Mid-season free-agent busts: Mario Williams, Pierre Garcon headline the list

Brian McIntyre

As we've hit the midway point of the 2012 regular season, Shutdown Corner thought it would be a good time to take a look at the free agent additions (or retentions) that have turned out to be bargains, and those that have turned out to be busts.

We began this two-part series with a look at those free-agent deals that have worked out well. Now it's time for a look at the free agent signings that, thus far, haven't panned out.

Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, defensive ends, Buffalo Bills: To help improve a pass rush that ranked near the bottom of the league in 2011 with just 29 sacks, the Bills stormed out and made Williams the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, signing him to a six-year, $96 million contract that included $50 million in guaranteed money that included a $19 million signing bonus and $5.9 million base salary for the 2012 season. Overall, Williams will take home $25 million this season and, at the midway point of the season, it's hard to argue that the Bills are getting great return on their investment.

Williams hasn't missed a game and is playing in over 85 percent of the team's defensive snaps. In that time, Williams has 23 tackles, 4.5 sacks and one pass defensed. However, nearly half of Williams' sack total came against an Arizona Cardinals offensive line that has allowed a league-high 41 sacks already this season (no other team has allowed 30 sacks). Williams did the first seven games of the season with a torn ligament in his wrist, and had a sack in his first game after undergoing surgery during the bye week, so the potential is certainly there for Williams to turn things around in the second half of the season.

Anderson was coming off an impressive 10-sack season with the New England Patriots, so the Bills augmented the signing of Williams by inking Anderson to a four-year, $19.5 million contract that included $7.9 million in guarantees, $8 million in cash in 2012 and up to $2 million in annual incentives ($8 million total) tied mainly to sacks. Anderson had one sack in nearly 250 snaps over the first five weeks of the season before suffering a left knee injury that required surgery — and quite possibly requires another "procedure" before we see him on the field again — those incentives probably won't be a factor in 2012.

Stanford Routt, cornerback, Kansas City Chiefs: Prior to the unrestricted free agent signing period, the Chiefs braced for the departure of Brandon Carr by signing Routt, who had been released by the Oakland Raiders for financial reasons (specifically to avoid a $5 million base salary guarantee), to a three-year, $18 contract on Feb. 21. Routt's deal included $6 million in cash for the 2012 season, comprised of a $4 million roster bonus, $200,000 workout bonus and $1.8 million base salary. Routt started the first seven games of the season, but was inactive last Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers and was placed on waivers earlier this week. As a vested veteran, Routt could file for termination pay, which means he could receive the $847,059 that remained on his salary with the Chiefs. In case you were wondering, Carr's five-year, $50.1 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys paid out $11.2 million this season.

Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, wide receivers, Washington Redskins: In terms of APY (Average Per Year), the $8.5 million average on Garcon's five-year, $42.5 million contract with the Redskins ranks sixth among unrestricted free agent contracts that were signed in 2012. Garcon's deal was a questionable contract to begin with, because even with a healthy Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, he wasn't posting receiving numbers that warranted an $8.5 million per year contract that included over $13 million in cash this season. Garcon's tenure in D.C. started well, catching four passes for 109 yards and a 88-yard touchdown from No. 2 overall pick Robert Griffin. A foot injury in that game, however, has limited Garcon to just four receptions for 44 yards in two games since the opener and he may not return at all this season. Garcon's $5.6 million base salary in 2013 is currently guaranteed for injury only, but becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2013 league year (March).

As for Morgan, he signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract that contained $7.3 million in guaranteed money. While he leads the Redskins in receptions (29), he is averaging less than 11 yards per reception, has yet to find the end zone and ranks 63rd in Football Outsiders' receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric.

Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, wide receivers, San Diego Chargers: After letting Vincent Jackson walk and sign a five-year, $55.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that included $26 million in guaranteed money and $13 million in 2012, the Chargers bought in bulk, signing Meachem to a four-year, $25.5 million contract ($14 million guaranteed) and Royal to a three-year, $13.5 million contract ($6 million guaranteed). Overall, A.J. Smith spent $15 million in 2012 cash, and saved $5 million in guaranteed money, to replace Jackson, who may only have 31 receptions midway through his first season in Tampa, but is among the NFL leaders in receiving yards (710) and touchdowns (six). Meanwhile, Meachem and Royal have combined for 25 receptions, 287 yards and three touchdowns.

Laurent Robinson, wide receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars: Released by the Chargers at the end of last year's training camp, Robinson had a breakout season with the Dallas Cowboys, catching 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. That production caught the attention of the Jaguars, who ranked dead last in total offense, passing offense and were tied for 28th in scoring offense, including just 12 touchdowns in the passing game, during the 2011 season. Jacksonville signed Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract that included $13.6 million in guaranteed money. Robinson, who is in line to the No. 2 receiver behind No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon, has just 15 receptions for 175 yards and zero touchdowns while missing nearly half the season with a concussion.

John Carlson, tight end, Minnesota Vikings: After missing the 2011 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, the Vikings signed Carlson, a Litchfield, MN native, to a five-year, $25 million contract that included $9.1 million in guaranteed money to be the No. 2 tight end behind Kyle Rudolph. Carlson is making $8 million in 2012 ($3 million of which is deferred to 2013 and 2014) and had just three receptions (on six targets) for eight yards while playing in around 27 percent of the Vikings' offensive snaps during the first six weeks of the season before missing most of the last three games with a concussion.

Matt Flynn, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks: Tarvaris Jackson clearly was not the long-term solution at the quarterback position that the Seahawks were looking for, so it's hard to crush John Schneider and Pete Carroll for pursuing Flynn after missing out on Peyton Manning, the big fish of the free agent quarterback pond. Often reported as a $26 million deal, the real value of Flynn's contract is $19.5 million over three seasons, with $6.7 million in escalators and incentives tied to playing time in regular season and playing-time in the playoffs ($5.5 million) and post-season awards such as Pro Bowl and NFL Most Valuable Player ($1.2 million). Those escalators and incentives are probably moot, as Flynn lost the open competition to 2012 third rounder Russell Wilson and has yet to play a down this season, but at least he will take home $8 million in cash in 2012.

Jonathan Fanene, defensive end, New England Patriots: Coming off a 6.5 sacks season as a situational player with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Patriots signed Fanene to a three-year, $9.85 million that included $2.2 million in incentives and a $3.85 million signing bonus…before releasing him on Aug. 21 with a "Failure to Disclose Physical Condition" tag. Fanene had workouts with the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins in late October, but remains unsigned.

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