New veteran acquisitions, either by trade or signed as free agents, paying dividends were highlighted last week. The opposite end of the spectrum gets the focus this time around.
Several veteran newcomers who aren't living up to expectations have been identified. Contribution, availability and salary or draft capital to acquire were taken into account when making the selections.
Anyone injured during training camp, such as Jets edge rusher Carl Lawson, or lost early in the season and hasn't returned to action, like Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, weren't given consideration. Neither was Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt. He was playing well before being sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury in a Week 7 game against the Texans.
Sam Darnold, QB, Panthers
Darnold was supposed to be an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater, 2020's starting quarterback, when the Panthers traded a 2021 sixth-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Jets for him in April. That hasn't been the case with 2018's third overall pick. Carolina's 3-0 start with Darnold under center wasn't sustainable because the issues that prompted the Jets to determine he wasn't the long-term solution at quarterback resurfaced. Darnold is tied for the NFL lead with 11 interceptions. He ranks 30th among the 34 qualified quarterbacks with a 59.5 completion percentage and only rookies Justin Fields and Zach Wilson have a passer rating lower than his, which is 71.3.
Darnold is reportedly out four to six weeks with a fractured right scapula suffered in Week 9's loss to the Patriots. To add insult to injury, the Panthers showed their initial faith in Darnold by picking up his fully guaranteed $18.858 million fifth-year option for 2022. Carolina brought back Cam Newton last week, the most iconic player in the franchise's history, after Darnold was injured. Since Carolina's starting quarterback in 2022 probably isn't on the current roster, Darnold has the inside track of being the NFL's most expensive backup quarterback next year thanks to the fifth-year option.
Jared Goff, QB, Lions
Rams head coach Sean McVay souring on Goff last season led to his departure in March. Goff was included in an offseason trade for Matthew Stafford where the Lions received a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick from the Rams. He was dealt despite the four-year contract extension averaging $33.5 million per year he signed shortly before the 2019 regular season, leaving the Rams with $24.7 million in dead money, a salary cap charge for a player no longer on a team's roster.
Goff hasn't done much with the winless Lions to prove he is more than just a product of McVay's offensive system. The Lions are probably stuck with Goff in 2022 because of his contract -- $20 million of Goff's $25.65 million 2021 base salary was converted into signing bonus for salary cap purposes right after the trade. Goff's $15.5 million third day of the 2022 league year roster bonus (March 18) is already fully guaranteed without an offset -- $10 million of Goff's $10.65 million base salary, which is guaranteed for injury, becomes fully guaranteed without an offset on the same day. This means there will be $30.5 million in 2022 dead money should the Lions release Goff before his 2022 base salary is completely secure on March 18. His 2022 cap number is $26.15 million. Goff's trade value is minimal at this point.
Julio Jones, WR, Titans
A 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick were dealt to the Falcons for a disgruntled Jones, who was coming off one of his worst statistical seasons because of lingering hamstring problems, and a 2023 sixth-round pick in June. As part of the trade, the Titans assumed the remaining three years of Jones' contract running through the 2023 season worth $38.326 million.
Jones was expected to fill the void in Tennessee's passing game created by Corey Davis' departure to the Jets in free agency. Hamstring problems are hindering Jones again this season. He was put on injured reserve last week, which means he must miss a minimum of three games. Jones missed three games earlier in the season with the same injury. In the six games Jones has played this season, he has 21 receptions for 336 yards without any touchdowns.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Patriots
Smith and Hunter Henry exceeded most reasonable contract projections when the Patriots signed the tight ends to three- and four-year deals averaging $12.5 million per year. The deals made the duo the NFL's third highest-paid tight ends. Smith set a record for the most money fully guaranteed in a tight end contract with $31.25 million. The Patriots were seemingly trying to replicate the two-tight end success of the early 2010s when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were the league's two highest-paid tight ends. Henry is doing a better job of holding up his end of the bargain. Smith has 21 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown in nine games this season. Among tight ends, Smith is tied for 26th in the NFL in receptions and tied for 28th in receiving yards.
William Jackson, CB, Football Team
Jackson was given a three-year, $40.5 million contract (worth up to $42 million through incentives) with $26 million in guarantees to shore up the Washington Football Team's secondary. He has struggled in a defensive scheme that doesn't play to what had been his strength while with the Bengals, man-to-man coverage. Washington is 30th in pass defense this season, giving up 279.3 yards per game. Jackson is the NFL's second-most penalized cornerback this season drawing seven flags, where only one penalty was declined, according to Pro Football Focus.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants
Golladay was the recipient of 2021's biggest deal for a pass-catcher after the Lions declined to designate him as a franchise player. He signed a four-year, $72 million contract (worth a maximum of $76 million through incentives) with $40 million of guarantees. Assorted injuries limited Golladay to five games in 2020. Golladay returned last week before New York's bye from a hyperextended right knee that cost him three games. He has 19 catches for 310 yards and hasn't scored any touchdowns this season.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Broncos
Fuller quickly signed a one-year, $9.5 million contract where $9 million was fully guaranteed after the Bears released him in March. He reunited with Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, who had been his defensive coordinator with the Bears from 2015 through 2018 before taking the Denver job. It hasn't been the best reunion. Fuller was benched after starting the first five games. He only played four snaps in the next three games. Fuller was pressed back into action because of a knee injury to slot cornerback Bryce Callahan. He has played his best football of the season in the last two games since replacing Callahan.