The Denver Broncos, like just about every NFL team, have made some really bad free-agent signings over the course of their history.
It's April Fools Day, but rather than try and play a trick on people in this article, we will instead talk about the worst of the worst. In this case, we are going to be talking about some bad free-agent signings.
Like the draft, a team is not going to hit on every player in brings in during free agency. And just like the draft having busts, there are free-agent busts as well.
The Broncos are a team that has brought in some excellent free agents over the years, particularly with John Elway in charge. The team that won Super Bowl 50 did so due in large part to free agents that were brought in such as Peyton Manning, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.
But Elway has made some bad moves as well and generally, for most teams, for every great free-agent signing you don't have to look too far to find a really bad one. Last offseason, Elway brought in Bryce Callahan and Ja'Wuan James. While neither player will be on this list, those signings have proven to be atrocious thus far, though hope is still out that both players will bounce back in 2020.
So who is on the list? What made these players land on this list?
In short, these players gave little to no production relative to the big-money deals they received from the team. With that said, here are the five worst free-agent signings in Broncos history.
No. 5: Menelik Watson
Following the 2016 season, Elway knew he needed to work on rebuilding the offensive line, and he zeroed in on the right tackle spot. Ty Sambrailo and Donald Stephenson had both played below-average football at that position and he was looking for an upgrade.
He decided to bring in Menelik Watson, a former second-round pick of the Oakland Raiders. He had made 17 starts for the Raiders, but he wasn't particularly great for them. Elway thought he could slide him into the Broncos' system and gave him a three-year, $18.75 million contract.
Watson only started seven games for the Broncos in 2017 and in those starts, he looked absolutely lost on the field. In fact, he may have been even worse than Sambrailo and Stephenson, which was hard to do.
A calf injury landed him on injured reserve in November, ending his season.
In 2018, the Broncos were looking to see if Watson might be able to play guard for the team and hopefully, the team could get something out of the deal that it gave him. But nothing would ever really come of that as a pectoral injury that summer forced the team's hand, and he was released.
Watson has never played in the NFL since and his career will be easily forgotten, specifically the time he spent in Denver.
No. 4: Jarvis Green
Jarvis Green was selected in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the New England Patriots and in eight seasons with them, he was part of two Super Bowl-winning squads. He quietly turned himself into a solid piece of the defense while there as well.
Green played in 121 games for the Patriots, notching 152 tackles and nine forced fumbles along with a respectable 28 sacks. But following the 2009 season, the Patriots allowed him to test the waters of free agency.
Bill Belichick always seems to know when he has gotten the most out of his players, and that was the case with Green.
At 31 years old, he landed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Broncos. But the team literally paid him what they paid him ($3.25 million was guaranteed) for nothing. Remember, back in 2010, Josh McDaniels was the Broncos' head coach.
He was familiar with Green from their time together in New England, but he changed his mind quickly when he shockingly cut Green prior to the start of the season. It was shocking because Green had just signed a big contract.
Ryan McBean was the player who ended up beating out Green for a spot on the roster. Green never played one regular-season down in Denver.
He also never played a regular-season down again. The Houston Texans signed him later that season but he never stepped on the field. His career promptly ended following that season.
No. 3: Eddie Kennison
Eddie Kennison is a former Broncos wide receiver who fans love to forget. The No. 18 overall pick of the 1996 draft, Kennison was productive in each of his stops in the league... except Denver.
He began his career with the St. Louis Rams before being traded to the New Orleans Saints in 1999. That year, he led the team with 61 receptions.
In 2000, he was again traded, this time to the Chicago Bears. He tied for the team lead with 55 receptions that year and the Broncos identified him as a player they could put with Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey to form a terrific trio.
The Broncos gave him a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $500,000 signing bonus.
After eight games in which he only caught 15 passes, he quit on the team the night before a game that season. He claimed that his heart was no longer in the game and he decided to retire. But just weeks later, he was able to unretire and not only sign with a new team, but with rival Kansas City.
Mike Shanahan and the Denver organization was furious over the turn of events, especially when Kennison became an integral part of the Chiefs' offense and did damage against Denver in games between the two teams.
Kennison actually played in more games than Watson and Green, but he is definitely one of the more disliked players in team history.
No. 2: Dale Carter
Boy was there some excitement following this signing.
Dale Carter was drafted in the first round of the 1992 draft by the Chiefs and in seven seasons with the team, he lived up to the billing.
He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1992 and was later selected to four straight Pro Bowls along with being named an All-Pro in 1995 and 1996. Following the 1998 season, The Broncos got tired of playing against Carter and lured him away.
A four-year, $22.8 million deal helped convince Carter to join the division rival. The deal made him the league's highest-paid defensive back. But unfortunately for the Broncos, they didn't get the Carter that they played against many times.
Carter played in 14 games during the 1999 season. He had two interceptions. Those were the only two interceptions he ever had for the team, so if you break it down, the team paid him several million dollars per interception.
Following that season, Carter violated the league's policy against substance abuse for a fourth time and was subsequently suspended for the entire 2000 season. The Broncos released him in 2001.
Carter went on to continue his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Saints and Baltimore Ravens. But all those teams gave him a discounted contract. The Broncos were the team that got burned.
No. 1: Daryl Gardener
Daryl Gardener is the worst free-agent signing ever by the Broncos.
Another former first-round pick. Gardener put together six good seasons with the Miami Dolphins before spending a season with the Washington Redskins.
His time in Denver can best be described as turbulent and weird.
Gardener got nearly $35 million for seven years, but he managed to play in just five games. That summer, he injured his wrist getting into a fight at a restaurant. Later that year, he was suspended two different times for conduct detrimental to the team, most notably talking ill of head coach Mike Shanahan on a radio show.
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Gardener didn't ever exhibit the desire to play for the Broncos, which was unfortunate because he was a physical specimen to be sure. He stood 6-foot-6 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. He had supreme athleticism to go with it.
But the Broncos could not put up with all the distractions and it's impossible to blame them for that. He was released by the team just months after agreeing to the deal with the team and would never play football again.
For these reasons, he is an easy choice as the worst free-agent signing in team history.
But we can't be completely negative against Gardener. Since leaving football, he took up competitive bodybuilding and aimed to create a direction in his life that would help kids who were less fortunate.
That said, Gardener is a good example of how a bad free-agent contract looks. The team almost instantly regretted this one.