New series I’ll briefly kick up over the next couple of weeks. I’m not going to go through an exhaustive list of Kevin Colbert’s free agent signings the way I did his draft picks earlier in the month. But I will hit on the notable best – and worst – deals Colbert made during free agency throughout his time as Pittsburgh Steelers’ GM.
Back to the worst today and TE Ladarius Green.
Ladarius Green/TE – 4 years, $20 million (2016)
For years, we – at least, I did – pined for the Steelers to sign a “move” tight end. To follow the NFL’s lead of athletic, stand-up big receivers called tight ends. To shift, even slightly, away from the the block-first, checkdowns-second type of guy as Heath Miller retired and opened the need for a new starting tight end.
Be careful what you wish for.
Pittsburgh attempted to find that man by signing Ladarius Green at the start of the 2016 free agency. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert were aggressive about it, flying to Florida to personally visit Green and convince him to sign. Green put pen to paper on a big deal by the Steelers’ standards. The return on investment was…minimal.
Things got off to a rocky start. An offseason ankle injury caused Green to miss camp and begin the year on Reserve/PUP. Tomlin and the Steelers said little about Green’s status, leading many to speculate, and some to report, he was dealing with concussion-related issues that plagued him during his time with the Chargers. The idea of him retiring was even floated, though the organization shot the notion down.
It took until mid-November for the Steelers to get Green onto the field, catching three passes for 30 yards in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys (the Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown fake spike game). The few games he played, Green was productive, finding the end zone for the first and only time that year against the Giants, a 20-yard score off a well-executed fake bubble screen down the left side. He finished that game with six receptions for 110 yards and that trip to the end zone. He caught five passes for 72 yards in Week 15 against the Bengals. But that would be not just his final game of the season but the final game of his Steeler and NFL career.
A 28-yard catch in the fourth quarter ended with Green suffering another concussion. Here’s a look at the play, getting hit high after making the grab and landing hard on his head.
He missed the next five games, two in the regular season and three postseason contests, and his future looked in doubt.
That future was cemented in mid-May 2017 when Green was released with a failed physical designation. The team didn’t comment much on the circumstances that led to his release, but it’s easy to believe concussions are what ended his playing days.
What makes this signing so bad is the team’s seemingly lack of due diligence on Green’s medical. He had a scary history of concussions, including the year before Pittsburgh signed him, and I personally heard some horror stories when it came to his health. After his release, Ed Bouchette tweeted the team didn’t do their homework on him medically.
Green never signed with another team, much less played another down. His four-year Steelers deal turned into not even a half-season, just six games, finishing things with 18 catches. Injuries in the NFL happen and can’t be controlled. But Pittsburgh could’ve saw this one coming and is arguably the worst free agent choice Kevin Colbert ever made.