NFL teams hand out terrible, franchise-crippling contracts on an annual basis. It's unfortunately part of the calculated risk that's inherited when tossing out guaranteed money in free agency like it's candy on Halloween. Although we've just recently passed the halfway mark of the 2021 campaign, several contracts already have the appearance of a misguided business decision.
Cautionary tales reveal themselves in abundance every offseason, but that doesn't stop the desperation from ultimately winning out. If you're building your team through free agency, you're probably doing it wrong. We've quickly and swiftly identified three free-agent signings that are trending in the wrong direction.
JONNU SMITH, TE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The New England Patriots paid a premium to pluck away Jonnu Smith from the Tennessee Titans by signing him to a lucrative four-year contract worth $50 million. A third-round selection out of Florida International, Smith possesses a versatile skill set that was beautifully utilized by Tennessee's at-the-time offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Whether lined up in the backfield as an untraditional ball-carrier, flexed out as a pass-catcher, and even as a nasty blocker both in pass protection and in the ground game, Smith is a handful that leans on his rare athletic tools to create mismatches on offense.
Those are not the type of performances New England has received from Smith thus far.
The Pennsylvania native has battled a shoulder injury in recent weeks and has compiled just 21 receptions for a measly 193 yards in nine appearances as a Patriot. Furthermore, Smith has reached the end zone just once despite scoring nine times as a Titan in 2020. This currently has the makings of a square peg in a round hole.
KENNY GOLLADAY, WR, NEW YORK GIANTS
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has embarked on a never-ending hunt to supply his Giants with a bonafide No. 1 receiver. It's a position that has eluded Gettleman ever since he dealt Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns. That sizable need on the outside of New York's offense helped land former Lions receiver Kenny Golladay a hefty four-year, $72 million contract in New York and it's been a disastrous marriage thus far.
Golladay has appeared in just six of New York's nine games due to injury, but we are not factoring that into the evaluation of this contract. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the equation and it would be unfair to blame Golladay for suffering an injury while playing a physical sport. When Golladay has been on the field, he's struggled to acclimate to his new destination while serving as nothing more than an expensive distraction. A Week 2 performance that saw Golladay secure just three-of-eight targets for 38 yards and two costly drops especially sticks out as a disappointment. Golladay has wholly underperformed. Quarterback Daniel Jones needs more from his supposed dominant weapon on the outside.
CAMERON ERVING, OT, CAROLINA PANTHERS
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer wasted no time. Just hours after the NFL free agency frenzy opened its window on March 17, Fitterer awarded veteran offensive tackle Cameron Erving with a two-year contract that included a puzzling $8 million in guaranteed money. Erving was eventually named Carolina's new starting left tackle and the results have been predictably poor. The Panthers have given up 25 sacks through 10 contests and Erving has been at fault for a plethora of those quarterback pressures and takedowns while earning a poor grade of 51.0 for his work in pass protection in 2021, via Pro Football Focus.
Erving has played in seven games and now resides on injured reserve after suffering a calf injury in Week 9. Carolina must find a left tackle of the future sooner rather than later, and Erving isn't the answer.