15 worst Minnesota Vikings free agent signings of all-time

Former Minnesota Vikings WR Greg Jennings
Former Minnesota Vikings WR Greg Jennings / Tom Dahlin/GettyImages

Free agency is one of the most exciting parts of each offseason for the Minnesota Vikings and every other team around the NFL. Even if a team doesn’t have a ton of cap space, it’s still incredibly fun to speculate about what moves they could make and the free agents they might sign to improve their roster.

Each free agency period brings back memories of a team’s past signings as well, whether they were good or bad. For the Vikings, they have had their share of both outcomes. For every Linval Joseph, there has also been an Alex Boone.

Luckily for Minnesota, a number of the big risks they have taken in free agency over the years have actually turned out pretty well. But, of course, the Vikings also have a good amount of free-agent signings that they wish they could take back.

We’ve already gone over the best free agent signings in Minnesota history, so let’s check out some of the franchise’s worst since free agency first became a thing in the NFL back in 1993.

Of all the free agents the Vikings have signed over the years, which 15 should be classified as the absolute worst?

15 worst Minnesota Vikings free agent signings of all-time

15. Brett Favre - QB (2010)

Everyone is well aware of Brett Favre’s first season in Minnesota. After signing a two-year, $25 million deal with the Vikings, the veteran quarterback had a magical year, and he helped lead the team all the way to the 2009 NFC Championship.

However, it was the following offseason where Minnesota messed up. In 2010, Favre and the Vikings agreed to a restructured contract that would pay him around $16 million that season.

Things turned out much differently for the quarterback during his second year with Minnesota though. A return to the NFC Championship was quickly out of the picture, as the Vikings began the 2010 season with a 2-5 record.

Favre had one of the worst statistical years of his entire career, finishing with just 2,509 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions in 13 games. There were only two occasions in 2010 where the ole gunslinging quarterback threw for more touchdowns than interceptions in a single contest.

Any of the magic he had in 2009 had completely disappeared during his second season with Minnesota. The Vikings figured Favre would be able to continue his high level of play in 2010, but he just ended up showing the rest of the league that his time on the football field was over.

14. Michael Griffin - S (2016)

Michael Griffin spent the first nine years of his NFL career as a member of the Tennessee Titans. He was a solid player for multiple seasons in a Titans uniform, but the team opted to release him in 2016.

At 31-years-old, Griffin was in need of a new team. And that’s when the Vikings decided to give him a call.

Griffin and Minnesota were able to agree to a one-year contract worth $2.5 million. The Vikings were hoping that the veteran would be a great player to pair with safety Harrison Smith in their defensive backfield.

Well, Minnesota never got to find out how well Griffin and Smith would work together because the former Titans safety never even made it to the regular season.

Griffin hurt his back during the preseason, and it resulted in the Vikings waiving him with an injury designation. A few weeks later, he signed a deal to play for the Carolina Panthers.

As was the case for a bunch of players on this list, the hope for Griffin in Minnesota was a lot more exciting than what actually ended up happening during his short tenure with the team.

13. Datone Jones - DT (2017)

With the uncertainty surrounding the future of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings went out and signed Datone Jones during the 2017 offseason. Minnesota and the former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $5 million.

Jones was a first-round draft selection by the Packers in 2013, and he spent his first four NFL seasons as a defensive end and a linebacker for the Vikings’ NFC North rival. At 26-years-old, Minnesota clearly felt that he had the potential to become a solid contributor for their defense in 2017.

However, the relationship between the Vikings and Jones turned out to be shorter than both had envisioned during free agency.

He wasn’t even able to earn a spot on Minnesota’s roster as a backup defensive tackle, and the team eventually parted ways with him a few days prior to the start of the regular season. Following his short time with the Vikings, Jones also had brief stints with the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys in 2017.

12. Andre Smith - OT (2016)

After quarterback Teddy Bridgewater spent way too much time on the ground in 2015, the Vikings attempted to improve their offensive line by signing Andre Smith.

