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Picking the worst-ever free-agent signing for all 32 NFL teams

Before free agency began, NFL Nation reporters picked the best-ever free-agent signings for each team. Now it's time for the worst ever, including a Hall of Fame running back's disastrous stint in the desert and the Redskins forking up $41 million to a defender who struggled to pass a conditioning test.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Offensive linemen Langston Walker and Derrick Dockery

To me, this came down to three players: Walker (signed in 2007), Dockery (also signed in 2007) and defensive end Mark Anderson (signed in 2012). I'll give the nod to both Walker and Dockery because they will be forever tied in Bills history. In his return to the NFL, general manager Marv Levy signed Walker to a five-year, $25 million deal and Dockery to a seven-year, $49 million deal. They both started all 32 games in Buffalo before being cut in 2009. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Wide receiver Ernest Wilford

The Dolphins thought they were getting a player on the rise in 2008 when they signed the former Jaguars wideout to a $13 million contract. Instead, they got a player who quickly flopped and had only three receptions in Miami. The Dolphins got rid of Wilford after one year but paid at least $2 million per reception because $6 million of Wilford's contract was guaranteed. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene

The former Bengals defender signed a three-year, $9.85 million contract in 2012 and never played a regular-season down for the Patriots. The sides ended up in a grievance over bonus money as Fanene, whom the team said didn't disclose information related to his injured knee at his physical, didn't even make it through his first training camp with the club. For a team that is generally meticulous in its personnel work, this was a rare slip-up, with accountability to be shared between the Patriots and Fanene himself. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Quarterback Neil O'Donnell

In 1996, the Jets made a colossal mistake by giving a five-year, $25 million contract (pretty big at the time) to O'Donnell, who was coming off a Super Bowl appearance with the Steelers. The Jets went 1-15, although O'Donnell lasted only six games because he blew out a calf muscle ... in pregame warm-ups. His run in New York lasted only two years, as Bill Parcells ran him out of town after a mediocre '97 season. O'Donnell went 8-12 in two seasons, and it cost the Jets $11 million. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Cornerback Domonique Foxworth

A knee injury caused the Ravens' top free-agent signing in 2009 to never live up to his contract. Baltimore gave him $16.5 million in guaranteed money, and Foxworth delivered four interceptions and 18 games over three seasons. A close runner-up was offensive tackle Leon Searcy, who never played a down for Baltimore after receiving a $3 million signing bonus. He partially ruptured his triceps in his left arm in training camp and then reinjured it in practice two months later. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver Michael Westbrook

The Bengals' history of largely avoiding signing outside free agents to massive contracts helps them here, but one failure they did have came in 2002 when the former Washington wideout agreed to a three-year, $4.5 million deal that contained a $450,000 signing bonus. It was an optimistic signing, as the Bengals turned to the 30-year-old to help mentor young receivers Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Peter Warrick. It didn't pan out. Westbrook was released by Thanksgiving of his only season in Cincinnati. It was the last time the former first-rounder played in the NFL. Westbrook had 57 catches for Washington in 2001, but he caught only eight passes in nine games, his lone season with the Bengals. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns

Wide receiver Andre Rison

This one is easy: when the Browns signed Rison to a $17 million contract in 1995. To pay the $5 million signing bonus, Art Modell had to go to different banks to borrow the money. Rison was a disaster on the field. Modell dug himself deeper in debt and the next season Cleveland's team was in Baltimore. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Center Sean Mahan

The Steelers don't always spend big in free agency, so when in 2007 they signed Mahan to a five-year, $17 million deal to follow the lineage of Steelers' greats at center, the league took notice. But the team soon learned Mahan got overpowered at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers traded Mahan back to Tampa Bay after one inconsistent season. The failed Jay Riemersma signing was also noteworthy, but it pales in comparison to the disappointment surrounding Mahan, considering the money invested. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Safety Ed Reed

