Most NFL teams were relatively restricted in their approach to free agency… with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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NFL free agency rarely turns out to be what fans expect.
In the final moments of the season, some see March as a time when teams can dramatically rebuild through their own spending. Yet while the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals have proven this year that a few key signings can either elevate an existing contender to a new level or speed up a rebuild, the options available tend to dwindle over time. thanks to beacons and franchise extensions.
This year was no exception as many teams refused to let their top talent go. And in a year in which the salary cap soared by more than $25 million to $208.2 million in total, several franchises equipped with ample headroom looked set to overspend. Still, for the most part the teams seemed somewhat restrained in their approaches… with the exception of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Here’s our list of the 10 most regrettable NFL free agent signings to date (all contract numbers courtesy of overthecap.com):
1. Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars
The opening of the tampering window on Monday didn’t initially generate too much buzz…until the deal drew a collective “huh?”
After Davante Adams (later traded to the Las Vegas Raiders), Chris Godwin and Mike Williams were kept out of the market, Kirk was the primary beneficiary of a suddenly small offer from independent receivers. Still, a four-year, $72 million deal for Kirk was by far the most dazzling deal this offseason — and its most glaring example of overspending.
Kirk, 25, is currently tied for the eighth-highest average annual salary among wide receivers, despite never producing a 1,000-yard season and having just four career 100-yard games. . An emerging threat that can threaten defenses vertically from the slot is surely an asset Trevor Lawrence can put to good use. But Kirk would have to make what amounts to an unreasonable leap in production to provide a good return on investment.
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2. Zay Jones, WR, Jaguars
No deal handed out this month could match Kirk’s for sheer numbers surprise, but Jacksonville arguably outdid itself in the overall confounder by adding Jones on a three-year, $24 million deal.
It’s nearly impossible to discern what made Jacksonville award so much money to Jones, a 27-year-old future possession receiver who has recorded 47 catches for 546 yards and a touchdown for the Las Vegas Raiders this season. It would be understandable if Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke had been looking for another target to redo his receiving corps. But going that high on Jones made the Jaguars’ already reckless approach even more unintelligible.
3. James Conner, RB, Cardinals
General manager Steve Keim has often used a counterintuitive approach to free agency, taking big-name veterans even when their asking price seems misaligned with their current value. Conner is only 26, but bringing him back to a three-year, $21 million deal felt like an extension of Keim’s bigger miscalculations.
Regardless of the cost, it’s easy to see why Arizona would want to fire a player who had 1,127 scrimmage yards last season, though his 18 touchdown production is set to decline. Conner, however, posted the stats last season with a $1.75 million contract. The Cardinals aren’t the kind of team that should have been embroiled in a bidding war for a running back because their severe shortage of young talent in the pipeline means they need to spend wisely. A low-cost option would have been available somewhere in the middle to late draft.
4+5. Chukwuma Okorafor, occupational therapist, and Mason Cole, C, Steelers
We’ll make it a double entry as the moves are intertwined and signify greater concern over Pittsburgh’s approach up front. To their credit, the Steelers have taken their offensive line issues seriously this offseason after their previous lack of reinforcements proved disastrous. Bringing in former Chicago Bears offensive guard James Daniels was a legitimate step toward improvement. The same probably can’t be said for their other moves.
Re-signing Okorafor for a three-year, $29.5 million deal is the more suspicious of these two moves, as the two-year-old starter has been plagued with inconsistencies. Cole offers versatility on the inside as a center or guard, but a three-year, $15.75 million contract looks rich for a tackle who hasn’t proven to be a capable starter. Either way, the Steelers seem to be paying for who they hope the players become rather than who they are right now.
6. Foley Fatukasi, DT, Jaguars
It always helps to be able to stop the run in the AFC South, a division that includes the NFL’s last two running champions in Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor. The former has proven particularly enticing for the Jacksonville defense, which has allowed Henry 14 rushing touchdowns in 11 career games against him. Yet paying $30 million over three years for a one-dimensional inside defenseman in Fatukasi — the 6-foot-4, 318-pound former New York Jets member — reflects a prioritization issue for upgrading this group, which has much more pressing issues. than identifying which big body will obstruct things up front.
7. Foye Oluokun, LB, Jaguars
Getting a 27-year-old defenseman coming off a stellar season with the Atlanta Falcons should be something of a victory for a talent-starved Jaguars roster. Yet at three years and $45 million, Jacksonville is poised to pay an exorbitant rate for a class of player that shouldn’t break the bank: an undersized off-ball linebacker (6-2, 215 pounds) who hasn’t displayed a penchant for pressuring quarterbacks or making cover plays. Oluokun is very active after leading the NFL in tackles last year with 192, and it’s possible he could make another leap in other parts of his game. But the money could have been better spent elsewhere, and a comparable replacement was probably available at a much more reasonable price.
8. Brandon Scherff, G, Jaguars
A five-time Pro Bowl draft pick for Washington, Scherff might seem like a natural candidate to provide Lawrence with some much-needed protection. But an offensive line is only as good as its weakest link, and the Jaguars still have several amid the baffling decision to give left tackle Cam Robinson the franchise tag and center Brandon Linder considering taking his retirement. Resetting the guard market with a three-year, $49.5 million deal is an uncertain move for a franchise that still seems at least a year away from making a legitimate effort — and it’s even harder to justify when the recipient is 30 years old. who has missed 22 games over the past four years.
9. Tyler Conklin, TE, Jets
Gang Green desperately wanted to find their much-needed answer to the tight end. But the Jets got carried away with improving the position at a time when there was a significant margin on the best available options.
Before inking Conklin, the Jets locked up former Cincinnati Bengal CJ Uzomah on a three-year, $24 million deal. Then general manager Joe Douglas doubled down by handing Conklin a three-year, $21 million contract. That outlay should mean plenty of tight two-setters as the offense looks to provide Zach Wilson with better support in the quarterback’s second year in the NFL. Still, it’s hard to see how Conklin would justify that kind of buy-in after being merely usable in his only year as a starter.
10. Evan Engram, TE, Jaguars
It is fitting to close this list with another signing from Jacksonville. A one-year contract may not seem like much cause for consternation, but the $9 million deal for Engram makes it look like the Jaguars decided to pay a premium just for the tag of a first. tower – and one who has never taken advantage of its considerable potential. while with the New York Giants. Despite all the money doled out to remake the receiving corps, this team now has an overabundance of slot machine options with little to offer on the outside. It may be an intended feature of a Doug Pederson offense rather than a bug, but it doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.