Five of the Worst Jets Free Agent Signings


If you thought the Jets only dropped bombs on draft picks - such as Blair Thomas, Kyle Brady, Ron Faurot, and the Trojan Horse of them all, Vernon Gholston - you may have missed some other funky acquisitions. While we can't blame GM Joe Douglas for these deals, the Jets can't even sign great players as free agents and expect them to play well, or at all.

In the now, C.J. Mosley has played about an hour in two years, and Le'Veon Bell, the swiss-army halfback who reached 8,000 total yards faster than anyone in NFL history - beating out Jim Brown to do it - has been everything he wasn't in Pittsburgh: a selfish, half-baked hip-hop star, and incessantly injured player who doesn't produce.

The only reason we don't put them on this list is because there's still time for them to earn at least part of their keep, but here are five of the other worst free-agent signings in Gang Green's gangrenous history.

5. Trumaine Johnson
After six solid years with the Rams, the Jets took a shot at the cornerback, signing Johnson to a five-year, $72 million deal in 2018. Johnson never gained a fraction of the traction he had with the Rams, and was the quintessential cautionary tale about a man after he gets his money. In two years with the Jets, he started in 15 of 32 possible games, intercepting just five passes, and pissing off two head coaches – getting benched by Todd Bowles and turned into a backup by Adam Gase before he was released in March 2020. He was just 29 years old, and the sheer pay-to-production ratio demands that Johnson be put on this list.

4. Damien Robinson
In 2001, the Jets signed Robinson to be an enforcer at free safety. He came from a Tampa Bay team that just won a Super Bowl, and was considered a coveted player – but what the Jets got after signing Robinson to a five-year, $10 million deal was four interceptions, four tackles for loss, zero forced fumbles, and zero sacks in two years. Making matters exponentially worse, Robinson was charged with possession of a semi-automatic weapon and ammunition in the Giants Stadium parking lot - just weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Shortly after that, Robinson went Mike Tyson by grabbing and ripping the helmet off of Saints QB Aaron Brooks. The Jets fined Robinson upwards of 300 grand, and he didn't play out half of his contract, booted from the Meadowlands after two turbulent and wildly unproductive seasons.

3. Steve White
The Jets acquired a number of formerly great players in varying states of decay, from Ronnie Lott to Art Monk to Ty Law (the second time around), but you can always understand trying to summon some magic from a surefire Hall of Famer, even one deep into the back-nine of his career (as they also did with Ed Reed). Steve White, however, was none of those things, as he was a part-time defensive end with Tampa Bay when he signed a four-year, $7.25 million contract with the Jets that included a $1.3 million signing bonus.
After six years in Tampa, White had recorded five sacks, yet the Jets pursued him for his pass-rushing abilities…and they got what they paid for in that sense; White notched all of half a sack in 15 games in 2002, and the final three years be damned, White never played after his lone, listless season in the Meadowlands. In fact, it was his last year in the NFL.

2. Sam Cowart
The Jets signed Cowart in 2002, and while it was a bad move for many reasons, chief among them was they already had a better player at the same position. But they let James Farrior walk to Pittsburgh, where he had a wonderful career - winning two Super Bowls over ten years - while Cowart played three games in three years. Cowart was a good football player in Buffalo, even reaching a Pro Bowl in 2000. Yet all his numbers plunged once he moved from New York to New Jersey, as he was in his prime (27) when the Jets signed him, but was shot after age 28. The problem is the Jets signed him through age 32, on a six-year, $31 million deal. Despite the big dollars and bigger expectations, Cowart was shipped to the Minnesota Vikings after three forgettable seasons with Gang Green.

1. Neil O'Donnell
As a lifelong Steelers fan, weaned on Mean Joe Greene and bleeding black and gold, yours truly can tell you that there was a conga line from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg to Williamsburg (Brooklyn) when the Jets signed the former Pittsburgh quarterback in 1996. In case you don't recall Super Bowl XXX the year before, the Steelers were down 20-17 to the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. Momentum was flexing from their sideline and they just recovered an onside kick. Then Neil O'Donnell completed the second of two passes to the only player whose career he helped: Larry Brown. Sadly, Brown was a Cowboys defensive back, and there wasn't a Steelers receiver in the same zip code. Those two picks not only cost Pittsburgh the Super Bowl, it got Brown - a wholly average player - a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the Raiders. It also somehow got O'Donnell a five-year, $25 million deal with the Jets just to start six games during a 1-15 season. He separated his shoulder and was cut by Bill Parcells a year later.

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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