Every NFL Team's Worst Free Agent Signing: AFC South
These teams paid big money to high-profile players with the hope that they would help their team to a championship, but all they got in return was regret. Today, I name each AFC South squad's worst free agency pickup.
- Houston Texans: Brock Osweiler
- Indianapolis Colts: LaRon Landry
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryce Paup
- Tennessee Titans: Yancey Thigpen
Houston Texans: Brock Osweiler
Houston hoped he'd learned some things from the man he backed up, but he couldn't play at a high level consistently.
A second round pick in 2012 out of Arizona State by the Denver Broncos, Brock Osweiler spent his first three seasons as Peyton Manning's backup, playing mop-up duty. In 2015, he got his first start in mid November against Chicago after Manning was injured. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in the 17-14 victory.
The following week, Osweiler led the Broncos to a win over the then-undefeated Patriots in overtime, 30-24. He was ultimately benched for a now-healthy Manning for the playoffs as the Broncos would win Super Bowl 50. On the year, Osweiler finished 5-2 as a starter, throwing for just under 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
His Time With the Texans
In 2016, Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans on a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed. All he seemed to do was disappoint the Texans fan base. Osweiler threw 16 interceptions to just 15 touchdowns in 15 starts. Late in the season, he was benched for Tom Savage after throwing back-to-back first half interceptions. He only got his starting job back after Savage suffered a concussion.
After beating an Oakland team in the wildcard round—who were playing without their starting quarterback Derek Carr—Houston was blown out by New England 34-16 in a game were Osweiler threw three interceptions. After the season, Osweiler was traded to Cleveland where he would soon be released as the Browns chose to go with DeShone Kizer. He has since spent another stint with Denver and is now trying to make Miami's roster.
Houston appears to have found their quarterback of the future in Desean Watson, but the strain Osweiler put on the cap and draft picks they had to five up to trade him away set them back more than they need.
Indianapolis Colts: LaRon Landry
A lot was expected of him after a strong year, but then he was dealt with league-forced suspensions.
A first round pick out of LSU in 2007 by the Washington Redskins, LaRon Landry was immediately named the starting strong safety alongside All-Pro Sean Taylor. After Taylor was murdered at his home in Miami on November 27, Landry moved to the free safety position across from strong safety Reed Doughty. He started all 16 games, recording 95 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and six passes defended. His impressive rookie season earned him a 2007 Pro Bowl alternate selection, and he was selected to the 2007 NFL All-Rookie Defensive Team.
In five years in Washington, he finished with 383 tackles, 31 passes defended, six forced fumbles, and four interceptions. After signing with the New York Jets in 2012, Landry had his best statistical season with 100 tackles, eight passes defended, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, and a touchdown while being named to the Pro Bowl.
His Time With the Colts
In 2013, Landry signed with the Indianapolis Colts on a four-year deal worth $24 million with $14 million guaranteed. He played ok in his first season as a Colt. He put up decent tackle numbers but failed to record an interception or forced fumble. The following season, the NFL hit him with a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Landry was released by the Colts following 2014. He was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2015 season for another violation of the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Months later, he tested positive for PEDs again, which resulted in an indefinite ban from the NFL as per league rules.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryce Paup
He is considered one of the greatest free agency signings ever, but not by Jacksonville.
A sixth round pick out of Northern Iowa in 1990 by the Green Bay Packers, Bryce Paup played in just five games as a rookie. His most iconic Packers moment came in 1991 when he tackled Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, ultimately sidelining Cunningham for the entire season.
In 1994, Paup made his first Pro Bowl after registering 7.5 sacks, three interceptions, and a touchdown. In 1995, he signed with the Buffalo Bills. In his first year with Buffalo, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the NFL with 17.5 sacks. In his three years with the Bills, Paup finished with 23 sacks and two interceptions.
His Time With the Jaguars
In 1998, Paup signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a six-year, $22 million contract. After 65.5 sacks in his first eight seasons, he had just 7.5 in 31 games with the Jaguars. While some claimed it was his age that caused his production slip, Paup himself says he was unhappy with the way he was used in Jacksonville because he was asked to drop into coverage, which wasn’t exactly his specialty. He spent one final season in Minnesota before retiring after the 2000 season.
Tennessee Titans: Yancey Thigpen
It wasn't that "Meatball" was horrible; he just didn't play to the level his salary would suggest.
A fourth round pick in 1991 out of Winston-Salem State by the San Diego Chargers, Yancey Thigpen was rarely used in his first three seasons. In 1994 in Pittsburgh, he had a breakout year and became a starter midway through the year. In 1995, he made the Pro Bowl and was named All-Pro, recording 85 receptions for 1,307 yards and five touchdowns while helping the Steelers reach Super Bowl XXX. Thigpen had three receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown in the team's loss in the big game.
After only playing in six games due to injuries in 1996, he rebounded in 1997 with 79 catches for 1,398 yards and seven touchdowns and making his second Pro Bowl and All-Pro team selections.
His Time With the Titans (Oilers)
In 1998, Thigpen signed with the Tennessee Oilers on a five-year, $21 million contract. The contract was the highest at that point in NFL history for a wide receiver. In three seasons in Tennessee, he never played in more than 10 games in a season, never caught 50 passes in a year, and managed only nine touchdowns.
Considering he was a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler, Tennessee invested thinking they would get that level of production. Unfortunately, due to injuries and the emergence of other players, Thigpen was cast aside for guys like Derrick Mason and Kevin Dyson and retired after the 2000 season.