Giants writer Art Stapleton and Jets writer Andy Vasquez preview this Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium.
Art Stapleton and Andy Vasquez, North Jersey Record
FLORHAM PARK — The New York Jets put cornerback Trumaine Johnson on injured reserve Tuesday, likely ending his time with the team.
If that’s the case (read more on why it probably is here), Johnson will go down as one of the worst free-agent signings in Jets history.
But is he the worst?
Here’s our ranking of the most regrettable contracts the Jets have given out in the free-agency era.
6. Mark Sanchez, 2012
Former Jets QB Mark Sanchez (Photo: Getty Images)
Contract: Three years, $40.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed)
Sanchez took a step back in 2011 after the Jets decided to build the offense around him. But they rewarded him with a massive contract anyway — after their failed pursuit of Peyton Manning — and then did something worse: signed Tim Tebow the next week, undermining Sanchez’s confidence and creating a massive distraction. We all know what came next. A horrible start to 2012. The Butt Fumble. The senseless preseason shoulder injury in 2013. The Jets probably deserve the majority of the blame for Sanchez’s failure. But it remains one of the worst contracts they’ve ever doled out.
GIANTS VS. JETS: Our Top 5 moments in this Meadowlands rivalry
5. Santonio Holmes, 2011
New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes warms up before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 18-17. (Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
Contract: Five years, $45 million ($24 million guaranteed)
It should have been a warning sign in 2010, when Pittsburgh was willing to part with only a fifth-round pick when it traded Holmes to New York. But when Holmes became a free agent in the summer of 2011, the Jets decided to offer him a huge contract — at the time, one of the richest deals ever for a receiver. It turned out to be a big mistake. Holmes was bad on the field and worse in the locker room. The Jets cut him after only three seasons and he had only two touchdowns and 728 receiving yards in his final two years with the team.
4. Darrelle Revis, 2015
Contract: Five years, $70 million ($39 million guaranteed)
When the Jets signed Revis in 2015, it was supposed to be the triumphant return of one of the best cornerbacks in the game. Instead, Revis looked washed up in Act 2 with the Jets. He made it through just two years of his massive deal, looking nothing like the guy who won the Super Bowl with the hated Patriots in 2014. He’s still one of the best players in franchise history. And he’s not lower on this list because he played well in 2015, the first year of the contract. But 2016 was a sad ending to his storied Jets career.
3. Muhammad Wilkerson, 2016
Contract: Five years, $85 million ($37 million guaranteed)
Wilkerson was a feel-good story. The Linden native and 30th overall pick in 2011 became one of the best pass rushers in the league in 2015 with 12 sacks. But it all went wrong when the Jets inked him to an extension. He never seemed to recover from a broken leg in the final game of the 2015 season, struggling to get to the quarterback with eight sacks in his 28 games after getting paid. Worse yet, he became a problem off the field. Another Jets’ feel-good story gone wrong.
2. Trumaine Johnson, 2018
Contract: Five years, $72.5 million ($34 million guaranteed)
When the Jets signed Johnson, they thought they were getting the best available cover cornerback on the market, a building block for the defense over the next several years. It did not work out that way. Johnson had a nightmare first season with the Jets, struggling on the field and with injuries and even getting benched the final game of the season for tardiness. This year wasn’t much better, as Johnson briefly lost his starting job early in the season, was ineffective and is now too hurt to play. In the end, he’ll likely end up earning $2 million per game in only $17 million appearances with the Jets. Yikes.
1. Neil O’Donnell, 1996
When Esiason didn’t pan out, the Jets poached QB Neil O’Donnell from the Steelers after he led Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XXX in 1995. But the New Jersey native did not reward the Jets despite their five-year, $25 million investment. O’Donnell lost of 12 of 20 starts and was gone by 1998. (Photo: Mark Lennihan, AP)
Contract: Five years, $25 million (total payout of $10.75 million)
O’Donnell came to the Jets in 1996 at age 29 fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with the Steelers. The Jets thought they were getting a quarterback in his prime. Instead, after signing his massive contract (worth far more in 2019 dollars because of inflation), he was a disaster. O’Donnell lasted just six games in 1996 — all losses — and was cut after only two seasons. Bringing in O’Donnell the worst free-agent decision in team history, still, and one of the worst signings the NFL has ever seen.
Andy Vasquez is the Jets beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Jets analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @andy_vasquez