A $200 million spending spree actually worked out for the New York Giants, who signed four coveted defensive free agents this past offseason in Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison and their own Jason Pierre-Paul. Those four have helped transform one of the league’s worst defenses of 2015 into an upper-echelon unit that ranks third in defensive scoring and has allowed a league-low 24 offensive touchdowns through 15 games.
Usually free-agent signings do not work out so well for teams -- due to high expectations or hiccups meshing in a new system, among other reasons. Now that the 2016 regular season is almost entirely in the books, let’s take a look at the biggest free agency whiffs.
Chris Ivory, RB -- Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars lack a good group of run blockers but Ivory isn’t missing many tacklers, either. Jacksonville signed the 28-year-old rusher to lead their backfield after his career year in New York and now Ivory is averaging fewer than 40 yards rushing per game through 11 games played (3.8 yards per carry) and has fumbled five times. It doesn’t help that Jacksonville routinely falls behind and abandons the run. Nevertheless, Jacksonville is getting very little production from a guy signed for 5 years and $32 million ($10M guaranteed).
Coby Fleener, TE -- New Orleans Saints
During the last round of free agency, the Colts chose between tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener -- who’s less adept at run blocking -- and it appears they chose right. Looking for a big receiving target to replace Jimmy Graham, the Saints grabbed the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder for 5 years and $36 million ($18M guaranteed) but Fleener has become an afterthought in the Saints offense. He's played under a half of the offense’s snaps in several games this year in a diminished role. There’s certainly a lot of mouths for Drew Brees to feed in New Orleans but the Saints bargained for more than 47 catches, 593 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Donald Stephenson, RT -- Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ Achilles heels in its failed championship defense has been its struggle to stop the run and inability to run the football. Signed for 3 years and $14 million ($10M guaranteed) after four seasons in Kansas City, Stephenson has been an abject disaster in run and pass blocking. He even got benched for overmatched backup Ty Sambrailo, who was destroyed by Justin Houston in Week 10 before Denver coach Gary Kubiak threw Stephenson back in there after 20 snaps. Out of 74 qualified tackles, Pro Football Focus has him ranked dead last with a consciousness-shocking 27.6 grade.
Derrick Shelby, DE -- Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were banking on upside and a desperate, seemingly perpetual need to boost its defensive line when the team signed Shelby for four years and $18 million ($7.5M guaranteed). It didn’t work out very well in year one as Shelby was ineffective/invisible as a pass rusher, registering zero sacks and five hurries on 174 passing downs. Unfortunately Shelby went down for the season when he tore his Achilles in Week 6 at Seattle.
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Joe Barksdale, RT -- San Diego Chargers
The former Ram is not having a Donald Stephenson-like year at right tackle but it hasn’t been pretty. He’s not particularly athletic, has struggled in run blocking, almost constantly allows pressure on Philip Rivers in pass protection and also has gotten flagged for six false start penalties this season. That’s a pretty huge disappointment for a guy inked to a four year, $22.2 million deal ($10.5 guaranteed).
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Coty Sensabaugh, DB -- Los Angeles Rams
Sensabaugh is now a member of the New York Giants, which tells you how well things went for the cornerback in L.A. The Rams signed the 28-year-old for three years, $14 million but by Week 4 the Rams made him a healthy scratch and then he was released. After a spate of injuries the Giants added him for depth and he’s played limited snaps on a one-year deal. His play has been slightly below-average, same as it was before the Rams signed him, which is why the deal was a head-scratcher in the first place.
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Brock Osweiler, QB -- Houston Texans
The Texans are married to Osweiler for at least one more season by virtue of his contract structure and things could turn around, but the gamble on the unproven QB has proven to be a disaster. Well, near-disaster since head coach Bill O’Brien turned to Tom Savage in time to salvage a win over the Jaguars in Week 15 and capture the AFC South title in Week 16. But Osweiler was truly horrific in 2016 -- inaccurate, jittery in the pocket, interception-prone and showing a knack for getting balls batted down at the line. The 26-year-old has “said the right things” since his demotion, perhaps because life is better when you’ve already netted $37 million guaranteed.