Friday, February 29, 2008

The Absurd Nature of NFL Free Agency

As Steelers fans, we know the drill come the end of February. While other teams are wining and dining potential free agents, the Steelers stand idly by, content to sit it out and go bargain basement shopping after the first couple of weeks. I used to be frustrated by this. I used to look at the list of free agents and start thinking about how so-and-so could bolster our pass rush, or how this guy could really shore up our offensive line, allowing us more flexibility on draft day. I used to. Now, I’m seeing where the Steelers were coming from.

Free agency is becoming ridiculous. Period. The money being thrown around for mediocre players is unbelievable. And stupid. Unbelievably stupid. Jeff Faine, a good, solid player but one who struggles with big defensive tackles, is becoming the highest paid center in the game after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Us Pittsburghers are familiar with the name Madieu Williams. He was a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals, until he signed this morning with the Minnesota Vikings. Williams made a couple of plays against us over the years, but also was responsible for just as many blown coverages that led to Steeler touchdowns. He’s an inconsistent player. And for that inconsistency, the Vikings lavished Williams with a 6-year, $34 million contract with most likely double-digit bonuses.

And then there is Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. I thought this was a guy the Steelers could go after in free agency. He had the necessary size and skills to transition to our defense and play end in the 3-4. Playing defensive tackle in the Raiders 4-3 defense, Kelly never set the world on fire. He had 13 career sacks. But still, he was a young player who I thought would make a nice addition to our defense. I also thought we could get him at a decent price, because he wasn’t one of those top-tier free agents and because he tore his ACL last season, resulting in him only playing 7 games.

On Thursday, hours before free agency was set to kick off, the Raiders re-signed Kelly to a 7-year, $50.5 million deal with $18 million guaranteed. I was shocked, and so were others. Profootballtalk.com said reaction to the deal around the league was one of “bewilderment and laughter.”

I can really no longer fault the Steelers sitting out the first week of free agency. The money has gotten out of hand. Unless you see a guy you absolutely need to have, a guy you see can be an impact player for your team for years and years, it’s best just to sit out the first week and then scoop up the better values. Yeah, sometimes you get Sean Mahan, but other times you get James Farrior. I don’t know who said it, but I heard it recently: “Free agency is the punishment for drafting poorly.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

End of Post

1 comment:

Jordan Staal said...

Good point. NFL free agency isn't like hockey where you can sign 1 or 2 decent players that will make a huge impact. you can't get that agitator or sniper that will turn wayne gandy into anything but a revolving subway turnstile. sure the steelers could go throw silly money at dante stallworth to "upgrade" say cedric the entertainer's spot. by why not just draft big ben's tall reciever in the 3rd round, save some dough, and don't make yourself look foolish by signing a slightly above average at best d lineman for money that captain crosby barely makes.