Every NFL Team's Worst Free Agent Signing- NFC 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 NFC South squad's worst free agency pickup.
Atlanta Falcons- Ray Edwards
His attitude got on the way of his. On field production.
A fourth round pick in 2006 out of Purdue by the Minnesota Vikings, Ray Edwards saw the most playing time of any rookie on the roster. In his second season, he had five sacks and 30 tackles in 12 games while scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery against Detroit, but was suspended for the final four games for a violating the league's steroid policy. By 2008, he was a fulltime starter and had a breakout year in 2009 with 8.5 sacks.
In 2011, Edwards signed with the Atlanta Falcons on a five- year contract worth $27.5 million. After having 29.5 sacks in five years with Minnesota, he managed just 3.5 sacks in less than two years in the ATL. During the Falcons 8-1 start to 2012, Edwards was almost invisible with much of his snaps going to other, less paid players. He was released in mid November of 2012 as the team cited his poor attitude and work ethic as the reason for his dismissal. Edwards retired from football soon after to pursue a career in boxing.
Carolina Panthers- Chuck Smith
Injuries kept him from being the player he once was.
A second round pick in 1992 out of Tennessee by the Atlanta Falcons, Chuck Smith was mainly used as a backup his first two seasons. He had a breakout year in 1994 with 11 sacks and 36- yard interception returned for a touchdown. In 1997, he was named All-Pro after recording 12 sacks. In 1998, Smith helped the Falcons reach Super Bowl XXXIII but lost to the Denver Broncos.
In 2000, Smith signed with the division rival Carolina Panthers on a five- year deal worth $21 million with $4.5 million guaranteed. The signing was disastrous for the Panthers as Smith played in just two games recording just one tackle before suffering a serious knee injury. His knee never fully recovered from surgery and the team was forced to release him after failing a physical. The signing could have been great for Carolina had Smith stayed healthy as the Panthers would finish 1-15 in 2000.
New Orleans Saints- Jairus Byrd
An injury in his first year with his New Orleans ultimately doomed him.
A second round pick in 2009 out of Oregon by the Buffalo Bills, Jairus Byrd got his opportunity to start after Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott were injured. He took the most of his opportunity by tying and NFL record for consecutive games with two or more interceptions with three. The following week, he set the team record for consecutive games with an interception with five. By the end of the season, he was tied for the league lead in interceptions with nine and was named to the Pro Bowl. In five seasons in Buffalo, Byrd had 34 passes defended, three sacks, 22 interceptions, and two touchdowns.
In 2014, Byrd signed with the New Orleans Saints on a six- year deal worth $56 million with $28 million guaranteed. Four games into the 2014 season, he tore his lateral meniscus and was done for the season. He played well the following two seasons but was nowhere near the playmaker he was with the Bills and the Saints had among the worst pass defenses in the league over that time. Byrd managed just eight passes defended and three interceptions in three seasons in New Orleans before being released in 2017. He played the 2017 with Carolina and is currently a free agent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Alvin Harper
He couldn't be the number one receiver the team needed.
A first round pick in 1991 out of Tennessee by the Dallas Cowboys, Alvin Harper was brought in to pair with Michael Irvin and helped the Cowboys reach their first winning record since 1985. In 1992, he had the signature play of his career in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco were he caught a pass on a slant route and took it 70 yards to help set up the game clinching touchdown. In Super Bowl XXVII, Harper caught a 45- yard touchdown in the Dallas victory. By 1993, he established himself as one of the league's best deep threats with a 21.6 yards per catch average. He again had a key play in the 1993 NFC Championship against 49ers with Troy Aikman knocked out of the game with a concussion, Dallas backup quarterback Bernie Moser connected with Harper for a 42-yard touchdown. In Super Bowl XXVIII, he had a 16- yard reception to set up an Emmitt Smith touchdown as the Cowboys won their second consecutive Super Bowl. In 1994, Harper had his best statistical season as he led the league with a 24.9 yards per catch average, catching 33 passes for 821 yards and eight touchdowns.
In 1995, Harper signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a four- year deal worth $10.66 million. The Bucs signed him based on his big play ability and championship experience hoping he would bring that mentality to Tampa. Unfortunately, he never lived up to his billing as he was hurt almost immediately and only played in 25 games in two seasons. It was obvious he lacked all the skills to be a true number one option in an offense. Without a Michael Irvin to take away the coverage, Harper's shortcomings were quickly exposed. He was cut after the 1996 season and finished with 65 receptions for 922 yards and three touchdowns. Harper played three more years between Washington, Dallas, and the XFL before retiring from football in 2001.