Over the past few seasons, Eagles head coach Andy Reid has established himself as a big spender in free agency.
Three years ago, they signed star cornerback Asante Samuel to a six-year, $57 million deal. Two years ago, they signed star fullback Leonard Weaver and quarterback Michael Vick. And this offseason, the Eagles have already stated their intent to pursue a number of big name free agent players.
But at the beginning of Reid’s tenure, the team didn’t sign as many free agents. An exception came in 2004, when the Eagles signed defensive end Jevon Kearse to an eight-year, $65 million deal, the richest contract for a defensive lineman in NFL history.
It remains the worst free agent signing in the entire Andy Reid era.
At first, everything went well for the Eagles and Jevon Kearse. The defense ranked among the league’s best in 2004. Kearse collected only 7.5 sacks but his presence played a large factor and his slightly disappointing season was forgotten when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.
The 2005 season was the same thing for Kearse, as he collected 7.5 sacks. But the Eagles allowed 386 points and lost 10 games, their first last place finish under Andy Reid.
In 2006, Kearse started the season strong, notching 3.5 sacks in the season’s first two games. But he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the New York Giants in week two.
He returned in 2007 but entered training camp reportedly weighing 30 pounds lighter than the previous season. Teammates stated that Kearse was “partying like a rock star” in Florida and “is living like he’s not playing football anymore”.
Although Kearse bulked up to his previous weight of 260 by the time the season started, he was no longer an effective player and had lost his burst coming off the line. As a result, he lost his starting job to Juqua Parker in week 11. He finished the season with 3.5 sacks and a pathetic eight tackles.
As expected, Kearse was released after the season, ending his four-year stint in Philadelphia.
His total numbers during those four seasons? 75 tackles, 22 sacks, 15 pass deflections, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery. He played in just 45 games in four seasons, and started just 39 of those games.
Kearse was expected to be the leader of the Eagles defense, along with safety Brian Dawkins and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Instead he was merely an above average starter in 2004 and 2005, and ineffective the next two seasons.
“The Freak” was nothing like the dominant defensive end he used to be in Tennessee.
In all, during his four seasons in Philadelphia, I’d rank him as a slightly better than average starting defensive end, which is not exactly what you hope for when you sign a player to a $65 million deal.
He hasn’t received the criticism that he probably deserves from fans, and I’m not sure why, but there’s no denying the obvious.
Jevon Kearse remains, as of now, the worst free agent signing in the entire Andy Reid era.