When Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder looks at the NFL free-agent market, he’ll see big names.
New England cornerback Asante Samuel, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders, and Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca are likely to be available.
Snyder likes big names—any extra cash burns a hole in his pocket. And while his Six Flags fiasco has cut into his cash flow, the Redskins still make enough money to enable him to buy big in free agency.
Here’s the drill: Snyder fires up the private jet, brings the players to Washington, wines and dines them, and then offers them too much money. You can’t blame the players for taking it.
This past year the team was somewhat prudent, signing linebacker London Fletcher and bringing back Fred Smoot for five-year, $25-million deals. Both are starting.
But 2006 was a disaster when he put $45 million in guaranteed money into Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, Antwaan Randle El, and a trade for Brandon Lloyd.
Archuleta was the single worst free agent Snyder ever signed. Randle El has been okay but hasn’t turned out to be a big-play receiver—no touchdown catches in the first 13 games this season. Lloyd was one of Snyder’s worst acquisitions. He caught only 23 passes in 2006 and just two this season before he went on injured reserve.
How much will Snyder spend this year? With Shawn Springs and Smoot at cornerback, the Skins don’t need Samuel. Not that Snyder has avoided signing players the Redskins don’t need.
There’s some question about how good Briggs would be if he weren’t playing alongside Brian Urlacher. The Redskins talked about trading for Briggs earlier in 2007, so Snyder may go after him again.
Sanders could fill a hole left by the death of Sean Taylor if the Colts can’t afford to keep him. Faneca’s best days may be behind him.
The Redskins have plenty of evidence that Snyder’s big spending doesn’t work. Here are his five worst free-agent signings:
1. Adam Archuleta—Signed in 2006, he didn’t fit into the Redskins’ defense and was benched. They dumped him on the Bears this year so they didn’t have to pay half of his guaranteed $10 million.
2. Jeff George—Signed in 2000 as a backup quarterback for $18 million over four years, he played in six games his first season. When new coach Marty Schottenheimer started him in the first two games of the 2001 season, the team lost the games by a combined score of 67–3, and Schottenheimer fired him.
3. Jeremiah Trotter—Signed in 2002 to a seven-year, $35-million deal, he didn’t fit into the Redskins’ defense and lasted two years before he went back to Philadelphia.
4. Bruce Smith—A linchpin of the Buffalo Bills’ four Super Bowl teams, Smith was 37 in 2000, and the Bills figured he wasn’t worth the $4.6 million he was to earn. Smith became a free agent and got $23 million for five years from Snyder. Smith lasted four years but was never worth the money the Redskins paid him.
5. Deion Sanders—The perfect example of the trophy names Snyder likes to sign. He gave Sanders a seven-year, $55-million deal in 2000 with an $8-million signing bonus. Sanders could still play in 2000—the problem was that he no longer wanted to. He walked after one year and kept the signing bonus.
This article first appeared in the January 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine.