The new NFL league year starts today at 4:00PM but free agents have been negotiating with prospective suitors since Monday. Free Agency is an exciting time for fans of NFL teams but can be “Fools Gold” for the teams. Why? Well the NFL landscape is littered with monumental free agent busts. Albert Haynesworth signing for $100M with the Redskins many years ago is probably the biggest and most noteworthy bust. So how does a team make this process work?
First salary cap space is the driver behind what a team can or cannot do. The more space the more aggressive you can be. Contracts are written in a way to spread the dollars out across years to better manage the cap hit in any one year.
Second need should be the key. What are the key needs your team must fill? Remembering that the rookie draft is about a month later. NFL veteran free agents can step in and make a difference a lot quicker than a rookie can in most cases. But just because a player was successful with one team does not necessarily translate into success if you sign him as a free agent. What system did he play in? Who were the coaches? What players were around him? These are all questions that must be evaluated before offering a big money contract.
QB’s generally rule the market but usually good ones don’t become available in free agency. This year Kirk Cousins was the anomaly. He had 3 solid seasons at Washington without many quality receivers to throw to. He was young so he will be around for a while. Consequently he turned that into $84M over 3 years fully guaranteed with the Vikings.
Sometimes the best free agent signings are the under the radar ones. Guys who the average fan may never have heard of but brings his new team solid experience and a good fit with the scheme and system. Also, the fit in the locker room is key as well. Team chemistry is an often overlooked part of bringing in free agents
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