The Oakland Raiders relative silence in free agency this offseason has portions of Raider Nation up in arms. Some fans voiced frustration by the lack of movement despite upwards of $40 million in cap space to “spend”.
They’ll point to McKenzie’s inability to chase and land big-ticket free agents as a death knell, a deconstruction of the Raiders. That same audience looks to teams inking talents to big-money deals as progress and improvement. Land the big names and your team will reach big places.
That isn’t always so. Just ask the cap-rich Jacksonville Jaguars. Their spending habits fool people regularly.
From 2011-16, no other NFL team handed out the most guaranteed money (more than $183 million) and total contract value (more than $488 million) than the Jags. Deprived of talent and, sadly enough, not having talented eyes watching and picking draft prospects, Jacksonville needed a capable roster. So, they hit the free agency wire and hauled in big name after big name. In effect, they paid for celebrity instead of victories
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What did the big-spending lead to? An 11-37 win-lose record and a paltry .229 win percentage. ESPN’s Michael DiRocco quantified it even better:
“The Jaguars handed out an NFL-high $183,570,000 in guaranteed money from 2014-16, which worked out to roughly $16.7 million per victory,” he wrote.
Of course, those numbers do not include what Jacksonville is going to pay out with the recent crop of free agent signings. Notably, Calais Campbell signed for $30 million guaranteed. Plus, A.J. Bouye agreed to $26 million and Barry Church, $12 million, respectively. The upside for the Jaguars rests in that many of the deals are front loaded. In that case, so if they don’t work out, after year two, they can offload the high-priced garbage. Jacksonville has “won” free agency again. But will it ever translate to on-field success?
While this article isn’t an indictment of spending money, teams can do whatever they wish. While they spend, Oakland intelligently plots. Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie hit a homerun when he inked guard Kelechi Osemele to a monster deal (five-year, $58.5 million with 25M guaranteed). He’s shown if there is a player he truly likes on the market, he will open the checkbook and reset the market value on a particular player. As a result, the Raiders will continue to exercise patience.