Yesterday, we addressed the issue of Mario Williams. While we don’t like how things look so far, it’s certainly too early to call his contract a mistake. Not so for many others. Today, we look at the biggest missteps taken by Bills and Sabres management in recent history.
5. Thomas Vanek (2007)
With their backs against the wall following the departure of co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the Sabres needed to make a statement to the fans that they’re more than just a farm system for the rest of the league. Enter the Edmonton Oilers and their monstrous 7 year, $50 million offer sheet to then 23 year old restricted free agent Vanek. The Sabres chose to match and retain his rights. He has yet to come within 10 points of his previous season high and the team hasn’t won a playoff series since.
Vanek’s contract looks pretty good when put next to the remarkably similar 7 year, $49 million pact inked by this middle of the road interior offensive lineman a few months earlier. It came with an $18 million signing bonus. Dockery lasted through two mediocre seasons with the Bills before being released. The fact that much of this deal was never paid out keeps it from landing higher on our list.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Leino scored an OT goal to beat the Sabres in Game 6 of their playoff series and two months later opened his hands to catch the gold doubloons raining from the sky in Hockey Heaven. As with Mario Williams, the jury is still out but early indicators aren’t promising. Leino netted 8 goals in year one of his 6 year, $27 million deal.
Williams is the only non-free agent on our list and he still manages to hit number two. The 4th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, actual contract numbers are difficult to find, presumably because he was paid in bacon. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, writing for The Sporting News in 1998, pegged Williams as the 4th biggest draft bust of the previous twenty years.
Johnson parlayed a one game performance as Jacksonville’s starter into a 5 year, $25 million deal and the starting job with the Bills. Here’s how he got the gig (from Wikipedia.)
Johnson started his first game on Week 1 of 1997 as Brunell was still recovering. In that game on August 31, 1997, Johnson completed 20 of 24 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. For the Jaguars’ first two possessions, Johnson led 84- and 93-yard touchdown drives. Johnson also ran four times for 31 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown on a scramble. Jaguars receiver Jimmy Smith caught the winning 28-yard touchdown pass from Johnson in the Jaguars’ 28-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. This performance set the record for the highest completion percentage of any first-time starting quarterback.
The Bills gave up a first and a fourth round pick for the privilege of bringing Johnson to town. His lone start for the Jags was, in fact, an accurate predictor of his tenure in Buffalo… just not in the way that the Bills had hoped.
Twice in the game, Johnson left due to high ankle sprains. Due to his ankle injury, Johnson would miss the next three games.
“If only he could’ve stayed healthy” will likely be engraved on Johnson’s tombstone.
Also considered: Aaron Maybin, Jeff Posey, Miroslav Satan, Paul Gaustad, the one year Ralph Wilson Stadium lease extension, something about that ridiculous downtown casino.
What do you think? Who did we forget? Use the comments section below.