Free agency: Five years of bargains and busts

Jerome Felton (Kyle Terada/USA Today)

Free agency always has its share of assets and liabilities, and the past five years have brought some notable entries on both side of the ledger for NFL teams.

The best and worst free agent signings of the last five years for each NFL team:

AFC

Baltimore


Best — FB Vonta Leach (2011) was All-Pro in both seasons with Ravens and considered best fullback in the league.

Worst — CB Domonique Foxworth (2009) signed four-year deal, fought injuries and finished with four INTs in 18 games before retiring.

Buffalo

Best — TE Scott Chandler (2010) came to Bills off waivers, developed instant rapport with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and has scored six touchdowns in each of past two seasons.

Worst — QB Vince Young (2012) signed one-year, incentive-laden contract with potential to make $3 million, but never made it through preseason before being cut.

Cincinnati

Best — RB Cedric Benson (2008), one of few Bengals risks on player with checkered background to pay off. Benson was their leading rusher in his four seasons.

Worst — WR Antonio Bryant (2010) was recovering from left knee damage when he got four-year, $28 million deal, never made it onto the field before being cut.

Cleveland

Best — TE Benjamin Watson (2010) has 154 catches for 1,674 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons and provided leadership for one of NFL's youngest teams.

Worst — QB Jake Delhomme (2010) got hurt in Cleveland's opener and played in just five games, slowing development of a young QB.

Denver

Best — QB Peyton Manning (2012) signed five-year, $96 million deal, then nearly won fifth MVP award as team went 13-3.

Worst — DL Jarvis Green (2010) got $12 million for four years, didn't make it through training camp.

Houston

Best — CB Johnathan Joseph, S Danieal Manning (2011). Both helped pass defense go from league's worst to third.

Worst — CB Jacques Reeves (2008) had one productive season after signing four-year, $20 million contract, was cut in 2010.

Indianapolis

Best — DE Cory Redding (2012) brought wealth of information from Baltimore to help new coach Chuck Pagano implement 3-4 scheme and was great locker room addition for young team.

Worst — Peyton Manning (2011). Huh? Colts lost gamble that Manning would recover from multiple offseason neck surgeries to lead them back to playoffs. Instead, Manning never played another down for Colts, still pocketing more than $26 million.

Jacksonville

Best — LB Paul Posluszny (2011) is one of franchise's few free agents to pan out. Still, some believe Jaguars overpaid (six-year deal worth $45 million, $15 million guaranteed), but he led team in tackles both years.

Worst — WR Jerry Porter (2008) signed six-year, $30 million contract, $10 million guaranteed, started season on physically unable to perform list and ended it on IR. Caught 11 passes for 181 yards and touchdown, caused chemistry issues.

Kansas City

Best — OG Ryan Lilja (2010) started 15 games in each of three seasons after helping Peyton Manning win a Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Never made Pro Bowl but emerged as dependable lineman.

Worst — WR Steve Breaston (2011) got $22.5 million, five-year deal, but was inactive for all but 10 games last season.

Miami

Best — DT Randy Starks (2008) got $21 million, five-year deal, has 22 sacks in five seasons and made Pro Bowl in 2012.

Worst — WR Ernest Wilford (2008) signed $13 million, four-year deal and caught three passes that year, then was cut.

New England

Best — DE Rob Ninkovich (2009) led Patriots with eight sacks last season and has 19½ in four seasons. Made switch from OLB to DE for 2012 look easy.

Worst — RB Fred Taylor (2009) had more than 1,100 yards rushing in seven of 11 seasons with Jacksonville. In two injury-plagued seasons with Patriots, rushed for just 424 yards in 13 games.

New York Jets

Best — CB Antonio Cromartie (2011) was forgotten figure as team pursued Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed with Philadelphia. Jets turned back to Cromartie, he re-signed and made 2012 Pro Bowl.

Worst — WR Derrick Mason (2011) replaced dependable Jerricho Cotchery and lasted only five games, with 13 catches.

Oakland

Best — Slim pickings. LB Philip Wheeler (2012) signed $700,000, one-year deal, then led team with 110 tackles.

Worst — Enigmatic WR Javon Walker (2008) got six-year, $55 million contract, then had 15 catches for 196 yards and one TD while being paid $14 million.

Pittsburgh

Best — K Shaun Suisham (2010) was midseason signing after Steelers lost faith in veteran Jeff Reed. Suisham put together career year in 2012, making 28 of 31 field goals, three to win games.

Worst — WR Plaxico Burress (2012) was a flier following rash of injuries to receiving corps. Burress struggled to get on field and suited up for just three games, making three catches for 42 yards.

San Diego

Best — WR Danario Alexander (2012) signed off the street in late October, caught 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games.

Worst — LT Jared Gaither (2012) played well in final five games of 2011, then signed four-year, $24.5 million contract. Came up with mysterious back injury in training camp, played in only four games before going on injured reserve.

Tennessee

Best — QB Matt Hasselbeck (2011) led Titans to 9-7 record — just missing playoffs — then last year mentored Jake Locker.

Worst — DT Jovan Haye (2009) signed four-year contract, got a half-sack in two seasons and was cut.


