Well-run front offices know the best way to achieve sustained success in the NFL is to build through the draft, while using free agency to augment your roster with productive veterans whose skill sets match your team's scheme. But all front offices aren't well-run.
Perhaps an impatient owner seeks to placate a grumbling season-ticket base by waving his or her checkbook in front of a veteran who was just looking to get his last big payday, or maybe a general manager flat-out whiffs on whether the player fits the scheme.
Our list of worst free-agent signings includes examples of both, as well as teams that ignored the red flags that a free agent's age, injury history and/or recent on- and off-field performances were signaling.
You'll see numerous references to Football Outsiders stats, such as DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement); explanations of those stats can be found here.
10) Larry Brown, CB, Oakland Raiders (1996)
No top 10 list of worst free-agent signings is complete without cornerback Larry Brown, so we'll get it out of the way early. A 12th-round pick out of TCU in 1991, Brown had started 87 regular-season and playoff games for the Dallas Cowboys, including three Super Bowls, before his two interceptions of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell earned him MVP honors following Super Bowl XXX. Brown's big performance is likely what earned him a five-year, $12.5 million contract from Al Davis and the Raiders. A zone corner, Brown struggled to earn playing time in an Oakland secondary that used primarily man-to-man coverage. In 12 games over two seasons, including a 1997 season in which he played in a nickel corner role (in those rare times he was actually on the field), Brown intercepted one pass before he was released and re-signed by the Cowboys in 1998.