We all have haunting regrets.
Mike Tyson regrets not smoking marijuana with 2Pac, while the Raiders front office has regrets of its own. (Hello/goodbye Randy Moss.)
For the last 13 years, Al Davis (and his son) tossed fat money at nearly every hole in the roster, producing head aching results. If NFL GMs have learned anything (from the Eagles’ and Redskins’ mistakes) in recent seasons, it’s that free agency splurges are no guarantee for success.
Revisiting dark times is painful, but there are lessons to be learned. Here are 10 (once-valued) free agents recruited by Oakland who provided the least return:
10) Mike Brisiel, OG
Brisiel seemed like a bargain when he signed with the Raiders for a five year, $20 million contact in 2012. The right guard was a reliable, tough run blocker with the Texans, and he fit Oakland’s new zone blocking scheme. Unfortunately, Brisiel struggled to create space and committed boneheaded fouls, and the zone blocking style was scrapped, leaving his role in question. In March, he restructured his base salary to avoid becoming a cap casualty.
9) Duane Starks, CB
One team’s garbage is apparently another team’s garbage. Starks was a ball hawking cornerback who was let go by the Patriots after one season (ended by injury), which raised no flags in the Raiders’ organization in 2006. At the corner’s advanced age, Oakland figured it was still adding safe secondary depth, but the result was much less. Starks made three brief game appearances before being released mid-campaign (to open a roster spot for rookie JaMarcus Russell). Starks was given another shot in the offseason, but was released in May.
8) Kerry Collins, QB
Shades of Carson Palmer? In 2004 Collins inked a three year, $16.8 million deal to serve as Rich Gannon’s backup, and became the starter following a career-ending neck injury to the former NFL MVP in week three. The 1995 fifth overall pick appeared to be a slam dunk addition on paper, but an inability to convert third downs overshadowed his adequate statistics and occasional heroics. Not the answer at quarterback, Collins was dumped two years into his deal.
7) Ron Bartell, CB
In 2012 the Raiders added Bartell for one year and $3 million, hoping the coverage standout (who also has nine career forced fumbles) with the Rams would fully recover from his 2011 neck problems. The veteran broke his shoulder blade in the season opener, and returned in week 10 to play uninspiringly, before getting his pink slip on December 10th.
6) Daunte Culpepper, QB
Oakland has a fetish for washed up quarterbacks. Culpepper, three years removed from his prime and and two years off from his devastating right knee injury, was brought in to keep the backup job occupied until Russell decided to end his holdout in 2007. In week one starter Josh McCown went down, giving the two-time All-Pro a chance. But to no one’s surprise (besides Al Davis), Culpepper had lost the mobility to elude pass rushers, and his attitude was no help in the losing atmosphere. If anything, he was far from a constructive influence on Russell.
5) LaMont Jordan, RB
Jordan was signed for five years and $27.5 million as part of the 2005 offensive overhaul (that landed Moss), despite being a career backup with the Jets. His first year in Silver and Black was promising, earning 11 total touchdowns, 1025 rushing yards and 70 receptions in 14 contests. However, Jordan tore his MCL the next season, and was relegated to committee-duty his third year. His price tag was too high for such a role, and he was subsequently released.
4) Kwame Harris, OT
A bust with the 49ers, Harris duped the Raiders in 2008 to believe overpaying him would bring out his best abilities. With a three year, $16 million contract, the money was there, but the discipline and pass protection was not. After one season and 11 starts at left tackle, Harris was cut and out of the league.
3) Gibril Wilson, SS
When Wilson agreed to a six year, $39 million deal with Oakland in 2008, he became the third highest paid active safety in the NFL. (That’s how playing on a Super Bowl team can help your pedigree.) The ex-Giant was solid, collecting 134 tackles (partly thanks to missed wrap-ups by the front seven) in 15 starts, but he was exposed for his mediocre coverage. The Raiders quickly realized Wilson’s salary was a horrible allocation of resources and cut ties with the veteran the following year.
2) Aaron Brooks, QB
Once upon a time, Brooks was a serviceable NFL signal caller. Then he suited up with Oakland and steered the franchise to its worst record in history (2-14). In 2006 Brooks was hired for a two year, $9 million pact to replace Collins and was viewed as the best remaining free agent thrower at the time (he started 13 games with the Saints the season before). In eight starts, the former Pro Bowler collected three touchdowns and eight interceptions, resulting in a career-low 61.7 passer rating. If you couldn’t guess, Brooks didn’t return for year two.
1) Javon Walker, WR
Walker’s deal is an eternal reminder to NFL GMs why you should never make knee-jerk reactions. The Broncos waived the wide receiver after failing to trade him in 2008, which raised concerns with every football squad except the Raiders. Davis happily recruited Walker with a six year, $55 million contract, and this was not even the team’s most mocked move in the offseason (see: Tommy Kelly extension). Nagging right knee issues hindered the veteran for his entire stay in the organization (which included a secret medical procedure). After two forgotten seasons Walker was released, and in 13 game appearances he produced 15 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Perhaps all this money could have been better spent.