Philadelphia Eagles: Byron Maxwell is the Eagles’ biggest FA bust

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With four years of hindsight, it’s clear the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to sign Bryon Maxell was the worst free agency blunder in franchise history.

On Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio and Peter King discussed whether or not current-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was the worst free-agent signing in NFL history – the verdict? Eh, maybe.

While the pair’s discussion was fairly uneventful – though it was quite fun to watch noted Vikings fan Florio squirm – it got me thinking: who is the worst free-agent signing in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history? Excluding, of course, players drafted by the team, or acquired-and-then-extended via trade, which player did the Eagles pay a whole bunch of money to, and get way below that value on-field?

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To me, the answer is pretty simple and all too obvious: Byron Maxwell.

Now one could point to players like Stacy Andrews, or even another 21st-century cornerback like Nnamdi Asomugha and make the case that either player underperformed their contracts, but both of those players came to the City of Brotherly Love highly decorated – and on a cheaper contract.

Unlike Asomugha, who was considered one of the two-to-three best cornerbacks in the NFL, a two-time All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler when the Eagles signed him to a five-year, $60 million deal ($25 million guaranteed), Maxwell was effectively a one-year wonder.

After being drafted 173rd overall out of Clemson in the 2011 NFL Draft, Maxwell’s usage in the Seattle Seahawks defense rose steadily over his first three seasons in the league, but never quite rose to a level where he could supplant starters Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman for a starting role.

Frankly, it took the New England Patriots signing Browner to a three-year, $17 million deal for Maxwell to earn more than a handful of starts in a season; but as things so often go in the NFL, it’s not how you got the opportunity, but what you do with it.

Starting on the outside for the NFC Champions, Maxwell clearly wooed the Eagles’ brass – led by Chip Kelly – to the point where when he hit the open market, his destination was clear.

Offered a six-year, $63 million deal with $25 million in guaranteed money, Maxwell happily signed on the dotted line and even switched his number from 41 to 31 in the hopes of establishing himself as a player worthy of his gigantic contract; finally becoming the number one cornerback he could never be while standing in the shadows of then-league-best cornerback in the league.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

Tasked with playing number one corner in Billy Davis‘ turnstile defense, Maxwell was downright horrible, finishing out the season with a 44.4 overall defensive Pro Football Focus grade – the 80th best mark of any corner in the league. Maxwell was so bad that at one point, the team tried to deploy him out of the slot – albeit due to ‘game-plan reasons’ – but through it all, the ex-Seahawk looked like a square peg forced into a round hole.

Really, the only positive to come out of the Maxwell affair was the team’s ability to trade his and Kiko Alonso‘s contracts – along with their first-round pick – to move up to the eight spot in the draft and eventually select Carson Wentz second-overall – even if the team did have to eat over $13 million in dead money to get the deal done.

For all of Asomugha’s flaws – and his propensity for eating lunch alone in his car – the Eagles only picked up $4 million in dead money when he was ultimately released after two seasons, giving Maxwell the slight edge historically in a bust versus bust shootout.

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Ultimately, I’m glad the Philadelphia Eagles signed Byron Maxwell, as the team may have never drafted Carson Wentz without his contract, but despite that happy ending, his disastrous tenure in our fair city will undoubtedly go down as the most significant free-agency bust in franchise history.