A great deal of fanfare accompanied the Texans' courtship of Reed. The team tweeted about owner Bob McNair and general manager Rick Smith flying to pick up Reed in McNair's private jet. They gave him a three-year deal worth $15 million. The Texans' tenure of one of the greatest safeties to play the game was a catastrophe. Houston was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender, but instead went 2-14. Reed was injured to start the season and never gave the Texans what they needed. He was benched for Shiloh Keo and released the week after he said the Texans got "outcoached and outplayed" against the Cardinals. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts

Safety LaRon Landry

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson brought Landry aboard in 2013 with hopes he would recreate his productive season with the Jets. Instead, Landry fell short (no interceptions), was suspended four games for using performance-enhancing drugs and eventually was released after two seasons with the team. -- ESPN.com staff

Jacksonville Jaguars

Linebacker Bryce Paup

The Jaguars gave the 30-year-old Paup a six-year, $22 million deal in 1998. He had 65.5 sacks in eight seasons with Green Bay and Buffalo but only 7.5 in 31 games with the Jaguars. He was unhappy with the way he was used in Jacksonville because he was asked to drop into coverage, which wasn't exactly in his wheelhouse. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Wide receiver Yancey Thigpen

The 1998 Oilers were receiver needy, as the franchise has typically been since it relocated to Nashville, and made the former Pittsburgh Steeler the league's highest-paid receiver with a five-year, $21 million deal. They got only 18 starts out of him over three years, with 91 catches for 1,430 yards and nine touchdowns. Runner-up: Guard Andy Levitre, who got a six-year, $46.8 contract with $16 million guaranteed in 2013 and was traded for a sixth-round pick after two poor seasons. -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Defensive end Jarvis Green

There are some candidates to be sure. There was Travis Henry's $22.5 million deal in 2007, but he took an $11 million reduction in pay after one season and was gone weeks later in '08. And there was Daryl Gardener's seven-year, $35 million deal -- he was released after one season that included only 15 tackles, two suspensions by the team and wrist surgery from a fight at a pancake house. But in the end Jarvis Green is the winner. He was one of Josh McDaniels' free-agent signings in 2010 -- four years for up to $20 million -- and was released following his first training camp and never played a regular-season down for the team. Green received a $2 million signing bonus to go with a guaranteed salary of $755,000 and never lined up in a game that counted in the standings. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Linebacker Kendrell Bell

The Chiefs never came close to getting their money's worth from Bell. They signed him from the Steelers in 2005 to a seven-year, $35 million contract, which was good money at the time. For that, the Chiefs received three years (but only two as a starter), 2.5 sacks and minimal impact otherwise. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Wide receiver Javon Walker

Wait, with so many others like Larry Brown, Desmond Howard and Aaron Brooks littering the streets of Silver and Blackdom, why does Walker rank above (below?) the rest? Money. After signing a six-year, $55 million free-agent deal with $16 million guaranteed with Oakland in 2008, Walker caught all of 15 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown in eight games, thanks in part to a cranky knee. Then, he had to be talked out of retirement that offseason by none other than Al Davis before returning in 2009 for three games ... with no catches, one punt return and a fumble. That was it. -- Paul Gutierrez

Editor's note: Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was previously listed as Oakland's worst free-agent signing, but Hall actually came to the Raiders via trade before signing a seven-year, $72 million deal and then playing only eight games with the team.

