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Darnold Among 7 Worst Signings in First Week of Free Agency

quarterback Sam Darnold

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We admit, it is far too early to be shaking our heads in wonder and tearing up ticket requests after looking at some of the moves made since the NFL’s business year began. Yet, we are puzzled by many of them.

Here are seven that stand out from the first week of free agency:

7 Worst Signings So Far

1. QB Sam Darnold to 49ers

Few teams have made better personnel moves in recent seasons than the San Francisco 49ers. We can’t put the signing of Sam Darnold to a one-year, $4.5 million contract in that category. Indeed, Darnold has proven a few things in his five NFL seasons: He rarely stays healthy, he just as rarely plays well and he even less often wins games (21-34 overall record). The 49ers needed a mentor type of quarterback to help in the development of Brock Purdy and Trey Lance, who both come off major injuries. Darnold is not that.

Andre Dillard tackle Philadelphia Eagles

2. OT Andre Dillard to Titans

The Tennessee Titans' desperation in the trenches showed mightily when they gave tackle Andre Dillard $29 million over three years. Perhaps Dillard learned a lot watching the best offensive line in the league while with the Philadelphia Eagles. He never broke through to become a starter, was frequently injured, and, for a 2019 first-round draftee, has been a huge disappointment.

3. WR Jakobi Meyers to Raiders

Perhaps there will be some positive karma involved with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers leaving the New England Patriots for the Las Vegas Raiders. He never will be able to make Patriots fans forget his incredibly misguided lateral that lost a crucial late-season game at Allegiant Stadium. Could he become a big-time pass-catcher for the Raiders while earning $33 million over three seasons? Possibly, but JuJu Smith-Schuster got a similar contact with – you guessed it – the Patriots, and is a better player. The Raiders could have signed him away from division dominator Kansas City, instead.  

4. RB David Montgomery to Lions

OK, this makes some sense in that David Montgomery replaces Jamaal Williams in the Detroit Lions' backfield and takes him away from the division rival Chicago Bears. The money is what we don’t get: The Lions are paying Montgomery $18 million over three seasons, while Williams got $12 million over three from New Orleans. Remember that Williams scored a league-leading 17 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, while Montgomery, put up 801 yards and five touchdowns. It seems keeping Williams would have been more sensible.

5. QB Jarrett Stidham to Broncos

Even though his resume doesn’t show it, Jarrett Stidham seems to be a coveted QB. Raiders coach Josh McDaniels lauded him late last season when he dismissed Derek Carr and elevated Stidham. Then Sean Payton, who knows a little about quarterbacks, moved in to give the unproven Stidham $10 million over two years to switch within the AFC West to the Denver Broncos. Is he going to unseat Russell Wilson in the Rockies? We don’t think Wilson will struggle again the way he did last season, and there’s little evidence to show Stidham would succeed if he did. There were more logical moves for a second-stringer.

Marcus Davenport defensive end New Orleans Saints

6. DE Marcus Davenport to Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings spent $13 million for 2023 to secure defensive end Marcus Davenport. Their defense was so mediocre that their runaway NFC North title looked bogus when the New York Giants handled them in the wild-card round. Thinking the answer is Davenport, who is skilled but too often injured, is wishful thinking. An underachiever since being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, he hasn’t threatened quarterbacks (just 21.5 sacks in five seasons) the way Minnesota needs him to.

7. TE Chris Manhertz to Broncos

Again, this is Sean Payton making a move on offense, and we try not to doubt his expertise in that area. Still, we must question if $6 million over two years for blocking tight end Chris Manhertz is a wise investment. The soon-to-be 31-year-old Manhertz, who played a season in New Orleans under Payton, adds some value, but the Broncos aren’t exactly stacked at the position. 

Barry Wilner was a sportswriter for the Associated Press for 46 years. He has covered virtually every major sporting event, including 14 Olympics, 9 World Cups, 34 Super Bowls, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Final, and has written 75 books. Follow him on Twitter @Wilner88