In just about one month, free agency will kick off and some teams, like the Dolphins did last year, will go on huge spending sprees while others, like the Packers have almost always done, will sign players here and there to fill various needs on the team without breaking the bank. Fortunately, for the Dolphins, they have $30 million to work with in free agency despite the fact that they gave out monster contracts to quite a few players last year. This can be attributed to Dawn Aponte, who has done a great job with the salary cap. Whether you like her or not, this is fact and cannot be disputed.
However, is it a good idea to use most of that money in free agency? In this article, I will analyze whether or not it’s smart to spend big in free agency by looking at the past three years. The analysis will also highlight the fact that you shouldn’t get worked up over what the media says about your favorite team. When the media ignores one’s favorite team or when the media bashes one’s favorite team, it is human nature to get upset because we feel that our favorite team isn’t being recognized or is being unfairly criticized by outsiders. With that said, outside opinion does not matter and you should not get worked up over what they say.
In 2011, Yahoo Sports named the Philadelphia Eagles as the winners of free agency. That year, they signed Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, and others. They also included the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Jaguars. The Cardinals signed players such as Stewart Bradley, Daryn Colledge, and Todd Heap. The Seahawks signed players such as Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery, and Brandon Mebane. The Jaguars signed players such as Paul Posluszny, Clint Session, and Dawan Landry.
Let’s take a look at their final records. Philadelphia finished 8 – 8 and missed the playoffs. The Cardinals finished 8 – 8 and missed the playoffs. The Seahawks finished 7 – 9 and missed the playoffs. The Jaguars finished 5 – 11 and missed the playoffs.
Digging deeper, Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, Babin, and Jenkins are no longer on the Eagles. Bradley and Heap are no longer on the Cardinals. Gallery no longer plays for the Seahawks and Session along with Landry no longer plays for the Jaguars. That means out of the top signings that Yahoo stated, only 30% worked out for those teams.
Their biggest loser was none other than the Miami Dolphins because they couldn’t find an upgrade over Chad Henne. While they did sign Reggie Bush, that wasn’t enough in their eyes. Yahoo also named the Vikings, Packers, Panthers, Ravens, and Jets the losers of free agency.
The Dolphins final record was 6 – 10 and missed the playoffs. The Vikings finished 3 – 13 and missed the playoffs. The Ravens finished 12 – 4 and was the second seed in the playoffs. The Jets finished 8 – 8 and missed the playoffs.
That shows that despite being named the winners of free agency, none of those teams made the playoffs. While the losers had trouble too, one of them made the playoffs – the Ravens. Right now, it looks like the trend is that you want to be somewhere in the middle. That means a team shouldn’t go crazy nor should a team sit back and do very little. It’s about finding pieces here and there and making smart moves that make sense for the team.
In 2012, the Buccaneers, Rams, Raiders, Bears, and Redskins were named free agency winners by ESPN. The Bucs grabbed players such as Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, and Eric Wright. The Rams signed players such as Jo-lonn Dunbar, Mario Haggan, Trevor Laws, and William Hayes. The Raiders signed Phillip Wheeler and Dave Tollefson. The Bears signed Geno Hayes, Jonathan Wilhite, Kelvin Hayden, and Chilo Rachal. The Redskins signed players such as Jonathn Goff, Bryan Kehl, James Lee, and Neil Rackers.
The Buccaneers finished 7 -9, the Rams finished 7 – 8, the Bears finished 10 – 6, and the Redskins finished 10 – 6. The only team to make the playoffs out of those teams was the Washington Redskins.
While Jackson and Nicks still play for the Buccaneers, Eric Wright does not. Haggan and Laws no longer play for the Rams. Wheeler and Tollefson no longer play for the Raiders. Hayden is the only one who still plays for the Bears and Goff, Lee, and Rackers no longer play for the Redskins. Only 35% of the top free agent signings worked out.
On the losing side, ESPN named the Dolphins once again, the Cardinals, and the Saints. The Dolphins finished 7 -9, the Cardinals finished 5 – 11, and the Saints finished 7 -9. None of them made the playoffs.
Again, despite being named winners, all but one missed the playoffs. For the losers, none made the playoffs again. The trend continues that you want to be somewhere in the middle by not going crazy signing every player you see nor should a team sit back and do very little to upgrade their team.
In 2013, Athlon Sports named the Falcons, Bears, Texans, Dolphins, and Vikings free agent winners. The Faclson signed players such as Steven Jackson, Osi Umenyiora, William Moore, Sam Baker, and others. The Bears signed players such as D.J. Williams, Jermon Bushrod, and D.J. Williams. The Texans signed players such as Ed Reed, Shane Lechler, and Greg Jones. The Dolphins signed players such as Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Dustin Keller, Brent Grimes, and Phillip Wheeler. The Vikings signed players such as Greg Jennings, Phil Loadholt, Jerome Felton, and Matt Cassel.
The Falcons finished 4 – 12, the Bears finished 8 – 8, the Texans finished 2 – 14, the Dolphins finished 8 – 8, and the Vikings finished 5 – 10. Not one of those teams made the playoffs. We’ve already seen one release with Ed Reed in the middle of last season. There is no doubt that there will be many more added to that list within the next one to three years.
As for the losers, they named the Ravens, Bills, Browns, Jets, Raiders, Steelers, and Patriots. The Ravens finished 8 -8, the Bills finished 6 – 10, the Browns finished 4 – 12, the Jets finished 8 – 8, the Raiders finished 4 – 12, the Steelers finished 8 -8, and the Patriots finished 12 – 4 and were one game away from the Super Bowl. With the exception of the Patriots, none of those teams made the playoffs.
What does this show us? For the third straight year, it shows us that teams who go crazy in free agency are almost guaranteed not to make the playoffs. It shows us that teams who sit back and do very little to fill their holes are almost guaranteed not to make the playoffs. It shows us that you want to be very strategic in free agency, filling holes here and there without chasing every big name that hits the market.
This is extremely important to keep in mind when free agency opens at 4:00 PM EST on March 11. If you see the Dolphins going crazy throwing money at countless top free agents, you should be worried. If you see the Dolphins sitting back and doing almost nothing, you should be worried. The Dolphins need to worry about locking up their own players before March 11. From there, they should target at least one and possibly two top free agents to go after. After that, they need to be selective and strategic. Doing it that way will give them a much better chance at building a successful team that can make a run at the playoffs during the 2014 season and beyond.
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