Prior to landing with Minnesota, the veteran blocker was the starting right tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals for a handful of years. The Bengals used their first-round selection on Smith in the 2009 draft and figured he would be a staple on their offensive line for at least a decade.

But that didn’t work out, and Smith became a free agent in 2016.

The Vikings and the veteran offensive tackle were able to agree to a one-year contract worth up to $4.5 million. Minnesota was hoping that Smith would step in and become their new starting right tackle.

Well, he did end up as the Vikings’ starter on the right side of their offensive line. But his time in Minnesota only lasted a whole four games before he suffered a season-ending arm injury.

Even when he actually was on the field for the Vikings in 2016, Smith’s performance was nothing to rave about. During his four games, the veteran right tackle allowed a total of nine quarterback pressures, including two sacks.

Unsurprisingly, Minnesota decided not to re-sign Smith in 2017.

11. Remi Ayodele - DT (2011)

Given what is now known about the New Orleans Saints’ bounty-gate scandal that took place during the 2009 NFL season, it’s pretty interesting that a former member of that defense ended up signing with the Vikings in 2011.

Remi Ayodele spent 2009 and 2010 as the Saints’ starting nose tackle before becoming a free agent in 2011. Minnesota was interested in the defensive lineman, and the Vikings were eventually able to convince him to sign a three-year, $9 million deal.

In Leslie Frazier’s first full season as the Vikings’ head coach, Ayodele was tasked with replacing Pat Williams in the middle of the team’s defensive line. To no one’s surprise, Williams’ spot was apparently too big for the former New Orleans nose tackle to fill.

Ayodele appeared in all 16 games for Minnesota in 2011 (starting 13 of them), but he was only on the field for 23.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. His play didn’t do much to help a Vikings defense that ended up being one of the worst in the NFL that year.

During the 2012 offseason, Minnesota decided just to cut their losses and released Ayodele with two years remaining on his contract.

10. Michael Floyd - WR (2017)

The 2016 season is not one Michael Floyd probably has too many fond memories of. That year, he was arrested for a DUI and then waived by the Arizona Cardinals as a result. Floyd did end up being claimed by the New England Patriots, but he only hauled in a total of five passes (including the playoffs) during his time with the eventual Super Bowl champions.

He went into the 2017 offseason as a free agent. Despite knowing that he was likely going to be suspended by the NFL for his run-in with the law, the Vikings still decided to take a chance on the veteran receiver.

A native of the Twin Cities, Floyd and Minnesota agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $6 million. Shortly after he joined the Vikings, the receiver violated the terms of his house arrest by testing positive for alcohol multiple times.

Floyd later blamed Kombucha for his positive tests, which is a fermented tea that Minnesota had available for players at their facilities. However, Kombucha contains a very small amount of alcohol, so it was hard for many to believe the veteran receiver’s explanation.

The NFL eventually suspended Floyd for the first four games of the 2017 season, and his debut in a Vikings uniform came in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.

With Minnesota, the former Cardinals receiver was never really able to find a fit in the team’s offense. In 11 games for the Vikings, Floyd caught just 10 passes for 78 yards and no touchdowns.

His lone year with Minnesota remains the only season in his NFL career in which he didn’t find the end zone at least once.

9. Emmanuel Lamur - LB (2016)

After spending some time working with Mike Zimmer on the Cincinnati Bengals, Emmanuel Lamur decided to follow his former defensive coordinator and sign with the Vikings in 2016. Minnesota and the linebacker agreed to a two-year contract worth $6 million, including $2.5 million guaranteed.

Given his experience as a starter in Cincinnati, some believed that Lamur was going to become a significant contributor for the Vikings’ defense. However, that never turned out to be the case.

Lamur was basically relegated to special teams during his tenure with Minnesota. In two seasons with the Vikings, the linebacker accumulated a total of just 21 tackles and zero sacks.

With Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks ahead of him on the depth chart, it was just too difficult for Lamur to ever get on the field for defensive snaps in Minnesota. The Vikings opted not to re-sign him after his contract ran out in 2018 and absolutely no one was surprised by their decision.

