Top 10 Worst free agents signed by the Saints
10. James “Tootie” Robbins
9. Grady Jackson
8. Eric Allen
7. Wally Williams
6. Dale Carter
5. Jason David
4. Andre Royal
3. Albert Connell
2. Brandon Browner
Dishonorable Mentions: Adrian Peterson, CJ Spiller, Champ Bailey, Michael Haynes
Before we reveal the all-important worst ever free agent the Saints have ever signed, there are several free agents the Saints have signed who were terrible signings in and of themselves, but they either failed to live up to expectations, or simply were finished as players but somehow still managed to walk away with some of Benson’s money on their way to retirement.
On April 25th, 2017, the Saints signed future hall of famer Adrian Peterson to a 2-year deal loaded with incentives, and guaranteed $3.5 million. The Saints lost Mark Ingram’s back-up Tim Hightower, so they were looking for an experienced back-up help. However, the Saints talked up Peterson throughout the mini-camps, OTAs and training camp –even going so far to name both he and Ingram “co-starters”.
Now, the Saints had been using multiple backs as starters since Sean Payton arrived in 2006, using as many as four as recently as 2011, so it did not seem outrageous that Ingram and Peterson could co-exist.
However, in week one, it became quite obvious that this arrangement would not work. Playing against his former teammates, the Minnesota Vikings, Peterson was shown to the nation, saying something to Sean Payton on the sideline, then getting “the look”. After the game, Peterson complained that he “didn’t sign up for 9 carries”. He backed away from his postgame comments, saying that he and Payton were fine, and that emotions frequently run high during a game.
But over the next few weeks, Adrian Peterson did not see a significant increase in carries. The Saints lost the first two games, but won the next two. Peterson saw his playing time diminish over the victories –nine carries in week 3 and four carries in week 4.
After the win against the Dolphins in England, Adrian Peterson was traded to the Cardinals for a conditional 6th round pick in the 2018 draft.
Adrian Peterson became expendable because of the rise of rookie Alvin Kamara. Indeed, the Saints rushing attack got on track with the tandem of Ingram and Kamara, whereas after a strong start, Peterson began to show his age; his productivity went down, and he ended the season on injured reserve. Peterson is scheduled to be released this offseason.
The Saints signed CJ Spiller to a 4 year, $18 million contract, $9 million guaranteed in 2015. After Darren Sproles was traded away following the 2013 season, the Saints were looking for that satellite back, who was a threat in space –after the failed Tarvaris Cadet experiment, the Saints thought the former first round pick of the Bills would show that explosive burst he showed earlier in his career.
But once again, that was not to be. CJ Spiller had arthroscopic surgery on his knee during training camp, causing him to miss preseason. He then only played a handful of snaps, having little or no impact in the running or passing game. Indeed, his only highlight was a catch and run for a TD vs the Cowboys in overtime.
The rumor was that CJ Spiller had a hard time digesting the playbook, while Spiller’s assertion was his knee injury/recovery affected him all season.
Indeed in 2016, the Saints talked up CJ Spiller all training camp –and featured him much of preseason in order to attract a potential trading partner. No one would bite, and the Saints released CJ Spiller shortly after Drew Brees agreed on a contract restructuring/extension, creating enough cap room to eat the guaranteed portions of Spiller’s deal.
The Saints signed Bailey in 2014 to a two year deal worth $7 million –if he met all of the incentives. Champ Bailey was a future hall of famer cornerback, who only played 5 games in 2013, because a foot injury. The Denver Broncos released Bailey after 10 seasons. The Saints hoped Champ Bailey could win the starting position opposite Keenan Lewis, giving the Saints two corners adept at playing man-to-man –a requirement in Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme.
However, at 36 years old, the Saints were foolishly optimistic to think Champ Bailey had enough left in the tank to be a regular starter. At best, he could be a nickel corner, and maybe an on-field coach for young Patrick Robinson.
Champ Bailey didn’t practice much during the preseason, presumably still rehabbing his foot injury. He only appeared in one preseason game vs the Colts, and even that was a cameo.
Bailey appeared to reinjure his foot, and was released with the first cuts of training camp.
Champ Bailey never played another down of football again.
In 1991, Michael Haynes helped the Falcons upset the NFC West division winner in the wild card round with two back breaking big plays –something Haynes did most of the 1991 season. That season, Michael Haynes caught 50 passes for 1122 yards and 11 TDs, for an eye popping 22.4 yards a catch.
He followed that season up with 808 yards on 48 catches and 10 TDs in 1992. In 1993, Michael Haynes caught more passes, but for fewer yards (778) and only 4 TDs.
However, Michael Haynes was more explosive than any receiver on the Saints roster, so that made him a priority in free agency.
Michael Haynes signed a 4 year, $10 million dollar contract before the 1994 season –their splash move that offseason.
The Saints traded for QB Jim Everett to give the offense a better passing game, and Michael Haynes was his deep threat. In that first season as a Saint, the New Orleans native caught the most passes for a single season in his career: 77 and for 985 yards, and 5 TDs.
After that first season, Michael Haynes’ production dropped considerably: 41 passes in 1995 and 44 passes in 1996. In 1997, Haynes was released, and he finished his career back with the Falcons.
So what happened with Michael Haynes? First, he came from a run-and-shoot offense, where he wasn’t required to run a full route tree. He was the speed threat for the Falcons, whereas with the Saints they tried to use him in a multitude of ways… and he struggled in the process. He dropped passes looking for the hit instead of focusing on the catch.
Secondly, he developed back issues, which impacted his last two seasons with the Saints.
Finally, the Saints in general were aging around him. Poor drafting and personnel decisions in free agency hurt the team –as veterans such as Morten Andersen, Quinn Early, Wesley Walls and Sam Mills were released, and less than adequate replacements filled their shoes, putting even more stress on players like Haynes to make up for their absences.