NFL Free Agency and the Quick Fix

Written By: Christopher Thomas

March 1, 2016

The season is over, and unless you are a Broncos fan, we ask ourselves how do we fix this? The obvious solution starts March 9th with free agency, the period which every team gets the opportunity to bid on proven NFL talent. This year the salary cap has increased to $155.27 million which is about $12 million more then last year. So there is a lot of money burning a hole in your favorite team’s pocket right now and players like Von Miller, Josh Norman, Doug Martin, and Matt Forte looking for work. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t get too excited about it.

  • Salary

As I mentioned above, each team has $155.27 million bucks to spend for the 2016 season. The thing is, that money has to be distributed across a 53 man active roster. If you evenly distribute that cash each player would earn roughly $2.9 million this year. That number doesn’t sit well with talent like DT Muhammad Wilkerson who was just franchise tagged at $15.7 million for the upcoming season. Each general manager has to balance talent with dollar value for each player at each position

  • Franchise Tags

This is far and away the most anticlimactic factor in NFL free agency. Every year all 32 teams are allotted a single tag that forces a player whose contract has expired to play another year with the team for an average of the top 5 players at the position’s salary.  Already big names like Alshon Jeffrey, and Muhammad Wilkerson are off the market.

 

  • Talent vs. Market

The NFL is ultra-competitive and each fan base expects it’s team to make some noise every year. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on coaches and front office staff. If they can’t get into the playoffs for a few year stint, it likely means the loss of their job. One way to appease the fans is bringing in a popular name. For instance, in 2015 the 49ers brought in popular name Torrey Smith from Baltimore.  Torrey Smith Career Stats Torrey Smith has had some success as a deep threat on a superbowl winning team with a strong offence, but never was a true number one receiver. However, he was a popular name in a weak free agent class and was able to collect  a 5 year $40 million contract with $22 million guaranteed. Now the 9ers are paying a premium price on a role player in their offence who will eat $7.6 million of their cap this year.

  • Scheme Fit

Now this is the most subtle factor, but it can make all the difference as in.. “Why did we pay this guy so much money, and now he sucks”. There are a few factors that play into the success of an incoming free agent. Every coach has a philosophy on either side of the ball that they want their team to achieve. If a linebacker is an outstanding run stopper and plays decent coverage but goes to a team running a 3-4 defense he will most likely struggle. Now I’ll admit, that is a bad example because every general manager in the league can walk and chew gum. Let’s look at a more complex example, take a middling team with a lot of pressure from the fan base to make more noise in the division. Now this team lacks receiver depth and has a young talented quarterback. For the given year, the media highlights a young receiver coming off three 60+ catch seasons. Enter Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins (now you see where I am going with this). Mike Wallace had a deep threat role carved out on a prolific offence including Antonio Brown and Big Ben. On the Dolphins he was asked to play a different role with more pressure, he didn’t crack 1,000 yard receiving in his 2 year stint. Mike Wallace Career Stats

But it’s not always all bad. Organizations have routinely pulled veteran talent that has produced for a bargain. Look at the Cardinals 2015 signing of OLB Dwight Freeney for a meager $970,000 single year contract. He was able to amass 8 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles coming off the bench to bolster the Cards pass rush. I’m not saying free agency is all bad, just don’t go chasing waterfalls.