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2000s: The Decade in Sports
Posted: Tuesday December 8, 2009 10:50AM; Updated: Tuesday December 8, 2009 12:08PM

NFL: Trades, free agency and draft (cont.)

By Don Banks, SI.com

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Worst free-agent signings

deion-sanders-decade.jpg
Deion Sanders -- beaten here by Donald Hayes -- had a short-lived, sour stint in D.C.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

1. Deion Sanders, Redskins; June 5, 2000
Washington ruled the decade in terms of putrid free-agent additions, and no one was a bigger waste of time and money than Sanders, who brought nothing resembling his All-Pro game to the Redskins after Daniel Snyder awarded him an $8 million signing bonus as part of a seven-year, $56 million contract. Not only did Sanders disappoint on the field for a Redskins team that had the game's highest payroll, but he was also a selfish and dissatisfied presence in the locker room, openly pining to resume his baseball career. He basically dared Washington to cut him after one season, and when it did in July 2001, he walked away with millions and exulted that Washington was "paying him for doing nothing.''

2. Nate Clements, 49ers; March 2, 2007
It boggles the mind now, but Clements, who played for the Bills from 2001 to 2006, was the most sought after free agent on the market in 2007, and San Francisco reacted by giving him an eight-year, $80 million contract that included $22 million guaranteed. That made him the highest paid defensive player in history until Albert Haynesworth and Washington got together two years later. To say that Clements has been something less than an impact player in San Francisco is the height of understatement. The Niners pass defense gave up more yards in 2007 with him than it had in 2006 without him. Clements lost his starting left cornerback job this season in late October, and then suffered a shoulder injury that he's still recovering from. If he returns to San Francisco in 2010, he is expected to be moved to safety.

3. Javon Walker, Raiders; March 4, 2008
Other than Snyder, no NFL owner has thrown away more good money this decade than the Raiders' Al Davis, but his masterpiece when it comes to free-agent foolishness is the six-year, $55 million contract he gave to Walker, a deal that included $16 million in guarantees. Somehow it didn't give Davis pause that Walker had been released by Denver after an injury-plagued 2007 season, but it should have. Once he became a Raider, things really went downhill for Walker. First he was held up at gunpoint in Vegas that offseason, and then he bombed out on the field, totaling just 15 catches for 196 yards and one touchdown in eight games before being placed on injured reserve. This year? Even though Walker restructured his deal downward to stay in Oakland, more of the same has ensued in terms of production. He has played three games, without a reception.

4. Adam Archuleta, Redskins; March 13, 2006
Like Sanders before him, Archuleta hit the jackpot with the Redskins in free agency, then spent just one season looking bewildered and ineffective in the secondary before leaving town. The Redskins made the ex-Ram the highest-paid safety ever when they gave him a six-year, $30 million deal that included about $10 million guaranteed. But he wound up starting just seven games in 2006, losing the strong safety job to Troy Vincent, and was relegated to playing on special teams in the season's second half. After complaining about how Washington coaches used him, Archuleta was eventually dealt to Chicago in early 2007 for a sixth-round pick.

5. Jeff Garcia, Browns; March 9, 2004
Cleveland gave the 34-year-old Garcia a four-year contract worth $25 million and thought they were getting a version of the quarterback who went to three Pro Bowls and led the Niners to multiple playoff trips in his starting tenure with San Francisco. But after a disjointed preseason in which he complained to coach Butch Davis about his lack of sufficient playing time, things went downhill quickly. Garcia posted a 0.0 passer rating in a Week 2 loss at Dallas, and wound up winning just three of his 10 starts that season for the 4-12 Browns. Cleveland released Garcia early the next offseason.

Biggest draft busts

1. Charles Rogers, Lions, 2nd pick, 2003
Some might quibble with Rogers qualifying for draft-bust standing given he had his first two seasons ruined by broken collarbones. But staying healthy is part of the challenge of playing in the NFL, and Rogers, who was drafted behind only Carson Palmer, couldn't manage it. He played just 15 games in three seasons with Detroit, catching 36 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores came in the 2003 opener, which proved to be a false indication of the greatness to come. In 2005, he was suspended four games by the league for a third violation of its substance abuse policy, and he missed four other games when Detroit deactivated him. The Lions released him in the preseason of 2006, and Rogers never played in the NFL again.

2. Peter Warrick, Bengals, 4th pick, 2000
Warrick was a two-time All-America selection and one of the most electrifying playmakers in college football at Florida State, but he never remotely lived up to his draft slot. In his first three seasons in the league, he failed to top 667 receiving yards, and even a career year in 2003 (79 catches for 819 yards, seven TDs) didn't restore the luster. He got injured in 2004, spent one year playing sparingly in Seattle in 2005, and was out of the league for good by the end of the 2006 preseason.