8. Greg Jennings - WR (2013)

Greg Jennings‘ appearance on this list can be partly blamed on the guys he had throwing him the ball during his tenure with the Vikings. It’s hard for anyone to be successful when they’re trying to catch passes from guys like Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and Josh Freeman.

Minnesota added Jennings to their roster in 2013 to produce and hopefully recapture some of the numbers he put up during the early part of his career with the Green Bay Packers. However, the veteran receiver was unable to live up to his expectations in a Vikings uniform.

After Jennings and Minnesota agreed to a five-year, $47.5 million contract, the former Packers pass-catcher failed to finish with more than 800 receiving yards in either of his two seasons in purple. As the Vikings' top receiving option in 2013 and 2014, he averaged just 64 catches, 773 yards, and five touchdowns per year.

Jennings’ production was decent but nothing close to what Minnesota had in mind when they gave him a bunch of money in 2013. He was never able to experience anything close to the success he had in a Green Bay uniform. Ultimately, it resulted in the Vikings releasing him during the 2015 offseason.

7. Madieu Williams - S (2008)

Viewed as one of the top young safeties in the NFL at the time, the Vikings thought they landed a future All-Pro when they signed Madieu Williams to a six-year, $33 million deal in 2008. After agreeing to a contract with Minnesota, he immediately became one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.

But with a high salary comes high expectations. Williams was unable to live up to the hype during his time with the Vikings.

Thanks to a neck injury, he didn’t even begin his career with Minnesota until halfway through the 2008 season. During the nine games he actually did play in that year for the Vikings, Williams finished with 42 tackles, three pass breakups, and two interceptions.

Over the next two seasons (30 appearances), the Minnesota safety was only able to intercept one pass and accumulate just six pass breakups. Williams never was able to turn into the superstar safety that the Vikings were hoping for when they gave him a bunch of money in 2008.

Minnesota eventually decided they were better off without Williams. The team released him during the 2011 offseason with three years still remaining on his original contract.

6. Paul Edinger - K (2005)

Minnesota has had a pretty eventful last 30 years when it comes to their experiences with kickers. For some reason, the Vikings thought it was a wonderful idea to make Paul Edinger their new kicker in 2005.

As a member of the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004, he missed a total of 19 field goal attempts. Despite his struggles, Minnesota still felt Edinger was the right man for the job and they signed him to a one-year deal.

The Vikings actually attempted to sign the kicker in 2003 when he was a restricted free agent. But the Bears matched Minnesota’s offer sheet to Edinger, and he remained in Chicago for two more seasons.

Once he was eventually a part of the Vikings’ roster in 2005, he struggled to find any sort of success out on the field. With Minnesota, he missed nine of his 34 field goal attempts.

It’s pretty surprising that Edinger lasted the entire 2005 season with the Vikings when considering how much he failed at doing his job. But then again, Mike Tice was Minnesota’s coach that year, so nothing was ever too shocking with him leading the way.

In 2006, the Vikings actually made the right decision and decided not to re-sign Edinger.

5. Bernard Berrian - WR (2008)

As part of their eventful 2008 offseason that also included overpaying Madieu Williams, the Vikings went out and signed Bernard Berrian to a big fat contract. Despite him never finishing a season with at least 1,000 receiving yards, Minnesota felt the pass catcher was still worthy of a six-year, $42 million deal.

Berrian’s big contract made him the fourth-highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL at the time. Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens were the only receivers around the league who made more than the Vikings’ new pass catcher in 2008.

To the shock of no one, Berrian was never able to develop into the top-tier receiver that Minnesota was clearly hoping for when they signed him. He didn’t even earn an invite to the Pro Bowl during his time with the Vikings.

In four seasons with Minnesota, Berrian never caught a total of more than 55 passes, he never gained more than 965 yards, and he averaged less than three touchdowns per year.

By the 2011 season, he found himself at the bottom of the Vikings’ depth chart. Instead of waiting for the end of the year, Minnesota decided just to release Berrian seven weeks into the season.

