Three springs ago, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross celebrated after landing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the undisputed biggest fish of NFL Free Agency Frenzy ’15.
This, Ross said of the five-year, $110 million deal, “was probably one of the great free agent signings, at least this year, if not on a historical basis.”
This week, the Dolphins released Suh to save $17 million against their salary cap. They’ll carry $22 million in dead money over the next two years as a reminder of what was at the time the richest contract ever given to an NFL defender.
Suh made $60 million for 15 1/2 sacks in three years. The Dolphins went 22-26 and 0-1 in the playoffs while ranking 26th, 21st and 25th in sacks per pass attempt, and 28th, 30th and 14th in run defense.
Yet another cautionary tale at this time of year. But Suh shouldn’t be considered a classic bust. He played in every game and wasn’t a bad player. He was just massively overpaid by a mismanaged team.
If you’re looking for NFL free agency busts, check out this top 10:
10, Adam Archuleta, safety, Redskins, 2006
He left St. Louis to become the highest-paid safety in history at the time (six years, $30 million). He started seven games in his one and only season in Washington.
9, Neil O’Donnell, quarterback, Jets, 1996
He was an OK Steelers quarterback who threw two of the worst interceptions in Super Bowl history in losing to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. The Jets handed him their richest free agent deal at the time (five years, $25 million). Neil went 0-6 in 1996 and was parted ways a year later with an 8-12 record as a Jet.
8, Dana Stubblefield, defensive tackle, Redskins, 1998
He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in San Francisco in 1997. He had 15 sacks. The Redskins gave him a six-year, $36 million deal. He had seven sacks in three years in Washington.
7, Ahman Green, running back, Texans, 2007
Unfortunately for 30-year-old running backs, teams have gotten smarter about signing 30-year-old running backs. Green ran for an NFL-high 6,848 yards with the Packers from 2000-04. A month after his 30th birthday, the Texans gave him a four-year, $23 million deal with $8 million in the first year. He spent two years in Houston, running for 554 yards.
6, Larry Brown, cornerback, Raiders, 1996
As a Cowboy, Brown benefited from not dropping O’Donnell’s two horrible interceptions in Super Bowl XXX. The Raiders pounced with $12. 5 million over five years with $3.5 million guaranteed. A lot at the time. In two seasons with the Raiders, Brown played in 12 games with one start.
5, Dale Carter, cornerback, Broncos, 1999
He was a four-time Pro Bowl corner with the Chiefs. The Broncos made him one of the highest-paid defensive backs in the league (four years, $22.8 million with $8 million guaranteed). He started 14 games in 1999, got suspended for substance abuse for all of 2000 and was released before the 2001 season.
4, David Boston, receiver, Chargers, 2003
He was a 25-year-old rising star when he left Arizona after the 2002 season. The Chargers handed him a seven-year deal worth $47.4 million. His San Diego career lasted 14 games with four victories. After one season, the Chargers were so fed up with his attitude and poor work ethic that they traded him to Miami for a sixth-round draft pick.
3, Brock Osweiler, quarterback, Texans, 2016
Brock was 5-2 with 305 career passing attempts when Houston jumped on the young Broncos QB. With everyone’s mouths agape, Houston handed over a four-year, $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed. Osweiler lasted 15 games and was traded to Cleveland along with two draft picks for one of the Browns’ picks.
2, Andre Rison, receiver, Browns, 1995
The Browns made the playoffs in 1994. A young coach named Bill Belichick beat the Patriots in a wild-card game before losing at Pittsburgh the following week. Popular sentiment suggested the only thing standing between the Browns and a Super Bowl was an elite receiver. Owner Art Modell, essentially broke as an owner at the time, went to several local banks before being able to sign Rison for five years and $17 million, the richest deal ever for a receiver at the time. Rison was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons and considered the second-best receiver in the league behind Jerry Rice. In Cleveland, he caught just 47 passes and became a villain when he cursed the fans after the team’s move to Baltimore in 1996 was announced at midseason.
1, Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle, Redskins, 2009
Haynesworth probably sits at the top of most of these lists because he took the money and essentially gave up. He was the league’s best interior defensive lineman with 8 1/2 sacks for Tennessee in 2008. The Redskins swung hard once again. And whiffed mightily once again. They gave Haynesworth a seven-year, $100 million deal with $41 million guaranteed. The lackadaisical Haynesworth also didn’t fit his new defense. He started 12 games in two seasons with Washington. After 2 1/2 sacks and just 13 tackles in 2010, he was traded to New England. He lasted just one more season, notching zero sacks with the Patriots and Buccaneers.