by NFL Gimpy
Black Tuesday 1929. Housing Bubble 2007-2012. NFL Free Agency 2013. Ladies and Gentlemen, a massive economic collapse has occurred, the likes of which we will never see again. NFL Free Agents were not overpaid across the board. It’s devastating, I know, especially to night clubs and chain restaurants all around the country. Cheesecake Factory and TGI Fridays are struggling while Vince Young is unemployed. Sadly, the market did not create enough to compensate.
In all seriousness, it was shocking to most that free agents did not receive the big paydays they expected. Many players took less on the open market than they could have received had they re-signed with their current team before it opened. Those players tested the market and they lost. Greg Jennings was allegedly offered $11M to stay with the Packers last year. He got a little more than $9M per, including a salary he’ll never see in year 5. Cliff Avril turned down a 3 year, $30M deal from the Lions last offseason. He signed with the Seahawks for $15M over 2 years. If you consider that Avril got $10M from the franchise tag in 2012, his rejection of the offer cost him $5M.
The biggest surprise to me was that CBs and pass rushers didn’t get paid. Outside of Paul Kruger, no pass rusher got a big deal. The top CBs on the market got average starter deals. Allow me to put a little perspective on how little the top CBs and DEs received. In 2012, the #3 WR on the Cowboys, Laurent Robinson (already cut), received $14M guaranteed from the Jaguars. The highest paid CB in free agency, Sean Smith, got $7.465M guaranteed. Only Paul Kruger, the top paid pass rusher or CB, got more guaranteed $$ than Robinson last year. Let that simmer a little bit that Laurent Robinson was worth more guaranteed $$ than Sean Smith, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Cary Williams, etc.
Here are a few thoughts on free agency signings in a quick hit format:
-My favorite signings? Reggie Bush to the Lions, Louis Vasquez to the Broncos, and Connor Barwin to the Eagles. All 3 deals were excellent for players who I view as good starters. None of them are great, but each will immediately step into the starting lineup and provide a real impact. Bush will provide immense stability at the RB position. He’ll be combined with Mikel LeShoure. Vasquez was a great value for the Broncos and also weakens their division rival Chargers. Barwin can play in the 3-4 or 4-3 under and can provide locker room leadership to an Eagles team that has sorely lacked it recently.
-Least favorite? Shonn Greene to the Titans, Erik Walden to the Colts, and Mike Wallace to the Dolphins. Greene got $10M over 3 years. This is for a backup RB, a position which teams routinely fill with mid-round rookies. I’m absolutely puzzled as to why the Colts gave Erik Walden got $16M over 4 years. I’m not even sure how Walden was able to sign the deal; his head is still spinning from trying to find Colin Kaepernick. Of all the players I gave a “buyer beware” tag to last week, Wallace is the only one who got big $$, the rest are unsigned or received subpar contracts.
-I think the biggest losers were the teams who seemed to spend the most: the Dolphins and Colts. Both teams gave deals that seem above and beyond what the rest of the market would bare. The Colts signed the aforementioned Erik Walden to a bad deal. They paid Ricky Jean-Francois, LaRon Landry, and Gosder Cherilus more than any other team would. I think it’s odd that the Colts, whose quick turnaround had a lot to do with rookie contributions, would spend a ton of $$ in free agency.
I understand why the Dolphins spent as much as they did to an extent. The Dolphins struggle to sell out all of their home games and they need to generate excitement from fans to fill the seats. By signing Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, and Philip Wheeler, they generate excitement. But the deals just aren’t friendly to the team long term. Even worse, the Dolphins had Wheeler in Miami for a visit before the 2012 season and he ended up signing a 1 year, $700k deal with the Raiders. One year later he receives $25M over 5 years. Ouch.
-The biggest winners are too tough to predict, but in general, it seems like teams that spend big in free agency rarely have immediate post season success. Take a look at our two Super Bowl teams this past season. Do you see any players who were signed to a big free agent contract on the 49ers or Ravens? You certainly see some good free agent values, like Jacoby Jones, but no players who were recently signed to a big $$ contract. The teams who seem to be in the hunt year in and year out like the Steelers, Ravens, Packers, Patriots, and Giants are rarely spending a lot in free agency. You can see the 49ers and Seahawks employing a similar strategy. Find value in free agency, don’t overpay for the big names.
