In September of 1992 the free agency period of the NFL began as we know it today when 8 women jurists decided that a player should be allowed to go after top salaries much like other pro sports. From that moment on the NFL’s “Plan B” of allowing teams to keep 37 of their best players was the past and the “unrestricted free agent” was born.
With this new form of free agency money began to be on top of the list for players deciding who to sign with. Now days it is very rare for a player to stay with one team through out their whole career and as each season passes the Tom Brady’s and Ray Lewis’ of the NFL will become anomalies in the future. Each year the contracts get bigger, the bonuses become more inciting and each team fights for a chance to improve with dollars and tricky financing. Some teams manage to make it work for a season or two and in the end get a lot of help from the commissioner raising the salary cap, but ultimately they end up having to unload pieces to a puzzle they spent the previous years building.
For the fans, however, this is a time for hope that comes with a promise of a better team through free agency. The big name players that enter the market become fodder for all the writers and sports casters trying to determine where they will land. Rumors become news and every day a new landing spot is guessed on as well as how much he will add to a team in need that is willing to pay. For some of the fans of the UFA that leaves their team it is a blow as they already spent some money on their jersey number and now have to deal with him wearing different colors, god forbid he goes to a rival, thats when the “he wasn’t that great withs us” talk begins. The flip side of that coin is the fan of the UFA receiving team automatically begins to dream of tailgate parties in the post-season sometimes crushed by the fact that the risk of a bust is as high as the potential reward.
In the end, the notoriety, the history and the previous stats of the player is what makes him valuable and ultimately gets him paid. Every year there seems to be at the very least three players that just seem to be above the rest and end up really banking it in on the very first day of free agency. This year the big names were DeMarcus Ware from Houston, Darelle Revis from Tampa Bay, and Jarius Byrd from Buffalo. All three players are considered to be some of the best at their positions and rightly so due to their history in the game. The next level of players are the “impact guys” that can immediately start. These include Branden Albert from Kansas City, Michael Johnson from Cincinnati, Aqib Talib from New England and so on. Tier three are mostly strong veterans that have been consistent through their careers and still have a few years left in the tank. This tier includes players like Jared Allen from the Vikings and Paul Soliai from the Dolphins etc. Now we get into the effective players that come with issues but if placed in the right situation can be solid contributors. This group is the Shaun Phillips (Broncos) and the Josh McCowns (Bears) of the NFL. The last group are just bodies that can be used for depth and minimal rotation, there aren’t many but the price is usually right on for these guys so teams snatch them up just to either create depth or to push the starters at practice.
So with all these players being slotted into specific tiers how do we answer the question of who won this season’s Free Agency Championship? Well, I have always contested that a team that gets the cream of the crop does not make for a championship in the off season, mainly because player loses to the team are not accounted for and more often than not the name is bigger than the actual most recent stats. Does Albert Haynesworth’s $100 million dollar contract with the Redskins ring a bell? My point is that a name just can be the reason a team actually wins the off-season and since we can’t see the future all we have to look at is the past stats of each given player. Now when i say past, i mean recent like last season because any further back than that just doesn’t give you an accurate picture as more and more variables begin to get in the way such as age and injuries.
With that said, i put together a list of all the transactions that have occurred this off-season and have given each player a number based on were they land in my tier system. Having been able to get that list together i was able to get a more accurate picture of how each team improved or regressed in 2014. Surprisingly the winner of the off-season was not who I expected it to be given all the transactions and big names that moved around this season , but it does drive my point home that a name does not a championship make in the off season or during. But before i spill the beans on the winner let me break down the system a little bit more:
Each player gets a number assigned based on their tier
- Tier 1: Players considered “best” at their given positions – Points awarded 9 +1 (1 for best of the best)
- Tier 2: Players that will make an impact and start right away – Points awarded 8
- Tier 3: Players that are considered strong starters and will fit the role nicely – Points awarded 7
- Tier 4: Players that have value but will be used as stop gaps or rotations – Points awarded 6
- Tier 5: Players added for pure depth and will only start if injury occurs to the better player – Points awarded 5
The points above are added and subtracted from each team so a player that carries 5 points is added to the teams total where he lands and subtracted from the team he left. Each team starts with zero points and since we already know how each team did with those players in 2013 we can use “+” and “-” to see if they improved or regressed.
Now in my findings i do not count players that have been re-signed as a change to the team in that regards never happened, i also do not take into account players that have been released and have yet to find a team because lets face it, chances are they didn’t do much for the team in 2013 anyways. So without further ado, here is the list of winners and losers of the NFL free agency period.(Note: This list was completed Thursday March 27th, so any transactions that occurred after that date are not included but will be added week by week) * FOR THE FULL LIST WITH PLAYERS AND TRANSACTION CLICK HERE
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I will post my point list and transactions later in the day