Before we spend the next few weeks as NFL fans complaining that our teams don’t ever shell out enough money to grab the top free agents we can dig up the age old question about which is the better method to building a championship team. Is it better to draft well and build your team through the draft or to spend the most and grab the best free agents every offseason?
The simple answer is that it’s better to build through the draft. It’s just not possible to fill every hole on a team through free agency. Besides that, since the rookie salary cap was put into place under the last CBA, rookies are cheaper and can last longer under their first contracts. The more complicated answer is that both are important, to varying degrees.
Take the two Super Bowl teams for example. The Denver Broncos obviously won the free agency contest of 2012 with the pick-up of Peyton Manning. But, when it comes down to it, the parts around Peyton were just as important to the success of the team as he was individually. Through the draft they acquired Demaryius Thomas, Von Miller, Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas. When it comes to Seattle, clearly they’ve drafted well in the past few years with the additions of Russell Wilson, Malcolm Smith, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have also benefitted from the free agency signing of players like Michael Bennett.
When you think of either drafting or free agency, there’s clearly a right and a wrong way to do it too. Think about how long teams like the Raiders, Browns, and Jaguars have been picking in the top order of the draft but have yet to translate that into improved rosters. It’s important to build a team through the draft for sure but if you draft badly you’re really ensuring that your team stays bad for a long time. When it comes to free agency; there’s a wrong way to do that too. The two words that most embody the idea that spending a ton of money on a player in free agency can turn out horribly are: Albert Haynesworth.
To sum it up both drafting and free agency are important parts of building a winning team. But you have to do it right or you’ll be the Jaguars.