

6. Byron Maxwell, CB, Eagles (six years, $63 million, 49.0 overall grade)

The acquisition of Maxwell was one of the most notable acquisitions this offseason, with many questioning whether he was truly a player of the caliber of his contract, or simply a product of Seattle’s system. He started out very slowly this year, before rebounding slightly of late. Despite some positives grades in recent weeks, Maxwell still owns the ninth-worst yards per coverage snap among CB, at 1.70, has missed four tackles, and surrendered a 113.5 passer rating in his coverage.

7. DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles (five years, $42 million, 59.3 overall grade)

Like Maxwell, Murray’s acquisition came with much fanfare. Also like Maxwell, Murray struggled mightily early, while experiencing some positives of late.  Be that as it may, Murray is only 18th among qualified running backs in elusive rating (39.2), has dropped 11.54 percent of catchable targets thrown in his direction, and has been overshadowed by another 2015 free agent back, Ryan Mathews (71.3 overall grade), in his own backfield.

8. Erik Pears, OT, 49ers (two years, $4.7 million, 43.7 overall grade)

The offensive struggles in San Francisco aren’t exclusively the fault of the recently-benched Colin Kaepernick. After struggling for the Bills in 2014, Pears was acquired to take over for the retired Anthony Davis this season. The exchange has been a disaster thus far, as Pears ranks 56th among tackles. He has surrendered six sacks, tied for second among OTs.

9. Tracy Porter, CB, Chicago Bears (one year, $870,000, 39.4 overall grade)

The Bears’ use of CBs has been puzzling thus far, benching another free agent acquisition, Alan Ball (54.4 overall grade) for Porter after Week 3 of the season. Neither Porter nor Ball are young (29 and 30, respectively) for CBs, which doesn’t appear to coincide with Chicago’s rebuilding movement.  Additionally, it’s clear Porter’s best days are behind him, giving up 1.51 yards per coverage snap, two touchdown passes, and a 94.6 passer rating in coverage.

T-10. Greg Jennings, WR, Dolphins (two years, $8 million, 44.8 overall grade) and Dwayne Bowe, WR, Browns (two years, $12.5 million, 57.8 overall grade)

What’s worse, a veteran receiver playing terribly enough (Jennings has only 10 receptions on 18 targets with three drops) to get benched five weeks into the season (10, 28, and four snaps in Weeks 6, 7 and 8, respectively), or a veteran receiver (Bowe) who hasn’t shown enough to even make it onto the field for more than 19 snaps, or register a reception for a team with two wins?

| Analyst

Eric Eager joined Pro Football Focus in 2015. He is currently working on a number of analytics projects, primarily focused on the NFL.

  • Tom

    Dockett – who never played for the Niners, was cut – cost a couple million and Bush cost 2.5 million .. for what less than 10 plays and less than 50 yards, should be on this list for the Niners.

    • Eric

      Not a ton of data on Dockett. 16 snaps in the preseason. Bush has been mostly hurt. Chose more to focus on players that have played and played poorly during the 8 weeks of the regular season (with the exception of Bowe, who has presumably played poorly enough to stay on the bench for most of 2015 for a bad Browns team). Thanks for reading.

    • Al

      lol I forgot about Dockett. Wright too. 3 Niners deserve to be on this list. Some guaranteed money given up too in the millions of dollars range. SO yeah, major failure from the worst run team in pro sports.

  • Brit

    Nice that Suh didn’t make this list. Expensive, but excellent player.

    • Eric

      Has graded very well this year. Thanks for reading.

    • Chris from the Cape

      I’m not a fan of his, but respect that if he’s occupying TWO O-Lineman every single play….He’s doing his job-

  • ExPat_in_Krakow

    While Porter has been bad, if not terrible, it’s hard to see why he was placed on this list. He was signed for one year (everyone else on this list was signed for 2+ years), and only $870,000, less than one-third the cost of the next-closest player on the list ($3 million). His cap with was even less, $585,000, according to Spotrac. The two guys you list behind him, Jennings and Bowe, were signed for 2 years $8MM and two years $12.5MM respectively. Bowe should have been #9 and Jennings #10.

    Furthermore, Porter’s signing didn’t impact any other potential signing by the Bears last season, and Chicago will have more than $60MM free in salary cap space this coming offseason.

    Bad? Sure. But top-10 worst? Hardly. It was a short-term calculated risk for what amounts to spare change in the NFL nowadays, and they’ll walk away from it after the season. Heck, they could cut him now and not spent a dollar more.

    • Eric

      I’m also considering the 3 million a year they’re paying Ball to play ~ five snaps a game as a dime back since he lost his spot to Porter, as well as the snaps they’re not giving to young, developing players. Porter’s the one playing poorly, so he made the list. But that decision process is more of what makes the list than the actual player + salary. Thanks for reading.

      • Nick Beam

        Then why not list Ball as the worse FA sigining? Plus Porter played well against Cooper when no one else has… Really an odd choice to have up there.

        • Eric

          Porter has been the player with below average-to-average grades in every game he’s played in.

