To all the NFL teams anxiously awaiting the moment they are (legally) allowed to drive a truck full of money to the houses of Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, and perhaps even Danny Amendola:
Historically speaking, spending big dollars in free agency has proven to be fool’s gold. For a variety of reasons, players who were formerly ‘impact’ guys have struggled to maintain a high level of performance after signing big deals, and the teams that signed them often find themselves in a worse place than before they spent the money. Just ask the Eagles what free agency bought them! Granted, the majority of cases aren’t as extreme as Philly’s – basically everyone tanked for them – but it’s been a consistent theme since the very beginning. “Build through the draft” isn’t just some old timey saying coaches and GM’s from the ‘70’s like to repeat. It’s the truth. It’s reality.
Walker played in just 11 games over two seasons, catching only 15 passes before being cut.
Caught just 17 passes in his one season with Cleveland before a 2009 DUI manslaughter incident effectively ended his tenure.
One of the worst busts in FA history, Porter managed just 10 games and 11 catches before being cut in 2009.
Berrian struggled out of the gate with just 48 catches in his first season, albeit it with 964 yards. He would never improve on that season, eventually finding the bench and bottoming out with just 7 receptions in 2011. Berrian was cut before last season.
3025 yards and 23 TD’s in four seasons despite some of the worst QB play in the league during that time. He’s been a solid weapon and worth every penny of the deal they gave him.
43 catches and 514 yards in one lackluster season in Cincy. As Coles was already 32 and coming off two subpar seasons, this was doomed from the start.
At 33, Holt managed just 51 catches and had zero TD’s in one miserable season in Jacksonville.
Housh did manage to snag 79 passes, but for only 911 yards and 3 TD’s in his first season. He was so unremarkable, though, that Seattle made sure it was his only season, cutting him in the offseason.
Not a total disaster, but 10.5 Y/C and 45.1 Y/G isn’t the stuff of legends. Or starters, really. Also, Burleson missed the majority of last season with a leg injury.
In one of the more bizarre tales you’ll ever hear, Bryant was cut just months after signing this deal due to continued health concerns. Cincy ate every last dime of the $8M guaranteed him.
Marshall was technically traded to Miami, but he was on the market as an RFA and the Dolphins gave him a hefty contract to switch teams. Unnecessary trade to Chicago aside, Marshall was incredibly productive in Miami, posting at least 1000 yards in both his seasons.
Managed just 9 games in his first season. Even more concerning, he managed just 50 catches and 748 yards last year despite playing all 16 games…with Russell Wilson!
Not actually that big of a contract, but Lloyd was a fairly high profile acquisition nonetheless. After just 911 yards in a pass heavy offense, he’s likely to find himself right back out on the market.
I’ll give it to Vincent and the Bucs, I didn’t think this one would work out, but he seems to have been worth the money. Granted, there’s plenty of time for this thing to tank, but 1384 yards, 8 TD’s and a Pro Bowl selection is a nice way to start.
Jackson’s replacement, Meachem never broke into the starting lineup and caught just 14 passes.
The jury is still very much out on this one. Garcon struggled with injuries all year, missing 6 games and limping through several others. On the other hand, he was productive when he was able to play, often showing off the big play ability that made him so attractive. We’ll see how this plays out.
Jacksonville’s third misstep on this list! Robinson played in just 7 games before going on IR. Even worse, he was pretty bad in those 7 games. 24 catches and 252 yards is not what the Jags thought they paid for.
Rumored Contract Amount: Up to $6M per year
Red Flags: Injury, Scheme
Rumored Contract Amount: Up to $10M per year
Red Flags: Age, Scheme
Rumored Contract: At least 5yr $56M
Red Flags: Scheme, Attitude
Rumored Contract: Up to $12M per year
Red Flags: Age, Injury, Scheme
I love Jennings in those creepy/weird/funny Old Spice commercials as the next guy, but he's probably my least favorite high profile free agent this offseason. He fits nearly every profile of a classic flop.
Age - Jennings will be 30 years old in September and has an awful lot of mileage on those tires. 425 catches in 96 career games is not insignificant in the slightest, and it pretty much guarantees Jennings' best football is behind him.
Injury - He missed 8 games last season with nagging muscle injuries and played like a borderline cripple in close to all of the other 8 games. He also missed three games the season before. Perhaps it's a mere fluke he's struggled through injuries in the two seasons prior to turning 30. Or, perhaps it's a developing pattern, one that is all too common in the NFL. Major red flag.
Scheme - Jennings is definitely more versatile and dynamic than Wes Welker, but the truth is that he too works primarily out of the slot. And like Welker, he's had plenty of supporting talent around him, including an all time great caliber QB tossing it his way. Jennings couldn't have found himself in a better situation over the course of his career, and I severely doubt he would have experienced the same level of success playing in Baltimore, Chicago...really, almost anywhere. There's only one Aaron Rodgers, and unless you're playing with Brady, Manning, or Brees; you're slumming in comparison.
Adding another layer of concern is the fact that Green Bay clearly marginalized his role last season, with essentially no drop off. That's partly due to the talent of Randall Cobb, but also due to the fact that Aaron Rodgers makes his receivers look better, and that a slot based guy like Jennings is far more expendable.
Fair contract: I feel confident he has a couple more solid seasons in him, and there are multiple teams that would benefit greatly from having a player like Jennings, but there's no way he should be getting $10M+. He can't possibly live up to that type of deal. Maybe I go as high as 3yr $24M if I'm Cincinnati, Cleveland, or some with both cap room and a desperate need for a complimentary possession type guy. That's the extent of it, though. Anybody giving him significantly more money or hoping he'll be a #1 type guy is just going to be disappointed.
Again, I'm not saying these are bad players. I'm just saying the history of giving big money to wide receivers is dodgy, at best. These four have more bust potential than people seem to be considering. Just a fair warning, NFL GM's.