Some say freedom is a cruel illusion, but it’s what July 4th is all about! It’s also — in an abstract sense — what free agency is all about. With that concrete tie-in, here are the best and worst recent free-agent signings in Minnesota.
Fred Smoot was a rising corner when he signed for $36 million in 2005. He was a dud through two seasons (though an effective ringleader of the Love Boat scandal). Bernard Berrian was gifted a $42 million contract in 2008. The return? A total of 11 touchdowns before his ouster midway through 2011. Guard Steve Hutchinson was a three-time All-Pro when he signed a massive contract in 2006; he’d go on to win the honor four more times. Brett Favre became a villain to Packers fans in 2009, a magical year that came within one score of the Super Bowl. Then 2010 happened.
Joe Smith was productive enough for four seasons. The franchise-crippling illegal contract used to sign him in 1998, one that cost the team three first-round picks, could be described as counter-productive. It was a gamble signing knee cartilage-less Brandon Roy to a two-year, $10.4 million contract last season. After managing just five games, he wasn’t asked back for a second. Serviceable guards Terry Porter (1995-98), Luke Ridnour (2010-present) and J.J. Barea (2011-present) are the closest things to free agent wins.
2006 feel-good story: Wild inks hometown kid Mark Parrish to five-year, $13.25 million contract. 2008 feel-bad story: He’s bought out after two. Martin Havlat signed on for $30 million in 2009, a move to replace franchise cornerstone Marián Gáborík. Two ho-hum years later, he was shipped off to San Jose. Brian Rolston delivered three lights-out seasons before the aging forward was traded away in 2008. Last year, Zach Parise inked a 13-year, $98 million contract to play in his home state. Time will tell if the fanbase-pleasing move pans out.
Liván Hernández started his one-year, $5 million deal as an ace, going 6-1 to begin 2010. An epic collapse led to his dismissal that August. Tsuyoshi Nishioka came to the U.S. in 2011 with loads of hype and a three-year, $9 million contract. He left with a broken leg and .215 average the following year. In one season with his hometown club, all pitcher Jack Morris managed was 18 wins and the 1991 World Series MVP award. Last season, Josh Willingham notched career-high home runs (35) and RBI (110) in his powerful debut.