The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Why Teams that Win in NFL Free Agency Lose During the Season

Why Teams that Win in NFL Free Agency Lose During the Season

The Truth about NFL Free Agency


Let’s face it if your team did nothing in free agency this year or very little you are panicking. The fact is you shouldn’t! Teams that overspend in free agency very seldom become winners the next season. Look at teams like the Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Bengals, Chiefs etc… These teams very seldom do more than sign a few guys in free agency and the one thing these teams have in common is that most of the time they end up in the playoffs. So if you are freaking out that your team did nothing or very little in free agency let’s look at some teams that have recently “Won” in free agency and let’s look at how that translated on the field?

2013 Miami Dolphins

Remember the Miami Dolphins 2013 class?  They were called winners by most, hauling in WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe and LB Philip Wheeler all on the first day of free agency.  But in typical free agency fashion, despite each of those 3 big splash players signing 5-year deals, none lasted longer than 2 years in Miami.  Wallace went to the Vikings, Ellerbe went to the Saints and Wheeler to the 49ers then Falcons.  The Dolphins went 8-8 each of the two seasons with all 3 players (2013 and 2014).  They went 6-10 last year, an even worse record than they had in 2012 (7-9), the season before spending a NFL-high $160M in free agency in 2013. So ask yourself did the Dolphins really win in free agency?

2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Two years ago, the Buccaneers brought in Lovie Smith and decided to spend on his behalf in free agency.  They topped an incredible $150M, the most of any team in 2014, and were lauded as free agency “winners” by almost everybody.  Adding DE Michael Johnson who ended up being a bust and  Alterraun Verner those were two big names, but a big splash at QB was made in Josh McCown.  However, after only 1 year of a 5 year deal for Johnson, he was released, while the Bucs owed $7M in guarantees.  Similarly, McCown played 2015 for the Browns after the Bucs released him following his one and only season in Tampa Bay.  And Verner, who signed a 4-year deal, started in only 6 games in 2015, despite playing in all 16.  Not to be outdone by his signing mates, LT Anthony Collins signed to a 4 year, $30M deal with Tampa Bay, but he was benched that very season, and prior to 2015 (after unsuccessfully trying to trade him) Collins was cut.  The Bucs won 2 games in 2014 and 6 games last year. Now the Bucs look like a contender, but not because of free agent hauls, no it is because they have drafted well since then.

2015 NY Jets

Their big first-day free agency adds of CBs Darrelle Revis and Buster Skrine headlined their aggressive offseason plan.  Over the next few days, they gave multi-year deals to G James Carpenter, CB Antonio Cromartie and SS Marcus Gilchrist.  As with all teams from this 2015 season. Too bad for the Jets that Revis got old and the team is now very bad, why are they bad? Overspending in free agency and most importantly bad drafting.

2015 Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars spent almost $177M in free agency in a desperate attempt to turn the teams fortunes in the right direction. Much like the Jets, an odd dynamic exists with teams dubbed as “winners”:  those who spend the most end up with the most headline players, and they naturally become “winners” in free agency.  Unlike the Jets, the Jaguars piled up the money in just a few, massive contracts.  The following players signed 4 or 5-year deals worth between $20M and $46M each in the first couple of days of free agency:  RT Jermy Parnell, TE Julius Thomas, DE Jared Odrick, CB Davon House and LB Dan Skuta.  Then they added multi-year deals with FS Sergio Brown and WR Bryan Walters, and this team was crowned.  But like most “free agency winners”, the results were not there in year 1.  The Jaguars won only 5 games. In the end, Coach Gus Bradley has been fired and the team is still in the same place it was before spending all of that money. Once again failures in the draft have killed the Jaguars.


The best way to build a winning NFL team is to resign your own players and to build from the draft. Every year fans of teams like the Dolphins get excited because they win in free agency only to realize later that is how losing teams try to win. You when in the draft and by keeping your existing players. Spending 100 million dollars in free agency is the sign of a desperate front office that has to try to make up for their lack of drafting the proper players to win. So, if your team did next to nothing in free agency your team was an actual free agency winner and if your team spent an ungodly amount of money in free agency enjoy that “victory” now, because when the season starts “victories” will not come very often.

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