Analysis

The three worst free agency signings up to this point in the 2021 offseason

With big names like Trent Williams and Kenny Golladay taking big money, COVID-19 forcing players to be prematurely cut from teams, and plenty of one-year deals floating around, there have been some serious winners this NFL offseason, but there have also been some definite losers.

The Kansas City Chiefs have had a somewhat disappointing free agency period this past two weeks, but if there’s something positive about the Chiefs’ inability to land the big names that fans and sportswriters predicted would want to come to KC it’s that the Chiefs have not been fleeced by another team or drastically overspent on a needless addition, unlike some other teams in the NFL…

With COVID-19 lowering the overall cap to $182.5 million this offseason there have been a flurry of head-scratching deals and an abundance of players who were dropped from their respective teams simply because their cap hits were a little too much to work with.

Obviously, the Chiefs were predicted to be the “new New England Patriots” and be able to attract the greatest of players for the cheapest of deals all due to the likelihood that they would be playing the Super Bowl, or at least the Championship game, every season from here until Mahomes retires…but that has not been the case so far.

Sure, the Chiefs signing Kyle Long for a maximum of $5 million was a great deal by GM Brett Veach, but other than that it has been difficult to pull major names for the low, low cost that Kansas City needs, but at least the Chiefs didn’t make bad deals or get scorched by an agent which is exactly what this list represents.

Below are what I believe to be the three worst free-agent signings so far this offseason with explanations as well:

Andy Dalton to Chicago for 1-year, $10 million

The early offseason story about Russell Wilson wanting a trade and Chicago being on his shortlist made the Bears a likely candidate for a promising quarterback transition, instead they apparently have given up on any chance of a trade with Seattle and instead promised recent Cowboys backup QB Andy Dalton a starting job for 4x the money they could have gotten him for last season.

Dalton started in Cincinnati for the first nine seasons of his career, earning a 70-61-2 record, and came in for the Cowboys last season after Dak Prescott’s horrific ankle injury early in the season. Dalton only played for four weeks before a scary hit against Washington caused a concussion, sidelining him for three weeks (where he also contracted COVID and lost his sense of smell and taste) before taking back over after Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert couldn’t do anything but lose (0-4).

The move makes sense in regard to Dalton believing he can still be a starter and his former relationship with Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, with whom he worked with in Cincinnati for three years (’16-’18), but it makes no sense in regards to what the Bears are doing if they are truly wanting to fix their QB problems and compete in the playoffs again.

With former Chiefs coordinator Matt Nagy seriously on the hot seat in Chicago it is just bewildering to think about how much he has given up for his quarterbacks in his three seasons as the Bears’ head coach:

  • Mitchell Trubisky: traded up to No. 2 in exchange for Chicago’s 2017 No. 3 overall pick, third-round pick (No. 67), fourth-round pick (No. 111), and 2018’s third-round pick (No. 70)
  • Mike Glennon: paid $45 million for three years in 2017, named the starter before Trubisky’s rookie season, but benched four weeks into the season and dropped from the team in February of 2018
  • Nick Foles: Bears traded a compensatory 4th-round pick in the 2020 draft for a very expensive Foles to compete (and lose) for the starting spot with Trubisky. Foles ended up replacing him during the Bears’ Week 3 matchup with Atlanta and started for Chicago until suffering a hip injury in Week 10 which led to Trubisky finishing the season as the starter.
  • Andy Dalton: After passing on him last offseason, Chicago paid Dalton $7 million more than he made in Dallas all last season, and after being criticized by seemingly everyone they doubled-down (below) on the fact Dalton will be the starter for the foreseeable future

With the Bears’ biggest issue over the past two seasons being their inconsistency and playmaking ability at quarterback it’s just a head-scratching pickup that will not make Chicago that much better than they have been under Nagy’s reign as Head Coach, not to mention his one-year deal just means they have to address the same issue again next offseason.

Cam Erving to the Panthers for two years, $10 million

As a journalist, it is sometimes difficult to not be subjective and instead be objective when writing an article. With that being said Cam Erving was not a great pickup for any amount of money above the league minimum ($610,000/year) and paying him $8 million guaranteed is most likely going to bite the Panthers’ in the rear eventually.

When the Chiefs traded for him in 2017 he was worth a 2018 5th-round pick, now suddenly after a few playoff appearances with Kansas City (where he was not used often unless a lineman was injured) he is worth starting-tackle money?

Erving has allowed 16 sacks, 27 QB hits, and almost 100 QB hurries in his career, he’s been a journeyman since being drafted by Cleveland in 2015. He has never brought great quality to the field for more than a few plays at a time. That’s one of the main reasons he has only started 49 of his 81 career games.

He helps at points in the season when tackles and guards are getting injured or tired, he’s a respectable and worthy backup and he proved that with his time in Kansas City and his short stint in Dallas last season, but Carolina is acting like he may be their starting guard by the time the 2021 season begins.

I’m not hating on the big lineman for no reason, outside of Carolina fans there has not been much praise for this signing. Especially considering how many other good offensive linemen were still sitting in free agency when the Panthers made the deal.

In fact, NFL’s Gregg Rosenthall thought Erving’s deal was one of the worst contracts given out so far as well as PFF who thought the deal was “below average.”

In the end, it will depend on how Carolina uses Erving in their schemes and depth chart> Although he can show his versatility every now and then in a game, he is not a reliable enough player to push into the Panthers’ starting lineup right now–especially if they want Christian McCaffrey healthy.

Kenyan Drake to Las Vegas for two years, $14.5 million

By far one of the most confusing, bewildering pickups this offseason was Arizona’s running back Kenyan Drake to Gruden’s Raiders who already have two solid backs on their depth chart for next season.

After Josh Jacobs showed how dominant he can be in the running game–becoming the first Raider to ever rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons–and Jalen Richard showing he might be one of the strongest backups in the league with his ability to contribute on third and fourth downs as well as the passing game, the addition of Drake just doesn’t seem to mesh well.

Drake will now be removing potential snaps from Jacobs, which could create some friction in the running backs room. Drake has never shown he could be an every-down type of back like Jacobs has over his first two seasons, so the only ones feeling threatened should be Richards or possibly some of the receivers who will likely be getting catches taken from them.

Although Drake has been under-utilized in Miami and, more recently, in Arizona he’s now going to get $11 million guaranteed to essentially be a split-backup with Richards and a likely addition to the receiving game more than the running game, which is apparently fine with Drake but it has not been fine with anyone outside of him or the organization.

This signing was voted as one of the worst pickups by a team in the 2021 offseason by Pro Football Focus, NFL analyst Matt Bowen, and countless others around the sports world, but in the end Gruden will do what Gruden does and nothing else.


Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or through my Twitter @SportsGuyShawnO and be sure to check out previous Shawn’s Staturdays and future Staturdays on Arrowhead Live!

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