3. Mike Williams, Bills, 4th pick, 2002
The top five of the 2002 draft was easily the decade's worst, with David Carr (No. 1), Joey Harrington (No. 3) and Williams all regarded as failures. But at least Carr and Harrington made something of an NFL career for themselves, even if they had to bounce around the league to do it. Williams, an offensive lineman out of Texas, was an overwhelming flop from Day One. Already huge, he proceeded to get even bigger once he hit the league and eventually couldn't pass block to save his quarterback's life. The Bills switched him to left guard in an effort to hide his deficiencies, but that didn't work either and they cut ties with him after the 2005 season. Having slimmed down some, Williams has had a decent comeback season in Washington, but given his lofty draft status, he should have been a 10-year starter in Buffalo.

4. Jamal Reynolds, Packers, 10th pick, 2001
To think respected Packers general manager Ron Wolf traded away Matt Hasselbeck and a first-round pick to Seattle in order to move up into position to select Reynolds. Can't win 'em all on draft weekend, I guess. Maybe it was the lure of taking a Lombardi Award winner for the Packers, but the Florida State standout proved overmatched in the NFL, eventually losing playing time behind 2000 fifth-round pick Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Reynolds played just 18 games for Green Bay from 2001 to 2003, never started once and totaled all of three sacks.

5. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders, 1st pick, 2007
In the midst of his third season, Russell finds himself on the bench in Oakland, watching the immortal Bruce Gradkowski start at quarterback. It's not entirely too late for Russell -- look at where Vince Young was last year at this time. But there's little about Russell's game that excites you at this point. He's inaccurate, exhibits shaky decision making, has a dubious work ethic and displays little in the way of leadership or self-motivation. And did we mention he has a tendency to get way too heavy at times? All in all, he's well on his way to lasting bust-dom.

Biggest draft steals

1. Tom Brady, Patriots, 6th round, 2000
The names that always get you, no matter how many times you hear them, are Giovanni Carmazzi, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn. All of those long-forgotten quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Brady, who went 199th overall. Brady is the draft steal by which all draft steals are measured, this decade and maybe of any decade. His résumé: three Super Bowl championships, two Super Bowl MVPs, four Pro Bowl berths, one league MVP trophy and the acknowledged status as one of the game's two best active quarterbacks this decade.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 11th pick, 2004
You certainly can be a draft steal at No. 11 in the first round, especially when you become the first quarterback to win two Super Bowl rings in the first five years of your career. The Steelers never dreamed Miami of Ohio's Roethlisberger would still be available when their turn came, but no player who went in that year's top 10 wound up being more productive than Big Ben in the early years of his career. And that includes Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.

3. Marques Colston, Saints, 7th round, 2006
There were 251 players selected before Colston, but nobody matched the bang for the buck that the Saints received from the ex-Hofstra receiver. Colston came out of nowhere in training camp to win a starting job on opening day, and he produced instantly for a New Orleans team that captivated the NFL world en route to a 10-6 season and a trip to the NFC title game. Colston set a league record for most receptions over the first two seasons of a career, with 168, and in his first 52 games in the league he has amassed 265 receptions for 3,854 yards and 32 touchdowns. He's the No. 1 receiver for a Saints offense that currently leads the NFL in scoring and total yards.

4. Jared Allen, Chiefs, 4th round, 2004
Idaho State hasn't historically been a hotbed of NFL prospects, but the Chiefs plucked one out of the Big Sky Conference school with the 126th pick. Allen quickly emerged as one of the premier pass rushers in the league. He totaled 27˝ sacks in his first three seasons, and then led the NFL with 15˝ in 2007, despite missing Kansas City's first two games due to a league suspension. Traded to Minnesota before the 2008 season in a blockbuster deal, Allen rolled up 14˝ for the Vikings in the regular season, and two more in the playoffs.

5. Steve Smith, Panthers, 3rd round, 2001
Smith, the 74th pick, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie kick and punt returner and his production and value to the Panthers have continued to climb ever since. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, the former University of Utah standout won the receiving triple crown in 2005, leading the league in receptions (103), yards (1,563) and touchdowns (12). Smith has turned in two monster postseasons for Carolina, carrying the Panthers to the Super Bowl after the 2003 season and to the NFC title game in 2005. He won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award in 2005 after a broken leg cost him all but one game in 2004, and has logged five 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

2000s: The Decade in the NFL
ARTICLES GALLERIES
King: Highlights and lowlights
King: All-Decade team
Banks: 10 signature moments
Banks: Trades, free agency and the draft
Clemons: 10 best fantasy seasons
POLL: Share your thoughts on the decade in the NFL
 

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