The frenzy of the 2017 NFL free agency signing period is set to kick off on Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Meaning multiple players of every position will either be looking to sign lucrative deals with a new team or re-sign with last year’s club, should a mutual agreement be reached.
As the drama plays out, there are sure to be some matches made in heaven as teams strike gold with great players. But along with the good moves also come the bad. Sometimes this is apparent right out of the gate, especially when it comes to quarterback free agency signings.
Last year was no different. Some teams made some excellent moves, while others did not. As teams get ready to get after it again, we though it would be interesting to look back at the biggest free agency hits and misses from 2016.
Hit: Eric Weddle, safety, Baltimore Ravens
Weddle invested nine hard-working seasons with the then San Diego Chargers and concluded his tenure on a sour note in 2015, claiming the team was “dead” to him.
Good riddance, because Weddle just finished a spectacular first season with the Ravens. He accomplished enough that Pro Football Focus ranked the 32 year-old safety No. 1 in 2016. Weddle started in all 16 games and managed four interceptions for a career-high 92 yards.
Well, that was a terrible decision. Brady throws an easy interception to Eric Weddle.
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) December 13, 2016
He also defended a career-high 13 passes, had one forced fumble, one sack and 89 combined tackles.
The Ravens signed Weddle to a four-year, $26 million deal and for the time being, he seems to be worth every penny spent. As a unit, Weddle’s defense managed 28 total takeaways in 2016, tying for fourth-best in that stat around the league.
Miss: Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
In the case of the embattled RGIII, many predicted the train wreck well before it happened. It did not take more than a handful of moments before Griffin became injured in the very first game of the 2016 and landed on IR.
— Jack (@Mr_Fastbucks) September 13, 2016
At least the Browns played it a bit cautious when they signed RGIII for just two years on a conservative $15 million deal. They deserve a little credit here. But as Griffin was looking for a fresh start after falling out of the good graces in Washington, he pretty much ended up right back where he started on the sidelines most of the year.
RGIII posted his worst season to date last year when in five games he managed only four touchdowns compared to three interceptions. He completed an all-time low 59.2 percent of his passes as well.
We are not sure what the future holds for Griffin in Cleveland. And as always, Browns fans can only hope the team can finally break its terrible quarterback curse once the new season kicks off.
Hit: Bruce Irvin, linebacker, Oakland Raiders
Last year, Irvin departed from the Seattle Seahawks to test the waters out in Oakland. As it happens, the Raiders got on a hot streak in 2016 and found the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
Irvin established some personal career-highs along the way. Notably, the 29-year-old linebacker received a start in all 16 games for the first time ever. He also recorded a career-best 47 solo tackles and forced six fumbles. Irvin finished second behind Khalil Mack with seven sacks.
The Raiders went big when they committed to Irvin on a four-year $37 million deal. Irvin’s move to Oakland also paired him with his former Seahawks linebackers coach, Ken Norton Jr., whom he worked with in the first three years of his career.
This was a well-played move by the Raiders’ brass.
Miss: Chris Ivory, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars made some good moves last year in free agency and some very poor ones. One signing that has appeared to backfired was the inking of veteran running back Chris Ivory.
Jacksonville went all in when it offered the 28 year-old running back a five-year, $32 million contract. Of course, it was probably under the opinion that Ivory would pick up where he left off with the New York Jets in 2015 when he posted a career-high 1,070 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Ivory dealt with one ailment after another. He played in only 11 games and received just one start last season with Jacksonville. During that stretch he managed a mere 439 rushing yards at 3.8 yards per attempt and scored just three times.
Hopefully he can get back on course this season to avoid that dreaded free agency bust title.
Hit: Janoris Jenkins, cornerback, New York Giants
The New York Giants made some major free agency moves in 2016 which included bringing Jenkins on board. Jenkins was originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the second round in 2012.
At this time, it would appear the Giants’ $62.5 million investment paid off nicely. New York offered Jenkins a five-year deal, and he held up his end of the bargain in Year 1. The one-time Pro-Bowler started in 15 games, tallying three interceptions and defending a career-high 18 passes. He also added on one sack and a combined 49 tackles.
Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 8 among all corners in 2016 — five and six notches above Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson, respectively.
The Giants’ defense as a whole improved from 31 in 2015 to No. 10 last season, partially due to Jenkins’ contribution.
Miss: Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Houston Texans
Oh boy. This list would not be complete if it did not contain the huge mistake the Texans committed last year in free agency.
Yes. We’re obviously referring to the monumental failure — signing an unproven Osweiler to a gigantic, $72 million, four-year deal. Osweiler finished the 2016 NFL season ranked No. 32 by Pro Football Focus. For comparison sake, Dallas Cowboys’ rookie quarterback Dak Prescott ranked 10th.
Osweiler completed only 59 percent of his passes for a total of 2,957 yards and 15 touchdowns. He “topped” that last number by throwing 16 interceptions. It was bad enough at one point late last season that the Texans benched Osweiler and brought out Tom Savage.
Bill O'Brien's face after that last Brock Osweiler interception only said one thing. pic.twitter.com/qVo9YRolKU
— Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) January 15, 2017
If the Texans do wish to send Osweiler packing or at least to the bench moving forth, he will have pocketed the $37 million the team GUARANTEED him last spring.
Hit: LeGarrette Blount, free agent running back
Along with Blount’s phenomenal touchdown production, the 30-year-old running back rushed for a career-best 1,161 yards. For his accomplishments, he recently made our list of Super Bowl LI players who could cash in quite nicely in the upcoming season.
Blount recently expressed his desire to remain with New England. But, he could be on the move again if the Patriots don’t wish to provide a boost in his salary for 2017.
Blount has played for a total of four teams since being drafted in 2010. This past year was by far his best, which means he will have his own big shoes to fill wherever he lands this spring.
Miss: Ryan Fitzpatrick, free agent quarterback
The New York Jets held their ground for quite some time but eventually took a flyer on Fitzpatrick once again in 2016.
Sadly, Fitzpatrick turned out to be a one-hit wonder. That one hit coming in the 2015 season when he notched personal bests in passing yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31).
Wisely, the Jets re-signed Fitz to just a one year deal last year. The former Harvard graduate posted a 3-8 win-to-loss record and completed a miserable 56.6 percent of his passes while throwing a measly 12 touchdowns compared to 17 picks during his 14 games.
He found the bench along the way and dealt with injuries. Unfortunately, the ugliness from 2016 could prevent any team in need from going anywhere near the 34-year-old veteran in free agency. We shall see soon enough.