If I had to pick a winner, it would be the Seahawks. Their main deficiency late in the season was the pass rush. They added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett with very reasonable deals. If Avril and Bennett don’t work out, they aren’t stuck with dead cap space. If they do work out, the Seahawks can easily work out long term extensions with both. Those are the type of acquisitions that can work. I’m also a huge fan of the Percy Harvin trade. While it technically wasn’t free agency, the Seahawks added the best offensive playmaker available through all avenues, free agency, draft, or trade.
-Jake Long’s contract with the Rams highlights the poor management the Dolphins have had for far too long. When you draft a player #1 overall, you expect that player to be a franchise player until he’s no longer a franchise level player. It doesn’t matter if the Dolphins don’t think he’s worth the $$ the Rams gave him and I’m not suggesting they should have re-signed him. I’m stating that Long was not worth the #1 overall pick if he’s leaving in free agency. They have at least 7-10 more years to regret passing on Matt Ryan unless Ryan Tannehill turns out to be a franchise QB.
Miscellaneous Quick Hits
-The Elvis Dumervil fax story is one the most bizarre contract mistakes since Terrell Owens was traded to the Ravens because his agent forgot to file paperwork to void his contract with the 49ers. Owens ended up on the Eagles after a compromise was struck between the 49ers, Ravens, and Eagles. The thing that sucks about the Dumervil deal is that all parties lose. The Broncos have dead cap space and lose a talented pass rusher. Dumervil will not get $8M on the open market (what his renegotiated contract was set to be) either, so he’ll lose $$. I wonder if the NFL and NFLPA can find a way to fix this without violating any contract law. That’s assuming if Dumervil wants back on the Broncos, which is doubtful.
-The NFL’s proposed rule change requiring NFL RBs to keep their head up and not lowered is one of the dumbest rule changes I’ve ever seen. I understand their commitment to preventing head injuries, but this is going way too far.
-A report came out that the Chiefs are willing to trade Branden Albert. I doubt it will work, though. Outside of Jake Long, OTs really didn’t get much in free agency and a huge part of that is a deep draft. In order for a team to trade for Albert, they’re either taking on his large franchise tag # or signing him to a long term extension that will be well above what he would have received on the open market. Why do I say that? Albert has very little incentive to sign with a team for a below market deal. Albert is getting nearly $10M guaranteed in 2012. Any deal that doesn’t include a number much larger than $10M guaranteed probably isn’t worth it and I doubt a team is going to spend ~$15M guaranteed on him.
-I got a laugh out of the report that the Steelers wanted to bring in Jake Long for a visit. I’m assuming the report is true because the Steelers are not a team who pay free agents big $$ so it’s not like Long’s agent leaked it to try and pressure the Rams into coughing up more $$. It’s funny because I can’t see how the cap strapped Steelers could have made his contract work and be comparable to what he got in St. Louis without screwing them even further. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Kevin Colbert is on the hot seat because the Steelers are a descending team right now and I think a top notch coaching staff is holding it together.
-As I said on Twitter last night, I will absolutely be using Nate Silver of 538 and his incredible statistical analysis when making my NCAA brackets. I haven’t watched much basketball this season but I have the NCAA Tournament as my #2 non-football sporting event, right after the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Football may be far and away my favorite sport, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are probably the best sports event. There is no group of players who want to win a trophy more than in the NHL, not even the Super Bowl.
-While on the topic of hockey, it seems like there are 5 NHL teams at the top and then everyone else. In the East, it’s the Penguins, Bruins, and Canadiens. In the west, the Blackhawks and Ducks. If a bet existed, I’d put $$ down that one of those 5 teams will win the cup.
-I haven’t made my Final 4 picks yet. I’m just really hoping my Pitt Panthers upset Gonzaga in the 2nd round. If that happens, I’m good.