While the Denver Broncos haven’t made a big splash into the pool of available free agents this offseason, they have addressed their needs along the offensive and defensive line. The four they have added haven’t exactly been big names. Denver signed guard Ron Leary and offensive tackle Menelik Watson to help bolster a struggling offensive front. Then they picked up defensive tackle Domata Peko and and defensive end Zach Kerr to upgrade a defensive line that allowed far too many rushing yards in 2016.
Some fans may be grumbling about the lack of activity, but free agency can be a tricky business. Unrestricted free agency in the NFL began, as we know it, back in 1992. Since then, the Broncos have signed a number of free agents that have helped improve their roster. They have also signed some players that we’d all rather just forget. Here are five of the worst free agents in team history.
5. Eddie Kennison (WR), 2001
This wasn’t a horrible contract in terms of money, but the Eddie Kennison deal is one that will stick in the memory of Broncos fans for years. In 2001, Denver signed Kennison to a two-year deal worth $1.8 million, to provide some depth to their aging wide receiver corp.
Kennison was actually showing some progress, and by the start of the season he was a part-time starter, though he didn’t have much production in games. Through the first eight games, he had just 15 catches and a single touchdown.
In Week 9, the Broncos were scheduled to play their division rival, the San Diego Chargers. On the Saturday before the game, Kennison approached head coach Mike Shanahan to tell him that he had lost his love for the game and wanted to retire.
The Broncos released Kennison the following Tuesday, and he retired. Less than a month later, Kennison decided that he wasn’t quite finished with football, and signed a new contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he would play for six more seasons. Broncos fans never forgot Kennison quitting on them, and reminded him of their displeasure, every time he returned to Denver.
4. Lester Archambeau (DE), 2000
Defensive end Lester Archambeau had put together several productive campaigns with the Atlanta Falcons, compiling 31 sacks over seven seasons. Denver signed the 33-year-old pass rusher to a seven-year contract for $17.5 million.
At least the long contract made it more forgiving, as far as the salary cap was concerned. It’s a good thing, because Archambeau was well past his prime, and couldn’t stay healthy or merit any playing time. He played in just three games and made exactly one tackle. Archambeau would retire at the end of his first season.
3. Jarvis Green (DE), 2010
The Broncos were looking for another pass rusher to pair up with Elvis Dumervil, who had racked up 17 sacks in 2009. Green had notched 28 sacks in eight seasons with the Patriots, but he was production was fading each year.
In 2008, Green made just two sacks, and in 2009, he had just one. The Broncos ignored his decline, and decided he would still be able to contribute. Denver management felt so strongly about Green that they gave him a four-year contract worth $20 million dollars.
Green couldn’t even make the opening day roster. The Broncos would cut the veteran, after he was unable to garner any significant playing time in the preseason.
2. Dale Carter (CB), 1999
The Broncos had been competing against Dale Carter for seven seasons, and they knew that he could be a very dangerous player. He had been drafted by the rival Kansas City Chiefs, and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1992.
Carter had been a thorn in the Broncos’ side, so when he became available, they jumped at the chance to bring him to Denver. It turned out to be a huge mistake.
Carter was very mediocre in 1999, starting 14 games, but making just two interceptions. It would go downhill from there. Carter would be suspended for the entire 2000 NFL season, after failing his fourth test for illegal substances. He would never play in a Broncos uniform again.
1. Daryl Gardener (DT), 2003
In 2003, the Broncos were coming off of a 9-7 season. Their primary offseason focus would be fortifying their defensive line. Daryl Gardener was a 6-6 295 defensive tackle that had been a force with both the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins.
The Broncos gave Gardener a seven-year contract worth nearly $35 million. He barely stepped foot on the field. First, there was an altercation outside of a local pancake house, that left him with torn ligaments in his right wrist. The injury forced him to miss the first five games of the season.
Then, Gardener was suspended not once, but twice for conduct detrimental to the team. He consistently butted heads with head coach Mike Shanahan, at one point referring to him as “that little man”.
Denver would cut Gardener following the 2003 NFL season, and he never returned to football. He left the NFL to become a professional bodybuilder, and the Broncos contract with him is viewed by many as one of the worst NFL free agent contracts of all time.