Part of the reason why the Detroit Lions have been one of the lovable losers of the NFL for so long is because when it comes to free agency, they often swing and miss more often than they hit with these acquisitions.
Here are some of those worst misses that have partially prevented the Lions from being a competent football team.
5. Rick Wagner (5 years, $47.5 million)
While general manager Bob Quinn has added many key pieces over free agency like Marvin Jones, Tavon Wilson and Trey Flowers, he has made a few big free-agency mistakes himself, with Wagner being one of the key ones.
Wagner was one of the best tackles in the NFL when he signed with the Lions, but started to regress before the ink was dry. He was especially inconsistent in 2019 prior to his departure from the team, as per Pro Football Focus, he was the second-worst Lions lineman last season behind only back-up guard Oday Aboushi.
4. Az-Zahir Hakim (5 years, $16 million)
If you think that this is the last time a Matt Millen prospect will appear on this last, you are in for a few big surprises, as most Lions fans still have nightmares about Millen’s reign.
While nagging hip, leg and ankle injuries wore him down, Hakim’s numbers dropped a bit from his time with the Rams (averaged 42 catches, 549 yards and five touchdowns) to the Lions (averaged 39 catches, 507 yards and three TD’s per year.)
Even though that drop-off is not drastic, the fact that he went from a third or fourth wide receiver with the Rams and dropped off in a bigger starting role with the Lions makes him a bad signing.
3. Bill Schroeder (4 years, $2.5 million signing bonus)
Millen took a page from the Al Davis playbook in signing Schroeder, as he assumed that pairing the speedy receiver with another speedster in Hakim could give the Lions a formidable receiving core.
But one of the key NFL lessons that some executives still have yet to learn is that speed doesn’t matter if you can’t catch the ball, and not catching the ball was one of the few things at which Schroeder excelled.
Schroeder recorded some pedestrian numbers in his two years with the Lions (36 catches, 496 yards, and 3.5 touchdowns a year) partially due to his terrible hands and poor route running. It got so bad at one point that Millen openly questioned on a Chicago radio show if the wide receiver possessed male genitalia.
2. Scott Mitchell (3 years, $11 million)
After making a name for himself in seven starts when stepping up for an injured Dan Marino in Miami, the Lions decided to invest in the Salt Lake City native.
Mitchell’s numbers were not bad in Detroit (threw for 32 touchdowns and 4,338 yards in 1995, a team record at the time), but he never reached the sky-high expectations that fans had for him when he looked like a franchise quarterback in Motown. It didn’t help that Mitchell threw four interceptions in that same season in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Things got ugly in Detroit when after being benched by coach Wayne Fontes, he showed up dressed like Fontes and imitating him in some rather unflattering ways. Mitchell worked his way down to the third-string QB on the depth chart as rookie Charlie Batch took over the starting job.
1. Daunte Culpepper (1 year split between 2008 and 2009, $5 million)
It’s not all Culpepper’s fault that he is on this list, as the Lions put him in a tough position when they signed originally signed him to a two-year deal in 2008 when Detroit was 0-8 and on their way to becoming much worse.
Culpepper had lost a lot of the competitive that made him a commodity earlier in this year. In the 13 games he appeared in, he was barely able to eclipse 1,700 yards en route to a career-worst completion percentage of 54.8 to go with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Revered Lions backup Shaun Hill ended up taking over for Culpepper midway through the 2009 season, as by the time the Lions released him and he made his way to the UFL, his last NFL win came with the Oakland Raiders in 2007.
In other words, in his year and a half as a Detroit Lions, he never won a game for the Motor City and will regretfully be remembered by Lions fans as one of the biggest stains of the Matt Millen regime.