Free Agency 2023 is casting its shadow. So it’s time to look back at last year. As always, all that glittered in mid-March wasn’t gold, and we’ve rounded up the worst free agent signings of the preseason.
Free agency is one of the ways to strengthen his team for the upcoming season. But even if you spend a lot of money, that doesn’t mean that you actually improve significantly with the new players.
SPOX looks back on the past offseason and shows five cases in which the investments were not worthwhile.
5. CJ Uzomah – Tight End, New York Jets
Contract: 3 years, $24 million ($15 million guaranteed)
The idea was clear: Zach Wilson needed more weapons, and just down the middle Uzomah offered itself after a strong finish last season with the Bengals. Accordingly, Gang Green struck and directly gave Uzomah a three-year contract.
However, Year 1 of the deal was rather manageable. Although Uzomah played in 15 games, it was never really a factor. He caught just 21 passes (27 targets) for 232 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was less than half of his production in 2021.
That may also have been due to the team’s generally broken offense, but even then one would have expected a little more from a player of his quality.
4. Russell Gage – wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Contract: 3 years, $30 million ($20 million guaranteed)
The order was actually clear: Gage should set up the Bucs’ already strong receiving corps even broader than the new number 3 or 4 depending on Julio Jones’ fitness level.
Ultimately, however, he disappointed. In 17 games, he basically had his worst season since 2019 in Atlanta – even though he even set a career high with 5 touchdowns.
To make matters worse, he is on the books with a cap hit of more than $12 million in 2023 – for a team that is still well in the negative cap range, quite a house number, especially since a breakup is less than $ 3 million would save.
3. Chandler Jones – Edge Rusher, Las Vegas Raiders
Contract: 3 years, $51 million ($32 million guaranteed)
This deal was a gamble from the start. Already last year there were signs that Chandler Jones was not quite the same anymore. At least there was the explanation that he had come back from a long injury.
His performance in Year 1 with the Raiders can best be described as saying that Vegas basically had no functional pass rush apart from Maxx Crosby. Jones only had 4.5 sacks and 19 pressures, which were clear career lows for him in what was almost a full season.
In terms of caps, it’s only now really making a difference – last year it was just under $8 million, now it’s almost $20 million with a guaranteed salary of $16 million! A separation is therefore excluded, after all, this would result in $ 25.6 million in dead money.
2. Allen Robinson – wide receiver, Los Angeles Rams
Contract: 3 years, $46.5 million ($32.1 million guaranteed)
We probably all thought that Robinson would flourish after his “liberation” from Chicago in the Rams’ offense, which is much better in terms of structure and personnel. Basically, Robinson was considered one of the best deals of the past offseason because the Robinson-Stafford combo just seemed perfect.
The reality, however, was very different, bleak even if we’re being honest. Not only did Robinson disappoint in his new place of work across the board, he also undercut his really weak production of the previous year. And in the end he only played ten games due to injury, which of course nobody could see coming.
Ultimately, the Rams must now hope that Year 2 will bring a clear increase for Robinson, because here too, a premature separation is basically impossible. Robinson is guaranteed $15.25 million, which would add to the more than $26 million dead cap hit should it be sold.
1. JC Jackson – cornerback, Los Angeles Chargers
Contract: 5 years, $82.5 million ($40 million guaranteed)
To put it maliciously, one could say that Bill Belichick once again managed to let a well-known player go at just the right time. Because Jackson is considered the best cover cornerback on the market, which explains his lucrative contract. And he was considered the ideal player for what Brandon Staley plans to do with his secondary.
In the end, of course, Jackson also had bad luck with injuries and ended up only playing 5 games in his first season in Los Angeles. But even when he played, it didn’t work out for him at all. He posted a 149.3 passer rating his way, including 4 touchdowns.
Jackson was a shadow of himself and not nearly as strong as in his dominant years with the Patriots (17 interceptions 2020-2021). Now the Chargers have to hope that Jackson will come back healthy and then find his top form again, because the Chargers won’t be able to get out of this contract anytime soon.