As we march toward another free agency frenzy, it is important to remind everyone what it really is. Free agency is an overspending on big name free agents, with regret over most signings a year later.
The legal tampering period is always a chaotic, fun time in the NFL offseason. Everyone’s favorite teams got a big name free agent for a bargain, and everything is going to work out perfectly.
Well, history shows it is not. Every year we get excited as fans for all the big names hitting the market, and rightfully so. Thirty-two teams all bargaining for the best players on the open market. What is not to love?
There is plenty not to love. Good teams do not overpay a player whose production does not warrant a big contract. It is always the teams that have always struggled that are trying to sign the biggest names, shelling out too much money for not near enough production.
So, if free agency is not about overspending for bigger name players, what is it?
The smartest play is to aim to fill out the middle of the roster, adding depth for cheap while everyone is overbidding on another player. Teams need to start utilizing free agency to fill out the middle of the roster, then worry about building through the draft.
The Cleveland Browns are the perfect example of why free agency is often fool’s gold. The Browns made a litany of moves under John Dorsey. Adding Jarvis Landry, Damarious Randall, and Tyrod Taylor through trades, then spending money on free agents like Chris Hubbard, Morgan Burnett, Sheldon Richardson, Terrance Mitchell, T.J Carrie, and the list goes on and on. The Browns went for it.
And what happened? Yes, they went 7-8-1 in 2018. Then the wheels fell off. Almost none of the free agents they signed will remain with Andrew Berry now in the GM’s chair.
Who will remain? The players they were able to get in the draft. Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and David Njoku.
The Browns have shown that building through the draft is the way to get cornerstone players, and for a much cheaper price. If the Browns had stuck to using free agency to fill out the middle of the roster and focused on building other areas in the draft, they do not go 6-10.
They had no depth. Just the overpaid players in free agency.
Use free agency to fill out the middle of the roster, and then go draft. Do not get sucked into paying $16M for a player like Sammy Watkins. Go draft someone just as productive on a rookie contract, and live regret-free a year later.