Since the final seconds of the Super Bowl came to a close just over a month ago, NFL fans have been waiting anxiously for the start of the new league year so that their favorite team can start making the necessary moves to bring them the Lombardi Trophy next season. That wait is almost over. Tuesday, March 11th is that magical day where teams can land the players that their fans are sure are the final missing pieces to achieve league dominance.
There’s only one little problem.
The exciting, big name, big headline, big money players that are signed at the start of free agency rarely bring a lot of wins with them.
Think about it….
Mike Wallace was arguably the biggest free agent of last season. He ended up signing a huge contract with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins then improved by only one game from 7-9 to 8-8 and Wallace put up a mediocre 73 receptions for 930 yards and five TDs. He actually finished second on his own team in both receptions and yards to Brian Hartline, whom the Dolphins re-signed that same offseason for SIGNIFICANTLY less money than Wallace got. Which of those signings were Dolphins excited about? Which one of them dominated Twitter and ESPN? Which one ended up being the better move in hindsight?
This isn’t a new story in the NFL. The path to the Super Bowl is almost never paved with big name (and big dollar) free agent signings. In case you don’t believe me, look at a few more examples from last season.
Did signing Reggie Bush turn the Detroit Lions into an offensive juggernaut and propel them into the postseason? No.
The Falcons were coming off a NFC title game birth and thought signing Steven Jackson and Osi Umemyiora would help them take that final step that they needed to reach the Super Bowl. They finished 4-12.
The Cleveland Browns were a popular pick to make the jump up to playoff contender after they bolstered their defense with the free agent additions of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. They finished last in their division with a 4-12 record.
How about the Greg Jennings addition in Minnesota? Did that move help the Minnesota passing attack take the next step last season? Even better, did some of you forget that Jennings was even in Minnesota until you read that? I rest my case.
As I write this (Sunday afternoon), there has been basically no news coming out of the NFL rumor mill in terms of KC signing anyone, including their own in-house free agents. The Chiefs Kingdom is getting antsy. Fans are so anxious for the rush of their favorite team adding a new player that it is becoming less and less about who the Chiefs sign and more and more about fans having their addiction for Chiefs related news fed.
I understand that it’s frustrating. I understand that it’s almost impossible to not have free agency envy when you see story after story on Sports Center about teams making “big moves” and adding “big names”.
Stop and think about this for a second. I’m going to list some offseason moves from last season and I want you to think about how much excitement there was when they happened compared to how much value you think we got out of that signing last season.
The Chiefs sign Dunta Robinson
The Chiefs sign Sean Smith
The Chiefs sign Geoff Schwartz
The Chiefs sign Akeem Jordan
The Chiefs sign Donnie Avery
The Chiefs re-sign Dwayne Bowe
The Chiefs sign Marcus Cooper
If I was ranking these in order of “buzz” in Chiefs Kingdom at the time that they happened I would go:
Bowe, Robinson, Smith, Avery, Schwartz, Jordan, Cooper
Looking back on what KC got for their investment last season I would rank them in order of value as:
Cooper, Schwartz, Jordan, Smith, Bowe, Avery, Robinson
The order isn’t completely reversed, but pretty darn close. Robinson was a complete bust. Many fans are already unhappy with Bowe’s cap hit compared to his production, and after a solid start Sean Smith proved to be just an average starting CB. Meanwhile, Marcus Cooper was someone nobody had ever heard of who ended up being a key contributor, Geoff Schwartz is now one of the top rated guards in free agency, and Akeem Jordan proved to be one of the top rated run stopping LBs in all the NFL last season.
Signings like KC made with Schwartz, Jordan, and Cooper don’t happen on the opening couple of days of free agency. Players don’t sign team friendly deals right out of the gate. They wait it out to see if a better offer comes along. If one doesn’t, then they sign the team friendly deal. The deals that are signed in the first few days are deals where one team has emerged as the top bidder for a big name player. In order to be the top bidder teams often have to over spend.
The Chiefs simply don’t have the cap space to over spend. While us fans might be craving that excitement that we felt when KC re-signed Bowe and landed Sean Smith, what the team really needs is to find this year’s versions of Cooper, Schwartz, and Jordan. Like it or not, that’s not going to happen right away. Even when it does happen you aren’t going to do any backflips about it. It’s not like the Geoff Schwartz signing last season blew up all over Twitter and had Sports Center doing live cut ins with Adam Schefter to break down the signing. Under the radar value signings are just that, UNDER THE RADAR.
If not under the radar, good free agent signings are still often done later in free agency. Look at the Seattle Seahawks last season. They waited until the big dollars dried up and were then able to convince both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to sign for less than they wanted. If they would have signed them both on the opening day of free agency it would have cost them significantly more in both dollars and years. That’s how smart teams operate.
So when free agency officially begins on Tuesday I encourage all KC to remain calm. I know it’s hard. I know it can be frustrating. I’m right there with you.
I’d like to see KC re-sign Geoff Schwartz.
I think Golden Tate would be a great fit for Andy Reid’s offense.
I think a MAJOR upgrade at free safety would vastly improve the KC defense.
If John Dorsey and Andy Reid can make one of those things (or similar type moves) happen in the next couple of days in a way that makes sense for the team, fantastic. I’ll be thrilled. However, if the only way to make a move this week is to throw 80% of their free agency budget at one player when they have multiple spots to fill, I’ll be supportive of them waiting for the bargaining power to swing back to the teams.
There will be good players available at prices that are team friendly if teams are smart enough and patient enough to find them.
Here’s to hoping that the Chiefs are one of those teams.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen