Cautionary note on NFL free agency: “winners” in March rarely are winners in January/February.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 12, 2013
Every March, more reliable than the arrival of spring is the annual smug dismissal of the importance of free agency by a bevy of smarmy asswipe NFL reporters. Because everybody knows that if you write about football, you’re just one step away from being some team’s GM. Bear in mind, these are typically the same people who pronounce which teams “win” the draft the day after it happens.
Granted, making a splash in free agency alone isn’t enough to propel a team to greatness. The Redskins made sure to establish that as a truism over the last decade-plus. That’s beside the point. Who at this point remains convinced that spending lavishly in free agency and ignoring other aspects of roster building is a viable path to a championship in the NFL? No one, save the one or two people who inevitably advocate any given stupid position on the Internet.
Just because free agency isn’t a paramount concern doesn’t mean it isn’t important. There’s no point in denying that teams frequently overpay for middling players on the market, but significant moves are also made. Take this year’s Super Bowl teams: the 49ers and the Ravens. Yes, most of the core of those rosters were obtained through the draft. THEY DID IT THE RIGHT WAY! Nevertheless, you can find examples where each team added critical components through free agency or a trade that was necessitated because of salary cap concerns. And I don’t mean bargain basement role players like Jacoby Jones. I mean big-ticket free agents and regular starters like Justin Smith, Carlos Rogers and Anquan Boldin. I’ll also include Vonta Leach at the risk of being ridiculed for using a fullback as an example. Are any of those players the centerpiece of their team? No, but they were all important contributors.
National NFL reporters undoubtedly get mobbed with questions from readers about the likely destination of free agents. Seeing that bombardment of questions perhaps leads some of these writers to believe that fans prioritize free agency over everything else. Quite the contrary. It’s because it’s March and we’re f*cking bored out of our skulls. So quit with the condescending lecture about the how-tos of roster building and just let us know what you’ve heard about which team is going to overpay for Cliff Avril so we can laugh at them.