The Cleveland Browns have struggled since returning to the NFL in 1999, and one of the biggest reasons has been because of their inability to hit on key free agents. There have been a lot of poor free agent signings in Cleveland over the years, but some have stood out above the rest.
Let’s look at the five worst free agent signings in Browns’ history.
One of the biggest issues for the Browns has been failing to identify a franchise quarterback and it was no different with Jeff Garcia. In 2004, the team signed Garcia, formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, to a four-year contract and it didn’t work out well.
He started 10 games for the Browns finishing with a 3-7 record and was released following his first season.
In 2008, Donte Stallworth signed a seven-year contract with the Browns but he only lasted one season with the team. He caught just 10 passes for 170 yards in that year.
Stallworth struck and killed a a pedestrian with his vehicle while under the influence and was convicted of manslaughter in 2009. The NFL suspended him for the season and the Browns released him. There was so much hope for Stallworth and how he could improve the team, but all he became was one of the biggest free-agent busts in Browns history.
At one point, Dwayne Bowe looked like one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but that quickly changed when he went to the Cleveland Browns. Bowe signed a two-year deal with the Browns at 31 years old in 2015, and he had issues even getting on the field.
Then-coach Mike Pettine wasn’t interested in featuring Bowe and that led to a lack of production from the wideout. He found the field in seven games, and had just five catches. Who knows if things would have been different if Pettine wanted to use him. But he didn’t, which makes Bowe one of the biggest busts in team history.
Signing Kenny Britt didn’t seem like a great idea from the start, but the Browns still thought they could find some success with him. Britt showed flashes of being a top-level wide receiver but he also had run-ins with the law that raised some red flags.
The Browns signed Britt to a four-year deal in 2017, but he didn’t even last the season. Britt didn’t like being on a losing team, and he asked for his release.
In nine games, Britt caught only 18 passes before the Browns let him go.
Andre Rison had his struggles with the Browns, but his biggest issue was actually the contract, which, at five years and $17 million, was the most lucrative given to a receiver at the time. Rison caught 47 passes in his one season with the Browns.
Browns owner Art Modell used Rison’s contract as one of the reasons why he needed to move the team to Baltimore. In a sense, Rison changed the history of the Browns forever, and not in a good way.