4. Josh Freeman - QB (2013)

It doesn’t matter how much or how little it cost for the Vikings to sign Josh Freeman in 2013. Whatever Minnesota paid him was way more than what he was worth.

The Vikings and Freeman actually agreed to a one-year contract worth about $3 million midway through the 2013 season. Minnesota thought they were getting an upgrade at quarterback, but they soon found out that was definitely not the case.

Hoping for a spark on offense, the Vikings decided to start Freeman under center just two weeks after they signed him. Unsurprisingly, this decision did not turn out very well for Minnesota.

Freeman proceeded to have one of the worst games in NFL history, completing 37 percent of his passes for just 190 yards, no touchdowns and one interception during the Vikings’ loss to the New York Giants.

That was the only game he ever appeared in for Minnesota and the team did not re-sign him after the end of the season.

Was it right for Minnesota to basically throw Freeman to the wolves after having less than three weeks to learn the offense? Definitely not.

So the blame for this free agent signing falls right on the shoulders of the Vikings just as much as it does on the quarterback they decided to add to their roster.

3. Alex Boone - OG (2016)

As part of their effort to revamp their offensive line in 2016, the Vikings went out and signed someone in Alex Boone, who they thought would end up being their starting right guard for a number of years.

Prior to joining Minnesota, he spent his first six seasons in the NFL as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. With the 49ers, Boone started 59 games, and he was a part of the 2012 team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl.

So, looking at his previous experience, the Vikings figured he would be a great addition to their offensive line in 2016. Minnesota and Boone ended up agreeing to a four-year, $26.8 million deal that also included $10 million fully guaranteed.

The Vikings showed they were committed to fixing their offensive line problems with the signing. However, they eventually found out that they picked the wrong guy for the job.

Boone started 14 games for Minnesota in 2016 and he performed fairly decent, giving up just one sack all season long. But the Vikings decided to move in a different direction in 2017 and they did not include Boone as a part of their final 53-man roster.

Minnesota apparently asked him to take a pay cut and he refused. So the Vikings said, “fine” and sent Boone out the door along with their money.

2. Fred Smoot - CB (2005)

Fred Smoot’s tenure with the Vikings is more famous for what went on off the field than what he ended up doing on the field in pads.

He was among the few Minnesota players that were involved in the infamous “Love Boat” scandal. Something that ended up costing Smoot an entire game check.

The Vikings obviously didn’t see something like this coming since they decided to give the cornerback a six-year deal worth $34 million during the 2005 offseason. Minnesota was hoping that Smoot and Antoine Winfield would develop into the top corner duo in the league.

But that wasn’t exactly how things turned out for the Vikings and their new cornerback.

Smoot experienced success during the early part of his career as a member of the Washington Redskins. But in Minnesota, he struggled to perform at the same level that he did when he was with the Redskins.

After intercepting 16 passes during his first four seasons with Washington, Smoot was only able to accumulate a total of three interceptions in two years with the Vikings.

And no, that’s not a typo. Smoot wore out his welcome in Minnesota after two seasons with the team, and the Vikings released him in 2007.

1. John Carlson - TE (2012)

Good luck finding a casual Vikings fan who even knows who John Carlson is. They would probably have a look of shock on their face when someone reveals to them that Minnesota gave Carlson a five-year, $25 million contract in 2012.

The Vikings were apparently intrigued by the tight end, who was fairly productive during his first few years in the NFL as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

Not even a season-ending shoulder injury in 2011 deterred Minnesota from giving Carlson a pretty nice chunk of change.

His first year with the Vikings couldn’t have gone much worse. Carlson finished the 2012 season with just eight catches for 43 yards (eight catches!).

Year two in Minnesota wasn’t much better for the tight end, either. Carlson did actually catch a touchdown in 2013, but he still only finished with 32 receptions for 344 yards.

The Vikings gave him starter money, and he performed like a utility player during his time with the team. Minnesota ended its relationship with Carlson during the 2014 offseason, and not a single person questioned the team’s decision.

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