NFC

Arizona


Best — Taking some liberties here because it's one of the best free agency signings ever: QB Kurt Warner (2005). Signed to one-year contract, Warner beat first-round draft pick Matt Leinart for starting job and led franchise to its first Super Bowl, a near-win against Pittsburgh in 2008 season.

Worst — ILB Stewart Bradley (2011) signed five-year, $30 million deal, but couldn't adapt to 3-4 system. In two seasons, he had 37 tackles in 32 games, and was released last week.

Atlanta

Best — RB Michael Turner (2008) was key to five straight winning seasons and had three seasons with at least 1,300 yards rushing and at least 10 TDs every year.

Worst — DE Ray Edwards (2011) signed five-year, $30 million deal with $11 million guaranteed and was released last November.

Carolina

Best — RB Mike Tolbert (2012) came from San Diego and gained 449 yards from scrimmage and had seven TDs despite playing in crowded backfield.

Worst — K Olindo Mare (2011) got four-year, $12 million contract, including a $4 million signing bonus, and lasted one year before being cut.

Chicago

Best — DE Julius Peppers (2010) made huge splash when he signed six-year contract. All he's done is make Pro Bowl all three seasons while anchoring strong defense.

Worst — WR Sam Hurd (2011) played offense and special teams for 12 games, but season ended with an arrest on federal drug charges.

Dallas

Best — LB Keith Brooking (2009) was two-year starter and played all 48 games over three seasons, including Cowboys' only playoff victory in past 17 years. Also was mentor for rising star Sean Lee.

Worst — DE Kenyon Coleman (2011) made just 35 tackles and one sack in 23 games over two years before his 2012 season ended with torn triceps muscle.

Detroit

Best — LB Stephen Tulloch (2010), whose first season in Detroit went so well he was signed to five-year contract. Tulloch led Lions in tackles both seasons.

Worst — WR Bryant Johnson (2009) signed three-year contract and didn't make it to third year. Wound up on non-football injury list after crashing golf cart.

Green Bay

Best — Packers don't do much in free agency and last true impact players were signed in 2006, DB Charles Woodson and DT Ryan Pickett. Woodson, of course, was All-Pro and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of Year.

Worst — Jeff Saturday (2012) was praised for his locker room leadership, but struggled to adjust to new team and new conference. Lost his starting job with two games left in season.

Minnesota

Best — FB Jerome Felton (2012) made Pro Bowl on bargain one-year contract after helping pave way for Adrian Peterson's 2,097 yards rushing.

Worst — WR Bernard Berrian (2008) got six-year, $42 million deal with $16 million guaranteed, had solid first season, then slumped and was cut halfway into 2011 schedule.

New Orleans

Best — RB-KR Darren Sproles (2011) signed for relative bargain price of $14 million over four years and has been record-setter as runner-receiver-returner.

Worst— C Olin Kreutz (2011) was signed to fill the void left by Jonathan Goodwin's departure. Kreutz struggled with a blocking scheme and retired four games into season.

New York Giants

Best — S Antrel Rolle (2010) has been leader off field, also led Giants in tackles in Super Bowl season and was second in 2010 and '12. Has played CB and safety.

Worst — S C.C. Brown (2009) was signed for $1 million, became starter after Kenny Phillips hurt knee and was lost for season. Brown was benched late in '09 after giving up big plays, earning nickname "Can't Cover."

Philadelphia

Best — Evan Mathis (2011) signed one-year deal for about $2 million, won job at left guard, then re-signed for five years, $25 million.

Worst — CB Nnamdi Asomugha (2011) signed five-year, $60 million contract, $24 million guaranteed, and has been a flop, often victimized in single coverage.

St. Louis

Best — CB Cortland Finnegan (2012) grabbed five-year, $50 million contract, made impact plays early in season and helped improve locker room culture.

Worst — WR Drew Bennett (2007) got a six-year contract in 2007, caught 34 passes in two seasons.

San Francisco

Best — DE Justin Smith (2008) emerged as menacing force and All-Pro after signing six-year contract. Team leader and inspirational player for NFC champs.

Worst — RB Brandon Jacobs (2012) left Super Bowl champion Giants, injured knee early, mouthed off, was suspended and then released after five carries for 7 yards.

Seattle

Best — Marshawn Lynch (2012). Asterisk here: Lynch never truly got to free agency as he signed new contract ($31 million, four years) with Seattle before it began last year. Then had career-high 1,590 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in 2012.

Worst — WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2009) caught 79 passes for 911 yards in one season with Seattle, but work ethic and attitude didn't mesh with Pete Carroll when he took over in 2010.

Tampa Bay

Best — WR Vincent Jackson (2012) signed five-year, $55.55 million deal, had best overall season of career with 72 receptions, 1,384 yards and eight TDs. His 19.2 yards per catch was among best in league and he made Pro Bowl.

Worst — K Mike Nugent (2009) signed for one year, $2 million despite missing most of 2008 with Jets because of leg injury. Lasted four games, missing first four FGs and going 2 for 6.

Washington

Best — WR Pierre Garcon (2012) signed five-year, $42.5 million deal and had only half-season of output. But what a half-season as major cog in seven-game winning streak to win NFC East.

Worst — DT Albert Haynesworth (2009) was guaranteed then-record $41 million in seven-year, $100 million contract. Played only two seasons in Washington, the second as backup after needing several attempts to pass training camp conditioning test.

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