15 worst free agent signings in Denver Broncos franchise history

Sayre Bedinger
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2. Daryl Gardener, DL (2003)

The Denver Broncos signed Daryl Gardener in the 2003 offseason to a seven-year deal worth $34.8 million and some will argue that he is the absolute worst signing in team history as a free agent.

Gardener was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 1996 NFL Draft and ended up playing for them until 2001. He started to emerge in his late 20s as a true presence on the defensive line and signed a one-year deal with Washington in 2002 where he racked up 52 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Gardener parlayed that into his mega-deal with the Broncos in 2003, but unfortunately for all parties involved, his time in Denver was very short.

Gardener played in just five games as a member of the Denver Broncos. He had eight tackles, no sacks, and just two starts among those five games. He got suspended twice for conduct detrimental to the team. He got cut after the 2003 season and reached a settlement with the Broncos after they tried to get some of their bonus money back from him.

Understandably so.

Gardener became a competitive bodybuilder shortly after his NFL playing days.

Gardener is considered one of the top free agency busts in league history due to the way things went in Denver and unfortunately, things got even worse for him after his playing days. He was arrested in 2011 in a domestic violence incident in which he was alleged to have head-butted his girlfriend.

There's no hard news as to what happened after that arrest, which ended up being a back-and-forth of accusations, but looking at his Facebook profile, it looks like Gardener -- at least as of 2021 -- was leading a normal life as a resident of Orlando, Florida. As strange as it sounds, this post is being published on Gardener's birthday.