          • ExPat_in_Krakow

            But that makes no sense. I agree, Ball should be on the list. The coaches think that Porter is better than Ball, so Porter’s at least playing, which you then knock him for.

            Per your write-up, Porter is allowing a 94.6 passer rating in coverage. Per the San Diego Union-Tribune, Alan Ball and Sherrick McManus have passer ratings allowed of 142.6 and 148.3, respectively.

            Ball has been worse when he’s played, he signed for almost 4x more than Porter, and the Bears have no young talent that Porter is keeping on the bench. They have Amos starting at safety (promising), Fuller at CB (teetering), and other than that an old dumpster fire in the defensive backfield.

            I find it odd to be defending Porter for anything…but at least he doesn’t miss tackles and get face-planted by stiff-arms nearly as frequently as Antrel “Don’t Call Him Butter ‘Cause He Ain’t On a” Rolle.

    • Had3

      I know Jennings $8m/2y is fantasy as only 1/2 that is guaranteed with no consequence for cutting him this offseason. I’d love to see this list based on either total guarantees or just this year’s cost.

  • DAM494

    It should be noted that Erik Pears was signed to be a backup, only to find out that ProwBowl RT Anthony David unexpectedly retired. He did so after the draft and free agency so the Niners didn’t have many other options. Either way Pears sucks.

    • Eric

      Thanks for reading, and the comment. He’s down a bit further due to his salary (and thus probably the expectations you’ve laid out). But, as you’ve suggested, his play has stood out for all the wrong reasons.

  • Al

    Shareece Wright has to get some mention since he didn’t even play a snap and then got cut and then got burned his first game back for the Ravens horribly. I can’t imagine he improved much since then.

    • Eric

      Wright’s had two positively-graded games in a row with decent snaps. His first game as a Raven was bad, yes. Thanks for reading.

  • Jack

    Didn’t the Skins give a bunch of money to Chris Culliver? He’s been suspended, hurt and when healthy not really any good. Was probably a product of the Niners strong front 7

    • Eric

      Culliver was close to making the list, but at only 181 snaps I held off. A lot of his poor grade was one deep pass against PHI. Thanks for reading.

  • Josh Stewart

    They weren’t signed this year, but still play. Kenny Britt and Jared Cook for the Rams have been horrible.

  • Ryan

    How about Andre Johnson?

    • Eric

      Johnson has actually had a slightly positive grade thus far. Thanks for reading.

      • Sppash101

        He only has a positive grade due to blocking. As a receiver he is in the negative.

        • Eric

          None of his grades are below a -2.1, though. The folks on this list have their cumulative grades below this, with some in the negative double digits.

  • Frank

    Julius Thomas 5 yrs 46 million hello !!

    • Michael Cunningham

      Thats a great pick up!!!

      • Eric

        Thomas has only played in three games, and his grade hasn’t been terrible so far, so I’m inclined to leave him off until we have more data. Thanks for reading.

        • Autocephallic

          Mentioning he’s only played three games kinda proves the point.

          • Eric

            Aside from Bowe, these players have all played and played poorly, which in my opinion is worse than not playing very much at all.

          • Jaguars28

            How? He’s played well since he’s been back.

          • Jack

            Thomas has always had injury issues.

      • Jaguars28


    • Michael Cunningham

      The issues with him is a crappy QB throwing him the ball!!

      • Jacob Furness

        Have you been paying attention at all? Bortles has played very well this year.

      • Jaguars28


    • Jaguars28


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  • McGeorge

    This is a misleading article because not all contracts are the same.
    In the case of Antonio Cromartie (he sucks) he has no guaranteed money after this season and can (will) be cut. (unless he comes back at the vet minimum)

    Brandon Browner has a 3 year / 15MM contract not 18MM.
    But he has a dead money charge next year of 5.35MM.

    Byron Maxwell is going to play next year since cutting him yields a 13.3MM cap hit.

    Cromartie is done after the year, these other guys are still there in a year. And will have dead money after that.

    • Forrest

      If you read the replies to the other comments, they are taking the contracts into account. But just like every contract is different, so is every salary cap situation. So one team might be able to stomach $5M in dead money while another team can’t. But we can go deeper still… what about the draft situation of each team and how that affects there ability to keep and cut players!!

      My point being… the article is what it is. Don’t try to over-analyze it.

      • McGeorge

        It’s not much of an article then.

  • MosesZD

    Pears was not signed to replace Davis at OT. He was signed to be a reserve guard. When Davis retired unexpectedly, Pears was thrust into emergency service in a position the 49ers never intended him to play.

    • Forrest

      Replied to wrong comment.

  • Douglass Pinkard

    Finally, a website devoted to me. Good decision.

  • PetEng

    Pears was signed to be a backup pass protecting tackle. He’s doing that job, as represented by your grades.

  • Raza

    Thankfully, the Cromarite contract is only guaranteed for his first year. I don’t think I can watch him perform like this the next three years.

  • Backinmd

    Murray is more of a north,south runner .. Kelly should change some of his running plays for Murray ..Cromartie is up and down like yo yo …Over the years it seems to me that more free agents that sign the big contracts never live up to their expectations — some seem to play not to get hurt ..