Titans’ pass rush busts cautionary tale for NFL free agency


Shopping on the NFL free agent market can be so very tempting.

Talented and experienced linemen, pass rushers, wide receivers and cornerbacks available to fill a hole in the roster. That new starter can be yours with a big enough check. Just be sure to add enough zeros.

Being available in free agency does not guarantee sure-fire production.

Just ask the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans need only think back a few months to remember the need to spend smartly after busting on not one but two free agents.

They shelled out more than $21 million combined on Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney. Signed to boost a struggling pass rush, Tennessee cut Beasley after three tackles in five games while Clowney went on injured reserve after eight.

Not a single sack combined between the two.

“It’s important that this offseason that we learn, that I learn personally from last year, that we try to improve,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said.

Busting on free agents doesn’t stop any NFL team from trying again.

“We’re looking for those kinds of players, willing to invest resources,” Robinson said.

For every Tom Brady signed, there’s plenty of busts every free agency period. Someone who simply doesn’t meet the expectations that come along with his big paycheck or proves a bad fit with the new team. And the bigger checks of free agency make those mistakes even more costly.


Brady celebrated his first season with his new team with the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa Bay. Newton tried to replace Brady in New England in a season where the coronavirus pandemic not only slowed his development in the offense but also cost him two weeks with COVID-19 early in the season.

Newton struggled in the passing game much of the season with little help. Julian Edelman was never fully healthy before going on injured reserve. Newton wound up one-dimensional and couldn’t cover all the Patriots’ holes. That didn’t stop the Patriots from working to keep Newton on another one-year deal.


Sometimes the busts aren’t free agents but trade acquisitions, which can be even worse.

The Denver Broncos recently jettisoned Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye, two veterans they traded for a year ago only to see the deals quickly blow up in their faces.

The Broncos thought they had a steal when they sent a seventh-rounder to Tennessee for Casey, but the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman tore a biceps in Week 3, ending his season.

Denver sent a fourth-round pick to Jacksonville for Bouye, but he played in just seven games because of shoulder and head injuries and a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.

The Broncos cut both last month, freeing up about $24 million in salary cap room.


The Raiders thought they were getting a difference-maker when they signed linebacker Cory Littleton to a three-year, $35.25 million deal. He never came close to that in 14 games played last season. He didn’t have a single sack, force a fumble or recover a fumble.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden pegged defensive tackle Maliek Collins as a defensive key, yet Collins also finished without a sack or tackle for loss. But Las Vegas only signed Collins to a one-year deal for $6 million limiting the bust factor.


The Jets tried to protect themselves giving the wide receiver a one-year deal worth $8 million to prove himself as a replacement for Robby Anderson who took a two-year deal with Carolina worth up to $20 million.

Perriman wound up with dealing with injuries including a hamstring, sprained ankle, a concussion and a shoulder. Combined with a struggling offense that rarely attacked downfield, Perriman was both ineffective with his new team and used inadequately.


Weatherly was a major bust for the Carolina Panthers after the defensive end signed a two-year, $12 million deal last offseason. Weatherly didn’t get a single sack in nine games and had only one tackle for loss with three total hits on a quarterback.

The Panthers cut their losses in February, releasing Weatherly to clear some salary cap space. Weatherly returned to the team that drafted him in Minnesota but at a much cheaper deal: one year for $2.5 million.

AP Pro Football Writers Arnie Stapleton, Josh Dubow and Dennis Waszak and AP Sports Writers Steve Reed and Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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