San Diego Chargers

Wide receiver David Boston

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is a close second, but the award goes to Boston. The workout warrior signed a seven-year, $47 million deal with the Chargers in 2003. Boston did not mesh well in the locker room. He was suspended for one game for conduct detrimental to the team after not joining his teammates for a postgame speech. Boston put up respectable numbers, totaling 70 receptions for 880 yards and seven scores. However, the Chargers won only four games that year, and Boston was traded a year later to the Dolphins, where he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. -- Eric D. Williams

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Kicker Mike Vanderjagt

There are plenty of candidates over the years, like Bryant Westbrook receiving $1 million for one game or signing Ryan Young to be a starting tackle despite a knee condition, but Mike Vanderjagt wins. In 2006, the Cowboys finally made an investment in a kicker, paying Vanderjagt a three-year, $4.5 million deal that included a $2.5 million signing bonus. It was a failure from the beginning. He made only 13 of 18 tries and was just 2-of-5 on attempts from 35 yards or more. The Cowboys released him and replaced him with Martin Gramatica. In 2007, the Cowboys drafted Nick Folk in the sixth round and he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Now the Cowboys have one of the best kickers in Dan Bailey and gave him $7.5 million guaranteed in 2014. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Linebacker LaVar Arrington

Signed to a seven-year, $49 million contract before the 2006 season, Arrington was a 27-year-old pass-rusher in his prime and happy to be out of Washington. The Giants believed he'd be a cornerstone edge rusher for their future, but he tore his Achilles tendon in the sixth game of the 2006 season and never played again. The Giants were fortunate to have a core of strong pass-rushers like Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora in the pipeline, which was the main reason they were able to win the Super Bowl the following season. But the Giants had high hopes for Arrington who, for reasons beyond his control, was never able to live up to the contract they gave him. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha

Wait, you say, what about Byron Maxwell, the cornerback the Eagles traded a year after signing him to a six-year, $63 million contract? Fair question. But Asomugha got $60 million over five years, including $25 million guaranteed. And he was terrible. He visibly jogged to avoid having to tackle receivers. He reportedly ate lunch in his car to avoid interacting with teammates. Asomugha was the poster child for the 2011 "Dream Team" disaster and remains at the top of this list. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins

Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth

The Redskins have plenty of candidates, but one stands out: Haynesworth. He starred in Tennessee, but he also had red flags when it came to motivation and it did not work for him in Washington. The Redskins gave him $41 million guaranteed and a deal worth up to $100 million in 2009. For that, the Redskins received 20 games, 53 combined tackles and 6.5 sacks, plus a training camp of will-he-finally-pass-the-conditioning-test stories in 2010. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Wide receiver Sam Hurd

Forget about money. The Bears signed Hurd for only three years, $5.15 million following the 2011 lockout. No, the problem is football turned out to be Hurd's hobby. His real passion: drugs. The former Dallas Cowboy was arrested in December 2011 on federal drug charges after authorities caught him in a sting trying to purchase cocaine and marijuana from a supplier in North Texas to launch a drug empire in the Chicagoland area. Hurd received a 15-year prison sentence and currently resides in a Texas penitentiary. Not exactly the bang for their buck the Bears expected. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Quarterback Scott Mitchell

It wasn't Mitchell's first contract with the Lions that was the issue -- it was moderately-priced and he made the playoffs in two of three seasons. The second contract with Detroit that Mitchell signed in 1997, a four-year deal reported to be worth $21 million with an $8 million signing bonus, was a mess. Mitchell started the next 18 games for Detroit after that, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions with a 9-9 record. He was replaced by Charlie Batch after two games in the 1998 season and never played for the Lions again. He's an interesting case because the Lions made the playoffs in three of the four seasons he started nine or more games, but the Lions made the playoffs in Mitchell's first season mostly under Dave Krieg, who replaced Mitchell after he suffered an injury. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Defensive end Joe Johnson

In 2002, the Packers gave the former Saints defender a six-year, $33 million contract that included a $6.5 million signing bonus. What they got in return was two sacks in 11 games over two injury-filled seasons before they cut him. It was one in a long line of mistakes made by Mike Sherman during his tenure with the dual role of coach and general manager. Johnson never played another down in the NFL after the Packers dumped him in June 2004. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Cornerback Fred Smoot

