The 2021 NFL free agency has been fun, hasn’t it? Players moving to new teams, some players deciding to stay with their current squad, and some players deciding to call it quits altogether. Most of the time, franchises get it right, but the other teams, that’s who makes up our worst deals in free agency.
Whether it’s too much money or just a bad player going to a new team there are plenty of reasons that could get you on the list of the worst deals in free agency this year. It’s a time of the year that normally has big money being thrown around over multiple years. This offseason has been different due to the COVID pandemic.
We all know teams were forced to play without fans in the stadium and as a result the powers that be didn’t quite make as much money as they thought they might. For that reason, the CAP number was dropped significantly and teams had to come to terms with limited money to spend.
As usual, the CAP number seems to become less relevant as teams find a way to manipulate the number and push money into the future or use voidable years. That being said, the one-year prove-it deal has certainly been more popular in 2021. Is that a good thing for the team or the player?
2021 NFL Free Agency: The Worst Deals So Far
JuJu Smith-Schuster Deal | Good Or Bad?
Take JuJu Smith-Schuster for example. He certainly won’t be on our worst deals list as compared to other wide receivers in free agency. The Pittsburgh Steelers got him as a steal. He has chosen the one-year prove-it deal. Good for Pittsburgh as they get a star receiver back for another year but not quite as good for Smith-Schuster. Yes, he gets to play with a star quarterback again and bump up his stock for free agency next year. But if Ben Roethlisberger or Smith-Schuster gets injured, he leaves himself with no job security for 2022.
It’s never an easy decision and you can find positives or negatives in any deal. Let’s get onto the deals that the negatives are pretty obvious.
Worst Deals In Free Agency
So the worst deals in the 2021 NFL free agency, as previously mentioned, have several factors to make up a bad deal. Teams watched in 2020 as certain players balled out and forgot about how they played in previous years. Baring that in mind let’s get straight to our worst deals this offseason.
First up on our dreaded list is wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Now, before we start I know it’s a brave decision to call out Bill Belichick but even the great one, the dark overlord can make mistakes right? I guess we won’t know for a while yet but on the face of it, this isn’t a good deal for the New England Patriots.
Agholor is going from earning the league minimum for a veteran to being paid like a number one receiver. He is set to earn $22 million over two years and given the way the dead money would work out he is likely to earn all of it. Given his recent progression, this isn’t great for the Patriots.
For the 2021 season, he is set to earn $7 million against the cap. In 2020 Agholor managed to put up 896 yards and eight touchdowns. This was his best season by far but he has failed to put up these sort of numbers regularly. In the previous two seasons, he only managed seven touchdowns combined. Not exactly wide receiver one material.
His lack of performance and the fact that he is not getting any younger makes giving him wide receiver one money all the stranger. As previously mentioned JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to earn $8 million over the course of a year. $1 million more than Agholor but he is considerably younger and has far more of an upside.
Like I said, who am I to question the great Bill Belichick? But as deals go, this one will raise a lot of questions.
After all the quarterback drama of the 2021 offseason, one name that was barely mentioned was Andy Dalton. Dalton spent a year at the Dallas Cowboys after Dak Prescott went out down with an injury. Performing steadily, he held his own but couldn’t lead the Cowboys to a division title in a weak NFC East.
Dalton has always been considered a middle-of-the-road quarterback and other than getting the Cincinnati Bengals to the playoffs on a few occasions he hasn’t really done much as a starting quarterback in the NFL. That being said he is a steady performer and is probably an upgrade from Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles.
What makes this one of the worst deals in free agency, is when you look at who the Chicago Bears could have had. Russell Wilson was available and the Bears made a hard run at him. Perhaps they should have pushed harder at him and got themselves a truly great quarterback for the first time in franchise history.
Deshaun Watson is most likely available. Yes, the Houston Texans have denied he is available but by bringing in Tyrod Taylor at $12.5 million it looks more and more likely that Watson will be playing elsewhere. Another shot at a truly great franchise that the Bears didn’t get.
As I said, Dalton is reasonable and is probably an upgrade from what they operated with during 2020, but players like Wilson and Watson don’t become available often. When they do, you get them and worry about the cost later.
Next up on our list is an edge rusher who has got better and better each year he has progressed. That progression is going to stop. Bud Dupree has been with the Pittsburgh Steelers since he joined the league in 2015. After struggling to get going in 2017 he began to break out into a quality edge rusher.
So why is this a bad move in free agency? Well, when you look at 2017 and who the Steelers added it is clear to see why Dupree improved. With the 30th pick in the 2017 draft, the Steelers selected T.J. Watt. Since he joined the NFL he has been a wrecking machine and has been the best edge rusher in that timespan.
With T.J. Watt getting so much attention it made it easier for Dupree to build up his stats and get to the quarterback. Dupree is a good player but without Watt, he has failed to impress. Tennessee has paid him handsomely and his stats would certainly warrant the money, but we have yet to see any evidence to suggest he can perform without a quality pass rusher opposite him.
As well as that he is coming off an ACL injury. An ACL injury isn’t the career-ending injury it used to be, but in a position that is about quickness off the snap and power with the legs, it may have an impact on his productivity going forward. Tennessee decided to sign him to a five-year deal worth up to $82.5 million. $35 million of which are guaranteed. Big money for someone who has questions looking over him.
For the second time on this list, I am questioning the greatness of Bill Belichick. Hunter Henry has earned himself tight end one money in his new deal with the Patriots. Great for him, but much like Nelson Agholor it’s not great for the New England Patriots.
In his five seasons in the league, he has missed 25 games and missed the entirety of the 2018 season. He has never surpassed 700 receiving yards in a season and since his rookie year, he has never managed more than five touchdowns.
With Jonnu Smith signed on a big-money deal and Hunter Henry, the Patriots are going back to their two tight end approach. The problem is they are giving them both tight-end one money and paying them a lot of it.
Cam Newton still has to answer plenty of questions about whether or not he is still a top quarterback and having two tight ends is bound to help him. Whether or not it helps the Patriots in the long term will be interesting to see.
Lastly on our list are the Cincinnati Bengals and yet another edge-rusher who has been overpaid in 2021. Trey Hendrickson has signed a four-year $60 million deal. In 2020, Hendrickson did perform well and racked up 13.5 sacks. No wonder he got paid, right?
In three years before 2020, he managed a combined 6.5 sacks. Much like Bud Dupree, he performed well with another excellent pass rusher playing opposite him. The only difference to Dupree is that Hendrickson has only done it for one season.
Much like his sacks he only has one good season in terms of QB hits. In 2020 he totaled 25. Another strong performance, but in the three years prior he managed nine, four, and five respectively. Paying someone that amount of money after one-year will always be a risk and it is part of the game that we love.
With Cincinnati having needs in lots of different positions paying a one-year wonder a huge amount seems like a rash decision. Having watched Joe Burrow get beaten up for a year should have made the Bengals spend big on the offensive line and not on an edge rusher with one good season.
Main Image Credit