Ideally, veterans acquired via free agency or trade will help improve a team whether it's going from mediocrity to the playoffs or playoff participant to Super Bowl contender. It doesn't always work out that way.
Several veteran newcomers who aren't living up to expectations have been identified. Contribution, availability, salary and draft capital to acquire were taken into account when making the selections.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Raiders
Garoppolo got off on the wrong foot with the Raiders. The agreed-upon three-year, $72.75 million contract (worth up to $74.25 million through incentives) with $45 million in guarantees, of which $33.75 million was fully guaranteed, had to be reworked prior to signing. It became apparent during Garoppolo's physical that the left foot injury he suffered last December with the 49ers required surgery.
The total value of the deal remained the same while the salary guarantees were the modified. The $11.25 million signing bonus was eliminated and the remaining $33.75 million in guarantees became contingent on Garoppolo passing his physical, which he did at the start of training camp in late July.
Garoppolo was largely ineffective when he was benched in favor of 2023 fifth-round pick Aiden O'Connell once head coach Josh McDaniel and general manager Dave Ziegler were fired following a Week 8 loss to the Lions. He had a league-leading nine interceptions despite missing two games because of injury when he lost his starting job.
To add insult to injury, the Raiders converted $21.335 million of Garoppolo's 2023 salary into signing bonus in early September where voiding 2026 and 2027 contract years were added to create $17.608 million of immediate salary cap room. There will be $28.318 million of dead money, a salary cap charge for a player no longer on a team's roster, to release Garoppolo in 2024. The $28.318 million could be split into $15.517 million in 2024 and $12.801 million in 2025 with use of a post-June 1 designation.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Ravens
Beckham has been a shadow of his former self after missing the entire 2022 season recovering from tearing the ACL in his left knee for a second time during Super Bowl LVI. The three-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year, $15 million contract worth up to $18 million through incentives with the Ravens despite his injury history. $13.835 million of the $15 million is a signing bonus, with the remaining $1.165 million in base salary.
Surprisingly, Beckham's contract doesn't contain any per game roster bonuses. By contrast, the two-year, $26 million deal DeAndre Hopkins signed with the Titans at the start of training camp has $1.02 million of per game roster bonuses ($60,000 each game active) annually. The per game amount is only payable if the player is on active list for that particular game, which would have been appropriate given Beckham's circumstances.
Beckham has 19 catches, 218 receiving yards with a one touchdown in seven games this season. He essentially has the same production as Nelson Agholor, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal worth up to $6.25 million through incentives. Agholor has 18 receptions for 22 yards in two touchdowns in nine games.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Jets
Cook was supposed to form one of the NFL's top rushing tandems with Breece Hall when he was signed to a one-year, $7 million contract (worth up to $8.62 million through incentives) after the Vikings released him in June. He has taken a backseat to Hall. After four straight seasons over 1,000 rushing yards, Cook has run for 121 yards on 43 carries (2.8 yards per attempt) this season.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Bears
Dealing Roquan Smith to the Ravens for a 2023 second round pick, 2023 fifth round pick and linebacker A.J. Klein during the middle of last season after acrimonious negotiations for a contract extension suggested that the Bears were no longer interested in making a significant investment in an off-ball linebacker. That wasn't the case as Chicago made Edmunds the highest paid off-ball linebacker ever in free agency at $18 million per year. Overall, Edmunds is the NFL's fourth highest paid off-ball linebacker behind Smith ($20 million per year), Shaquille Leonard ($19.7 million per year) and Fred Warner ($19.045 million per year). The $50 million in overall guarantees and $36.8 million fully guaranteed at signing in Edmunds' four year deal rank fourth and third respectively for off-ball linebackers.
Edmunds hasn't been the Bears' best off-ball linebacker this season. It's T.J. Edwards, who signed in free agency for a fraction of the cost. Edwards is second in the NFL with 100 tackles. He received a three-year, $19.5 million contract averaging $6.5 million per that has $12.025 million of guarantees.
Smith has thrived in Baltimore. He has arguably been the league's best off-ball linebacker ever since he was traded.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Cowboys
Cooks was traded for the fourth time during his 10-year NFL career in March. The Cowboys acquired Cooks, who didn't want to go through rebuilding with the Texans, for a 2023 fifth round pick and a 2024 sixth round pick. Cooks had $35 million left on his contract, including a fully guaranteed $18 million 2023 base salary. The Texans converted $6 million of the $35 million left on Cooks' contract into a signing bonus pre-trade so the Cowboys were responsible for the remaining $29 million. Cooks renegotiated his contract in connection with the trade. He's scheduled to make $20 million through 2024 instead.
The fourth time isn't a charm for Cooks. He has had a 1,000 receiving yards season for each of his previous four teams (Patriots, Rams, Saints and Texans). It isn't going to happen with the Cowboys. Cooks is having his worst season as a pro. He only has 17 catches for 165 yards with a two touchdowns in seven games this season.
Jawaan Taylor, OT, Chiefs
The Chiefs surprisingly put Taylor in the exclusive $20 million per offensive lineman club rather than re-sign left tackle Orlando Brown, Jr., who played 2022 under a $16.662 million franchise tag. He received a four year, $80 million deal with $60 million in guarantees where $40 million was fully guaranteed at signing.
Originally, Taylor was going to make the transition to left tackle after spending his four year NFL career with the Jaguars at right tackle. That plan changed when left tackle Donovan Smith, who was released by the Buccaneers in March, was signed to a one-year, $3 million contract worth a maximum of $9 million through incentives in early May right after the 2023 NFL Draft.
Taylor leads all NFL offensive linemen with 11 penalties. The next highest total is eight penalties. Ten of Taylor's penalties have been accepted. Taylor was briefly benched during Week 2's game against the Jaguars for repeated penalties.
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, Vikings
Davenport was hoping for a fresh start in Minnesota when he signed a one-year, $13 million deal in free agency after five injury plagued seasons with the Saints. He continues to be bitten by the injury bug. Davenport has two sacks in the four games he has been limited to because of ankle injuries. He is out indefinitely with a high left ankle sprain.