Today marks the official start of the free agency period. Free agents are now able to sign with any team they want and position themselves for a big payday or chance at a Super Bowl ring. Teams with significant cap space will look to make a splash and the top free agents will look to sign record breaking contracts.
Inevitably, in free agency, players are signed to huge contracts that they fail to live up to and others are signed who outperform their contracts. This deters some teams from making big signings, while others routinely go after the biggest name free agents. Each teams philosophy to team building, will impact how they act in free agency. Some teams believe in building through the draft and then signing their best players (making limited moves in free agency). Other teams believe in supplementing their drafting via free agency, which leads them to make more strategic free agent signings. Other teams, often the teams that end up picking high (thus losing a lot of games) have trouble signing free agents. This leads them to attempt so sign several of the top tier free agents in hope of signing one, as they are a less desirable destination. These teams often have to pay a premium in order to get the top free agents.
The teams that traditionally have the most success in free agency are those that use free agency in order to supplement their roster. Teams that do a good job of this include, the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens among others. These teams have been the gold standard in recent years, they have retooled their rosters through adding key pieces in free agency. This approach to free agency has been the most effective one, in the salary cap era.
Top 5 worst free agency signings of the modern era:
- Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins
(7 years, $100 million – $41 million guaranteed)
This is one of the most memorable recent free agency blunders. This signing is so high due to the amount of money in the contract, as Haynesworth was the first defender to sign a $100 Million contract. Haynesworth would flame out of the league three years afters signing his mega-contract.
- Adam Archuleta, Washington Redskins
(7 years, $35 million – 10 million guaranteed)
A productive player in the Tampa-2 Lovie Smith defense in St. Louis for five years before becoming a free agent. He was a coveted free agent and struck gold with Washington. After signing with Washington, Archuleta was demoted to special teams after only seven games.
- Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles
(5 year, $60 million – 25 million guaranteed)
An incredibly productive player in Oakland, who had been mentioned in the same discussion as Revis as a shutdown corner in Oakland. Asomugha thrived in press man coverage, facing opposing number one receivers and shutting them down. In 2008 and 2009 Asomugha was a true shutdown corner and he would have another solid year in 2010. Philly would then throw huge money at him and ask him to play in a scheme that was directly opposite to his skillset. They forced him to play in zone coverage, where he was not comfortable instead of letting him continue to dominate in press man coverage. He was out of the league three years after signing with Philly.
- Dwayne Bowe, Cleveland Browns
(2 year, $12.5 million – 3.5 million guaranteed)
Questionable signing at the time and still very questionable. Bowe coming off three down years in Kansas City, showing a decreasing ability to separate was offered a shocking contract by Cleveland. Cleveland was in desperate need of a wide receiver and reached for Bowe. Bowe would produce 5 receptions for 73 yards, which is truly poor productions for his 6.25 million salary.
- Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks
(3 years, $19.5 million – 9 million guaranteed)
Never has anyone benefitted so much from one regular season performance. Flynn had a 400+yd and 6 TD game in 2011 and he was able to get Seattle to pay him $19.5 million based on that one performance. Flynn would go on to be beat out of a job in Seattle by Russell Wilson (which you can’t blame him too much for), he was traded to Oakland in 2013 and was beat out by Terrelle Pryor. Flynn has now been relegated to a fledgling back up quarterback (but remains in the league, for now).
Top 10 best free agency signings of the modern era: (Coming Tomorrow)
- Reggie White, Green Bay Packers
The most dominant defensive lineman in modern NFL history. Signed with Green Bay and became the missing piece of the puzzle, leading to Favre winning the Super Bowl in White’s fourth year with the team. Reggie White was instrumental in the turnaround of Green Bay.
- Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys
Sanders was instrumental in two Super Bowl wins, both for San Francisco and Dallas. His ability to shutdown half of the field for opposing quarterbacks. Sanders also contributed of offense for the Dallas Cowboys. Sanders won with the 49ers and then signed with their rivals the Cowboys, but was instrumental in both teams winning championships.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans
After New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, they took a chance and signed Brees in an attempt to stabilize the quarterback position. Brees bounced back after his should injury to resurge as an elite top three quarterback. Drew Brees would become the heart of a Saints team that would go on to win the Super Bowl.
- Charles Woodson, Baltimore Ravens
Moon was a CFL MVP and Grey Cup Champion prior to signing with Houston on a free agent contract. Moon would go on to play 15 years in the league as part of a hall of fame career. He is in both the CFL and NFL hall of fames.
- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
It is incredibly rare for the best quarterback in the NFL to become a free agent, though people will debate whether he or Brady are the best, you cannot deny Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He was only available due to recovering from a neck injury. The Broncos and John Elway made a strong push and signed Manning with the promise of bringing him a championship and the opportunity to rise off into the sunset. Elway would make good on his promise and Manning retired a Super Bowl champion.
- Shannon Sharpe, Baltimore Ravens
After winning two Superbowls with the Broncos, Sharpe had an opportunity to sign with a defensively loaded Baltimore team and compete for a championship. Sharpe would be an invaluable asset to the Ravens in a 2000 season providing offensive leadership and a reliable target for Trent Dilfer. Sharpe would go on to win a third Super Bowl with the Ravens.
- Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Warner came off the street to win a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams as part of the “Greatest Show on Turf” in 1999. Warner’s career would have a resurgence in 2008-2009 season with the Arizona Cardinals. He would lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and nearly win it for them.
- Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks
Bennett left Chicago for Seattle for a one year deal and became the most versatile and critical part of the Seattle defensive line. Bennett was a key contributor to the Seahawks “Legion of Boom” defense that led the team to a Super Bowl in 2013.
- Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay Bucs
Rice was an elite pass rushing addition for Tampa Bay and a key contributor to the Super Bowl team. Providing two sacks in the Super Bowl game. Rice would team up with Sapp to provide a defensive line that would give opposing quarterbacks fits.
- James Farrior, Pittsburgh Steelers
Unsuccessful in New York, Farrior would join the Steelers to create one of the best linebacking cores in the NFL. Farrior would team with Foote, Harrison and Porter to lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl and ultimately two Super Bowl victories. Farrior was a tackling machine during his time in Pittsburgh