Decade Debate: 10 Worst NFL Free Agent Signings

There’s nothing worse for an organization then when it sinks a ton of money into a player that was supposed to turn around a franchise and instead he turns out to be a Grade A bust. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here is a list of the 10 worst NFL free agent signings of the past decade. Whether it was because of performance, injury or the player’s attitude (or a combination of the lot), these signings just didn’t pan out.

10. Chuck Smith, Panthers, 2000/LeCharles Bentley, Browns, 2006

These players are listed together because they both fell victim to the same curse at separate times during the decade. After finishing as the Falcons’ all-time leader in sacks at 58.5, Smith signed a lucrative five-year, $21 million deal with the Panthers. But after playing just two games for Carolina, a knee injury cost him the rest of the season, as well as his career. If only Bentley were fortunate enough to play two games. After signing a six-year, $36 million deal that included $12.5 million in guaranteed money, Bentley ruptured a patellar tendon on his first day of training game, which led to a series of staph infections that almost led to doctors having to amputate his leg. The Browns essentially paid him $16 million for zero games and while injuries are to blame for both of these players’ misfortunes, they were nevertheless busted free agent signings for their respective teams.

9. Edgerrin James, Cardinals, 2006

The Cardinals opened up their wallet for James, who was coming off two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Colts. But after shelling out a four-year, $30 million contract and committing $11.5 million in bonuses to the 28-year old back, James failed to rush for 4.0 YPC in each of his three seasons in Arizona. In his final year in the desert, James lost his starting job to Tim Hightower and managed only 514 yards on 133 carries with three touchdowns. Outside of a decent (and that’s putting it generously) effort in the postseason last year, James was a huge disappointment in Arizona.

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Is Edgerrin James’ career finished?

When Edgerrin James requested his release from Arizona this past offseason, he was hoping that he could resurrect his career elsewhere and have one last shot at being a team’s primary back.

James thought that team would be the Seahawks, whom he signed a one-year, $2 million contract with in late August. But less than three months later, Seattle released the struggling James, who carried the ball just 46 times for the Seahawks in 2009.

The former Colt and Cardinal was averaging a paltry 2.7 yards per carry this season and was highly ineffective. Comparatively, Justin Forsett was averaging 5.7 YPC and Julius Jones was averaging 3.9, so it just didn’t make sense for the Hawks to keep James on the roster.

It didn’t seem that long ago that James was the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was making yearly trips to Honolulu as Pro Bowler. But considering it’s unlikely that he’ll garner much interest on the free agent market, it appears that James’ career is over.

If 2009 does mark his final season, James would finish with 12,246 career rushing yards, a 4.0 yard per carry average and 80 rushing touchdowns. He is currently first in career rushing yards among active players and his 9,226 total yards makes him Indianapolis’ record holder for most career total yards rushing.

James fell off the map as soon as he signed a lucrative deal with Arizona in March of 2006, but he’s definitely a potential Hall of Fame candidate.

Which running backs drop the ball the most?

When it comes to fumbles, nobody drops the ball more than quarterbacks, because they handle the ball more than anyone besides the center. Brett Favre has 157 of them, which leads active players (yes, we’re considering Favre active). But many times when a QB fumbles, he can pounce right back on the ball. Running backs are a different story. The ones who fumble a lot often wind up in their coach’s doghouse because most of the time it’s because of careless ball handling. As for fantasy football, you’ll want to be careful with these guys too because they take points off your scoreboard, both by negative points for fumbles, and for lost opportunities on offense. So here is the active Top 10 in fumbles by running backs…..

1. Edgerrin James (43)—James isn’t as bad as early in his career, like when he fumbled 8 times during his rookie year of 1999 with the Colts. But you tend to look the other way when the other numbers offset the fumbles—and James was an All Pro that year with 2139 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns.

2. Ricky Williams (41)—Ricky definitely comes down with fumble-it is pretty often, and that has to drive Bill Parcells crazy. I wonder if it would help if Ricky thought he was carrying a bag of..…oh forget it.

3. Jamal Lewis (39)—Lewis has improved drastically in this area, fumbling only twice last season. But he fumbled 8 times in back to back seasons in 2002 and 2003 while with Baltimore. Yikes.

4. Ahman Green (37)—He hasn’t fumbled since 2006, but that’s only because Green has carried the ball just 144 times since then.