After the Vikings gave him $34 million over six years in 2005, Smoot embarked on a disastrous two-year voyage remembered more for what he did off the field than what he did on it. He had only two interceptions in two years, and was a central figure in the 2005 "Love Boat" scandal that heaped embarrassment on the franchise. Smoot's most memorable on-field moment in Minnesota? It's probably when then-Panthers receiver Steve Smith pretended to be rowing a boat in the end zone shortly after the Vikings' scandal; Smith torched Smoot for 201 yards that day. -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Defensive end Ray Edwards

In 2011, the Falcons signed the defensive end to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. They released him the following year reportedly as a result of his poor attitude. Edward had 3.5 sacks in 25 games with the Falcons after totaling 29.5 sacks in five seasons with the Vikings. He left football to pursue a boxing career, where he is 10-0 with six knockouts and one draw. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Defensive tackle Sean Gilbert

In 1998, the Redskins didn't match Carolina's $46.5 million offer sheet on the player they put the franchise tag on, so they got Carolina's first-round picks in 1999 and 2000. The Panthers ended up giving up two first-round picks and paid a ton to a player who got a combined 15.5 sacks in four seasons. Gilbert never came close to being the disruptive player he was in 1993, when he had 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl for the Rams. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Wide receiver Albert Connell

Though I considered a few cornerbacks (Dale Carter, Jason David and Brandon Browner), Connell wins out because of the bizarre way his career ended in New Orleans -- and in the NFL, for that matter. The Saints signed him to a five-year, $14 million contract in 2001, with a $2.5 million signing bonus. But he caught only 12 passes in 11 games before he was caught on camera stealing a total of $4,363 from teammate Deuce McAllister's car and locker. Connell claimed it was a prank and that the story was blown out of proportion, and McAllister declined to press charges. Still, it was enough for the team to suspend Connell and eventually release him after one year. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wide receiver Alvin Harper

The Bucs gave Harper a four-year, $10.66 million contract in 1995 after he caught 124 passes for 2,486 yards and 18 touchdowns in five seasons with Dallas. Harper, however, wasn't playing next to Michael Irvin in Tampa, and he caught only 65 passes for 922 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons. He was cut after the 1996 season and caught only two passes for the rest of his career. -- Mike DiRocco

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Running back Emmitt Smith

The three-time Super Bowl champ and four-time rushing champ signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Cardinals in 2003 and was a shadow of the back he once was. In two seasons he ran for 1,193 yards -- fewer rushing yards than he had in a single season nine times. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry with the Cardinals, and the team went 10-22. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Wide receiver Drew Bennett

The Rams have had more than their share of high-prices misses in free agency over the years, including the misguided belief that Jamie Duncan was a suitable replacement for London Fletcher. But they didn't publicly sell any of their pickups harder than Bennett. With franchise legends Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt near the end of their time in St. Louis, the Rams pegged Bennett as the next in line at the position. In 2007, they gave Bennett a six-year, $30 million deal with $10 million in guarantees. In exchange, the Rams got 34 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns in only 15 games over two seasons. The Rams' search for adequate replacements for Bruce and Holt continues to this day. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers

Wide receiver Mario Manningham

After 160 catches for 2,315 yards, 18 touchdowns and a clutch Super Bowl catch for the Giants, the Niners inked Manningham to a two-year, $7.37 million contract in 2012. He repaid them with 51 receptions for 534 yards and 1 TD in 18 games, 13 starts, over two seasons. A knee injury suffered late in his first year with the Niners sealed his fate and suddenly, he was out of the league. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks

Quarterback Matt Flynn

The Seahawks signed him to a three-year, $26 million deal during the 2012 offseason. At that point, Flynn had started a total of two games in his four-year NFL career with the Packers. Russell Wilson beat him out for the starting job, and Flynn threw a total of nine passes as a member of the Seahawks. He got $10 million in guaranteed money, which averages out to $2 million per completion. Flynn took a jab at Brock Osweiler's new deal earlier this offseason, but he made out quite nicely with his contract from the Seahawks four years ago. -- Sheil Kapadia