Every NFL Team's Worst Free Agent Signing: AFC West

Updated on March 31, 2020
Ty Tayzlor profile image

TT is an online writer with over five years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.

The team logos in the AFC West.
The team logos in the AFC West.

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 West squad's worst free agency pickup.

  • Denver Broncos: Daryl Gardener
  • Kansas City Chiefs: Kendrell Bell
  • Los Angeles Chargers: David Boston
  • Oakland Raiders: Larry Brown and Desmond Howard

Daryl Gardener
Daryl Gardener

Denver Broncos: Daryl Gardener

He was known more for what he did off the field than anything he did on the field in Denver.

A first round pick in 1996 out of Baylor by the Miami Dolphins, Daryl Gardener was a physical gem at 6'7" and 295 lbs. In his first seven seasons in Miami and Washington, the self-proclaimed "modern-day gladiator" racked up 204 tackles, 19 sacks, and five fumble recoveries.

His Time With the Broncos

In 2003, Gardener signed with the Denver Broncos on a seven-year, $35 million contract, including a $5 million signing bonus. Shortly after signing his deal, he got into a fight at a Denver IHOP and injured his wrist, which required surgery. He would miss five games recovering from the incident.

He was also suspended twice by the Broncos for conduct detrimental to the team. This stemmed from Gardener bad-mouthing head coach Mike Shanahan to the press, calling him "a little man." He played in just five games in his one and only season in Denver and was released after the season. After his release, Gardener and the Broncos reached an undisclosed agreement when the team tried to reclaim his $5 million signing bonus.

Kendrell Bell
Kendrell Bell

Kansas City Chiefs: Kendrell Bell

Injuries kept him from being the player he once was.

A second round pick in 2001 out of Georgia by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kendrell Bell proved to be a perfect fit for the "Blitzburgh" defense. As a rookie, he started all 16 games, finishing with 83 tackles and nine sacks while being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

In 2002, he missed four games and parts of two others with a knee injury. In 2003, he set a career high in tackles with 99 and recorded his first career interception. The following year, he only played in three games due to two separate knee injuries.

His Time With the Chiefs

In 2005, Bell signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on a seven-year deal with $10 million guaranteed. The deal was a head-scratcher as he dealt with multiple knee injuries in Pittsburgh, and many other teams just offered one-year, prove-it deals. Bell ultimately went with the Chiefs as they were the only team to offer a multi-year contract.

He managed just 2.5 sacks in three seasons in Kansas City and never reached 50 tackles in a year. Bell was released following the 2007 season and was forced to retire due to repeated knee injuries.

David Boston
David Boston

Los Angeles Chargers: David Boston

He had so much talent, but he never achieved it with the Chargers.

A first round pick in 1999 out of Ohio State by the Arizona Cardinals, David Boston flashed big potential almost from the start. By his second season, he was the full-time starter and finished with 70 receptions for 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2001, he was named to the Pro Bowl after leading the league with 1,598 receiving yards to go along with 98 catches and eight touchdowns.

His Time With the Chargers

In 2003, Boston signed with the San Diego Chargers on a seven-year deal worth $47 million with $12 million guaranteed. Things went bad quickly; after the opening day game, head coach Marty Schottenheimer suspended Boston for a game for getting into a fight with the team's strength coach.

While his stats weren't horrible—70 receptions for 880 yards and seven touchdowns—he did have a consistent knack for dropping passes, which he attributed to his "bad hands." In the end, the Chargers had enough of his poor work ethic in practice, falling asleep in team meetings, drug and alcohol abuse, and clashing with teammates and coaches after one season.

Boston was traded to Miami the following offseason for a sixth round pick. He played in three more injury-riddled seasons with Miami and Tampa Bay before being released after being arrested for a DUI.

Larry Brown
Larry Brown
Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard

Oakland Raiders: Larry Brown and Desmond Howard

Al Davis gave big money to two Super Bowl MVPs, and neither of them panned out.

Larry Brown

A 12th round pick in 1991 out of TCU by the Dallas Cowboys, Larry Brown was initially so frustrated by the whole process, he walked away from training camp. By the fourth game of his rookie year, he became the starter at right cornerback and finished second on the team with 18 passes defended. In 1992, he led the league with 11 passes defended while helping Dallas to two consecutive Super Bowl victories.

When the Cowboys were about to sign Deion Sanders in 1995, Brown was nearly demoted to nickel corner, but Kevin Smith tore his Achilles and Brown was able to remain the starter. He went on to have his best season opposite Sanders, finishing with a team-leading six interceptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Brown went on to be named Super Bowl XXX MVP after intercepting two passes that set up two Dallas touchdowns.

Brown's Time With the Raiders

In 1996, Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders on a five-year deal worth $12.5 million with $3.5 million guaranteed. He was an absolute failure with the Silver and Black. He started just one game in two seasons in Oakland and only had one interception. By 1997, he was demoted to a backup role and suspended for four weeks by the team for conduct detrimental to the team.

History has shown Brown was an average-at-best cornerback who was the product of the Cowboys system—and for one shining moment, he was the recipient of two of the easiest interceptions in Super Bowl history. In reality, he went to the worst possible team for his skill set in the Raider's man coverage team, and he was more of a zone corner. He was released after the 1997 offseason and played one final season with Dallas before retiring from football.

Desmond Howard

A first round pick in 1992 out of Michigan by the Washington Redskins, Desmond Howard's performance as a receiver was secondary to his skills as a punt and kickoff returner throughout his career. Though he recorded just 92 receptions in his first four seasons, he excelled as a punt and kickoff returner. When he couldn't prove himself as a receiver, Washington released him after the 1994 season.

In his one season in Jacksonville, he had just 26 catches and one touchdown. Howard's big break came in 1996 with Green Bay as he led the league in punt returns, punt return yards, punt return average, and punt return touchdowns while helping the Packers to Super Bowl XXXI.

In the big game, Howard set a Super Bowl record with 90 punt return yards and 154 kick return yards, including a 99-yard kickoff return touchdown that cemented the Packers' victory. His performance won him the Super Bowl MVP award, and he is the only special teams player to win the award.

Howard's Time With the Raiders

In 1997, Howard signed with the Raiders on a four-year deal worth $6 million. He may have led the league in kick returns and kick return yards in his first season in Oakland and had two punt return touchdowns in year two, but he was next to useless on offense. Howard managed just six catches for 46 yards on offense, and the Raiders went 12-20 in his two seasons in Oakland.

I really don't know what Al Davis was expecting from Howard. He had played for three different teams in the three years before Oakland signed him and never had 1,000 yards receiving in a season. How Davis thought he would suddenly develop into something more than just a return man is beyond me. Howard spent his final years in Detroit before retiring after 2002.

$18.5 Million Wasted on These Two Players

In the end, the Raiders might as well flushed $18.5 million down the toilet as neither Larry Brown or Desmond Howard did anything to make the Raiders relevant once again.

People's Poll

Which AFC West team's signing was the biggest disappointment?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, howtheyplay.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)