The Armchair Quarterback's Guide To The NFL: Free Agency

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Dec 29, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham prior to kickoff of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Armchair Quarterback’s Take Of The Week

You Can’t Buy A Super Bowl In Free Agency

This week the Armchair Quarterback is taking a look at free agency. This time of year NFL fans are anxiously awaiting news of who their favorite team will re-sign, release, and what big name free agent might help them become next year’s Super Bowl Champion. The NFL has become such a 365 day a year sport that fans now over analyze every single roster move. If your team releases a second string offensive lineman you can probably find 10 different blog articles breaking down this latest transaction.

This thirst for news on our favorite team can cause fans to be irrational. After weeks of waiting for the official start of free agency we’re all so excited that we want our team to jump right into the fray and sign some big name star player. The problem is that most of the time these players carry an extremely high price tag and often some baggage along with it. After all, if they were all around great players, great people, and affordably priced why in the world would they be a free agent? I’m not saying that guys like Jimmy Graham and Greg Hardy aren’t great players, they are. However, breaking the bank in free agency is a gamble and an expensive gamble at that.

You don’t have to look any farther than the big money spending of owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder to see that simply opening up the checkbook and buying a Super Bowl doesn’t work. The NFL’s salary cap is the great equalizer. If a team like Dallas or Washington spends huge dollars on a few big name free agents they now have less money to spend on the rest of their roster. An NFL game simply cannot be won by just a handful of high priced free agents. In order to win a team must have talent all over the field AND enough depth to fill in when starters inevitably go down. Even if most of the big name free agents panned out (which they often don’t) it still wouldn’t bring Super Bowl rings because the teams don’t have enough money left over to fill out a complete roster.

In fact, often these contracts end up putting teams in such bad cap situations that they end up cutting quality starting players in order to clear cap space. Take the Dallas Cowboys, despite swimming in mediocrity the past several seasons, the Cowboys cap situation is a mess. Some reports have them as much as $25 million over the cap before they even re-sign any of their free agents, let alone sign anyone new.

In baseball, teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Dodgers have tried to shift the balance of power in their favor through the sheer amount of money they are willing to spend. The results have been mixed, but this isn’t even an option for NFL teams. Every NFL team can compete on the same financial playing field, so it’s not what you’re willing to spend, it’s how smart can you be with your cap dollars.

That’s what NFL fans need to remember as free agency starts. It’s not how big of splash your team can make. It’s not if your team’s signing is the lead story on Sports Center. In fact, if your team’s latest signing is the lead story on Sports Center I would argue that you have more cause for concern than you do reason to think you’re now destined for the Super Bowl. Yes, every once in a great while a player like Peyton Manning will come along and shift the power scale in the NFL by signing with someone in free agency, but that’s incredibly rare. The fact is that your team’s odds of signing the next Albert Haynesworth are much more likely than those of them signing the next Peyton Manning.

So am I suggesting that teams stay away from free agency all together?

No, of course not. I’m just suggesting that fans should be more excited about the solid, financially responsible additions that their teams make and not have “headline envy” when other teams foolishly commit 10% of their salary cap to one player. Look at the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. They had two of the best free agent signings of the offseason last year when they were able to land Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett at discount prices. Seattle didn’t cave to the pressure to spend big and land guys right away. They let the free agency dollars dry up and then approached the best guys still available and offered them a chance to play for a winner and then hit the market again in a year or two. Avril and Bennett both decided to play for less than what was supposed to be their market value and now they have Super Bowl rings to show for it.

Those are the kinds of moves that make teams winners.

So when free agency starts keep that in mind. You want your team to be the smartest free agent spenders, not the biggest.

So who should your team be targeting? Well, over the next two weeks I’ll unveil my underrated free agents for both offense and defense. These are players that are under the radar compared to the biggest names at their positions but could possibly fill important holes in rosters and at a cost that shouldn’t hurt your team.

This week we’ll start with the offense…….

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  • refuse2lose

    How he lives his life is his business… then why did he decide to make it OURS????