5. Michael Pittman (31)—Pittman was one of like 15 running backs used by the Broncos last season.

6. Shaun Alexander (31)—For a few years there, Alexander was putting up such ridiculous numbers that Mike Holmgren was forced to accept some drops.

7. Warrick Dunn (26)—He’s never had more than 4 fumbles in a season, but he’s been playing for so long that he wound up on here. Dunn may be one of the most underrated RBs in the history of the NFL.

8. Fred Taylor (26)—Taylor has fumbled less in recent years, but he’s also carried the ball less. It should be interesting to see if his career is re-ignited in a Patriots’ uniform.

9. LaDainian Tomlinson (25)—He fumbled 8 times in his rookie year, and only 17 times since. With 2657 total carries, that’s not bad at all.

9 (tie). Clinton Portis (25)—Portis is a solid RB, but he does have two quirks—he’s injury prone and he drops the ball a few too many times.

Source: Pro Football Reference

Report: Westbrook out until Week 1 with high ankle sprain

According to a report by Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia, Eagles running back Brian Westbrook will be sidelined until at least Week 1 of the regular season due to a high ankle sprain.

Comcast SportsNet reported that Brian Westbrook was examined by ankle specialist Dr. Mark Myerson in Baltimore on Wednesday and may need to undergo a procedure to clean out the ankle. Either way, according to the report, Westbrook is done until the start of the regular season.

The only official comment thus far from the Eagles came from offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg who said that he wasn’t “concerned” about the injury after discussing it with Westbrook on Tuesday afternoon.

While working out recently, the ankle began to bother Westbrook and he contacted head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder to check on it. Andy Reid said on Tuesday that Westbrook would see a doctor, but again, there has been no official update from the team since.

Considering he’ll turn 30 in early September and averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in Philly’s last six games of the 2008 season, this is incredibly damper news for the Eagles. As the article states, the team hasn’t officially stated that Westbrook will miss camp and preseason, but let’s assume for a moment that the report is true.

Philly did draft “Shady” McCoy in the second round this year, but he wasn’t considered a prospect that could be an every down back and he had injury issues himself while at PITT. The Eagles also have Lorenzo Booker, who is a poor man’s Westbrook but like McCoy, isn’t considered an every down back. In seven games for the Dolphins last year, Booker rushed for 125 yards on 28 carries.

If Westbrook is out for the rest of the summer, the good news is that McCoy and Booker will receive plenty of reps. But nobody should be surprised if the team signs a veteran as insurance. Edgerrin James is still available, as is Deuce McAllister, although he’s expected to be suspended for the first four games of the 2009 season, so it’s doubtful the Eagles would add him. Another cheap option would be to bring back Tony Hunt, who was released last October by the Eagles but is a player that has experience in the offense.

It’ll be interesting to see if the team makes this news about Westbrook official.

Saints considering Edgerrin James – but why?

According to a report by, the Saints are considering signing free agent running back Edgerrin James.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis told that the team is still considering making a contract offer to free-agent running back Edgerrin James.

“We’ve spent some time evaluating Edgerrin,” Loomis said Tuesday morning. “We think he can still play. We’re going to continue to evaluate that and see where it ends up. We haven’t made a decision on Edgerrin yet.”

James could be a nice fit in New Orleans, which didn’t draft or sign a replacement for the released Deuce McAllister. Loomis, though, expressed confidence that Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush could carry the Saints’ rushing load. A five-game starter last season, Thomas scored nine times and gained 625 yards on only 129 carries. Bush generated 844 yards from scrimmage in an injury-plagued 2008 campaign.

“Every time Pierre has had the opportunity to play, he’s performed really well,” Loomis said. “I think he was one of the leaders in the league in not getting tackled for a loss among running backs (in 2008). He’s not the big prototype back that Deuce was but we’re confident that Pierre can do some good things for us.

I completely disagree that James would be a good fit. I know the Saints are trying to replace McAllister, but Thomas proved last year that he deserves more carries and the team still has to make sure that Bush gets his touches as well (at least until he gets hurt).

If they want to add a bruiser for short yardage situations ala McAllister last year, then James isn’t the guy. And don’t forget that James wanted out of Arizona because he didn’t like splitting carries with Tim Hightower and feels as though he can still be a starter. Thomas has way more upside than James, so why eat into his carries?

The Saints only had one draft pick in the first three rounds this year. Had they had more, there’s a very likely chance that they would have selected a running back like Beanie Wells in the first round. Why? I’m a little confused by the Saints line of thinking here with how well Thomas played last season.

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