Almost all of the big names in free agency are off the market less than one month into the 2015 signing period. But as history has proven, the most expensive free-agent acquisitions often don’t provide the best value. FOX Sports Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez lists the top 20 bargain-basement players from the past three seasons.
After stints with four other teams in his first six NFL seasons, Forsett flourished for the Ravens last year with 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. Baltimore re-signed Forsett to a three-year, $9 million contract last month.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
CB Antonio Comartie (Arizona, 1 year, $3.25 million, 2014)
Cromartie rebounded from a disappointing 2013 campaign with the New York Jets to earn Pro Bowl honors in Arizona. He returned to the Jets this offseason with a four-year, $32 million contract that included $16 million guaranteed.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
WR Steve Smith Sr. (Baltimore, 3 years, $10.5 million, 2014)
Unceremoniously dumped by Carolina last year after 13 seasons, the 35-year-old Smith showed he still had plenty left in the tank. He caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns with the Ravens.
Getty ImagesAlex Menendez
S Mike Adams (Indianapolis, 1 year, $955,000, 2014)
Signed to a veteran’s minimum contract last June, Adams proceeded to enjoy his first career Pro Bowl berth at age 33 as Indianapolis’ best safety. The Colts re-signed Adams to a new two-year, $4.25 million contract last month.
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY SportsPat Lovell
WR Emmanuel Sanders (Denver, 3 years, $15 million, 2014)
Of the free-agent wideouts who changed teams in 2014, none was more prolific than Sanders after he came to Denver from Pittsburgh. Sanders caught 101 passes for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns.
Getty ImagesJustin Edmonds
S Patrick Chung (New England, $1.07 million, 2014)
The second time around in New England was much better for Chung after a poor 2013 season in Philadelphia led to his Eagles release. A 2009 second-round Patriots pick, Chung played so well after rejoining New England that he signed a three-year, $8.2 million extension in January.
Getty ImagesRob Carr
DE Jeremy Mincey (Dallas, 3 years, $3 million, 2014)
A one-time standout in Jacksonville who was released less than two years into a four-year, $27.2 million contract, Mincey regained his mojo with the Cowboys. He led Dallas in sacks last season with six.
Getty ImagesMike McGinnis
CB Brandon Flowers (San Diego, 1 year, $3 million, 2014)
Released late in the 2014 offseason by Kansas City, Flowers opted for a short-term deal with the Chargers in hopes of cashing in this offseason. The gamble paid off as Flowers parlayed a strong effort in San Diego into a four-year, $36 million extension.
A 2009 first-round pick who flamed out in Tennessee after five seasons, Britt rejuvenated himself last season with a career-high 48 catches for 748 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams re-signed Britt to a two-year, $9.15 million contract.
A 2009 first-round draft bust in Oakland, McClain played the best football of his NFL career in helping to stabilize the Cowboys’ defense following the loss of middle linebacker Sean Lee (knee). McClain was recently re-signed to a one-year deal that could total $3 million through play-time incentives.
CB Brent Grimes (Miami, one year, $5.4 million, 2013)
Then-Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland successfully gambled that Grimes could rebound from an Achilles tendon injury that ruined his 2012 season in Atlanta. Grimes reached the Pro Bowl and then signed a four-year, $32 million extension in 2014.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
DE Michael Bennett (Seattle, 1 year, $4.8 million, 2013)
Suitors cooled on Bennett because of shoulder concerns. Seattle’s gamble paid off when Bennett spearheaded the pass rush on the Super Bowl 48 winner. He signed a four-year, $32 million extension during the 2014 offseason.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
LB Karlos Dansby (Arizona, 1 year, $2.25 million, 2013)
Drafted by the Cardinals in 2004, Dansby returned following his Miami Dolphins release. Dansby played so well in 2013 that he scored a four-year, $24 million free-agent contract from Cleveland despite being in his early 30s.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
S Mike Mitchell (Carolina, 1 year, $1 million, 2013)
With the Panthers, Mitchell finally displayed the skill that late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis envisioned when making him a surprise 2009 second-round draft pick. He parlayed that season in Carolina into a five-year, $25 million deal with Pittsburgh.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
LT King Dunlap (San Diego, 2 years, $3.95 million, 2013)
Dunlap has far exceeded expectations after failing to distinguish himself in four years with Philadelphia. The Chargers kept Dunlap from testing free agency this offseason with a four-year, $28 million extension.
Seeking a veteran presence to replace the retired Ray Lewis, Smith joined the Ravens after spending his first nine seasons with Jacksonville. Smith did so well he signed a four-year, $13.2 million extension the following year.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
LB Dan Skuta (San Francisco, 2 years, $3 million, 2013)
Switching from 4-3 inside linebacker in Cincinnati to 3-4 outside linebacker in San Francisco paid big dividends for Skuta. Having taken advantage of playing time missed the past two seasons by starter Aldon Smith, Skuta signed a five-year, $20.5 million contract with Jacksonville this offseason.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
DT Terrance Knighton (Denver, 2 years, $4.5 million, 2013)
Knighton overcame the weight problems he experienced in Jacksonville to man the middle of Denver’s defense for two seasons. Knighton recently signed a one-year, $4.45 million contract with Washington.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
CB Charles Woodson (Oakland, 1 year, $1.18 million, 2012)
With scant free-agent interest for his services, Woodson took a low-end deal from the Raiders hoping to extend his Hall of Fame career. Woodson has since played well enough to sign two more one-year contracts in Oakland and is the NFL’s oldest active defensive player at age 38.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
LB Philip Wheeler (Oakland, 1 year, $700,000, 2012)
A 109-tackle season with the Raiders caused Wheeler’s free-agent stock to skyrocket. He signed a five-year, $26 million contract with Miami in the 2013 offseason but was released last month following two disappointing seasons.