Free Agency - Buyer Beware

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convertedpatsfan

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FA can be a great way of adding talent without giving up any of your own, but the biggest FA signings aren't always the best.

Looking back at previous years, it's clear that big signings don’t guarantee big results. I’ve taken a look at the biggest FA signings over the past 3 years. While I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, I probably missed a few. Also, time constraints led to using the first reported contract figures.

I've tried to get every deal for $5M or more per season. I'm not comparing the signing bonus vs. guaranteed vs. other escalators, just years and total amount. Some amounts may not be 100% accurate; the $24M might be $23.925M. For the purposes of this comparison, it's not really a deal-breaker one way or another.

I'm also excluding re-signings, as it's a different thing to evaluate your own talent and how they will fit in your systems vs. projecting a new player. And while some players have been disappointing, they could turn it around at any time. Some of the 2012 free agents in particular are snap judgments at this point, and they may eventually be worth their contracts, but first impressions count for a lot.

2012

Mario Williams: 6 years, $100M. After a slow start, Williams turned in a pretty good individual season, but it didn't translate to any more wins. Buffalo went 6-10 before signing Williams, 6-10 after.

Peyton Manning: 6 years, $96M. It's extremely rare for a top-3 QB to be available but there were a ton of extraordinary circumstances surrounding his release. Still, the Broncos took advantage and improved by 5 wins.

Vincent Jackson: 5 years, $55M. Had his best season ever after signing the big deal.

Brandon Carr: 5 years, $50.1M. Pretty solid season, but not elite as the money suggests.

Cortland Finnegan: 5 years, $50M. Like Carr, had a really solid year but not what I would call elite. I wouldn't consider either deal a bust though, but I bet both franchises hope for more moving forward.

Carl Nicks: 5 years, $47.5M. Injuries limited Nicks to 7 games so give this an incomplete grade for now.

Pierre Garcon: 5 years, $42.5M. 44 catches for 633 yards and 4 TDs doesn't seem like good value.

Eric Wright: 5 years, $37.5M. Suspended 4 games for Adderall. The suspension voided his guaranteed money so the Bucs are now considering cutting him to get out of the contract.

Ben Grubbs: 5 years, $36M. Grubbs had a pretty good year but this could also be seen as quite a deal considering he was signed to take over for Nicks, who signed for over $2M more per season.

Kamerion Wimbley: 7 years, $35M. Submitted a mediocre season with a career-low in tackles.

Laurent Robinson: 5 years, $32.5M. 24 catches for 252 yards in 7 games.

Curtis Lofton: 5 years, $27.5M. Solid starter, not elite money, pretty fair deal.

Matt Flynn: 3 years, $26M. Whoops. May end up as a better asset with time, but not much value in year 1 of this deal.

Robert Meacham: 4 years, $25.9M. 14 catches in 2012 despite being active for 15 games.

John Carlson: 5 years, $25M. This is a pretty big deal for a TE, especially one who missed the entire 2011 season due to injury. Carlson averaged 45 catches a season before the injury, but had only 8 catches in his first season with the Vikings in 14 games.

Brodrick Bunkley: 5 years, $25M. Apart from kicking a guy in the head, had a pretty solid season.

Kendall Langford: 4 years, $24M. Pretty good deal and improved on his 2011 season.

Scott Wells: 4 years, $24M. Injuries limited him to only 7 games. Incomplete.

That's 18 big free agent deals. Manning was the best of the bunch, no surprise. 8 of 18 signings could be considered good, around half. 2 more were limited with injuries, and 8 more were disappointments.

Out of this group, only Manning was a key contributor on a team that made the play-offs. So a big FA contract is hardly a guarantee of playoffs.

2011

Nnamdi Asomugha: 5 years, $60M. The top FA turned out to be the top bust as well. He won't be the only Eagle on this list.

Johnathan Joseph: 5 years, $48.75M. Excellent in his first season. Injuries slowed him a bit in his second season, but still looks like a great signing.

Paul Posluszny: 6 years, $45M. Solid contributor who often gets overlooked because of where he plays.

Sidney Rice: 5 years, $41M. Rice only played in 9 games in 2011, but had a good season in 2012, leading the team in receiving yards with 748. However, for $8M+ per season, one would hope for more production.

Barry Cofield: 6 years, $36M. Pretty solid contributor.

Zach Miller: 5 years, $34M. After getting out of Oakland, expectations were higher but Miller submitted his two worst seasons as a pro after signing with Seattle. Has yet to break 400 yards in a season as a Seahawk.

Ray Edwards: 5 years, $30M. Cut partway through his second season.

Clint Session: 5 years, $30M. Concussions unfortunately cut short his career. He was waived after his second season.

Stewart Bradley: 5 years, $30M. Cut after two disappointing seasons.

Jason Babin: 5 years, $28M. Released during the second year of his contract.

Stephen Bowen: 5 years, $27.5M. Had a great first year after signing the contract, setting career highs in tackles and sacks. Regressed in 2012 though part of that was due to injuries.

Quintin Mikell: 4 years, $27M. Solid starter for 2 years, rumours that he may need to restructure contract.

Daryn Colledge: 5 years, $27M. Solid starter.

Cullen Jenkins: 5 years, $25M. Also released after his second season.

Matt Hasselbeck: 3 years, $21M. Improved a 6-10 team to 9-7 before giving way to Jake Locker. Still a valuable mentor and back-up, though will have to take a pay-cut to stay on the team in 2013.

Danieal Manning: 4 years, $20M. Solid starter for a play-off team.

FA was a bit of a rush due to the lock-out but this wasn’t a great class. 6 of the 16 wouldn’t even make it into the 3rd year of their deals. Joseph turned out to be the best of the group. You could argue 8 of these players played up to the value of their deals, again, about half.

Only Houston made the play-offs based on their FA signings of Joseph and Manning. I'm not including Edwards in this group, as Atlanta made it in spite of him.

2010

Julius Peppers: 6 years, $91.5M. Yes, I know, you wanted him. He's been everything the Bears could have hoped for. The Bears had traded many draft picks so they really needed to sign some big FAs that year, and it worked out for them.

Dunta Robinson: 6 years, $54M. Cut after 3 years.

Karlos Dansby: 5 years, $43M. At the time, it made Dansby the highest-paid inside linebacker. Solid production but nowhere near elite like the contract suggests.

Antrel Rolle: 5 years, $37M. Rolle has made a successful transition from disappointing highly-drafted corner to Pro Bowl safety.

Antonio Bryant: 4 years, $28M. Cut before the end of training camp.

Kyle Vanden Bosch: 4 years, $26M. Despite being released after the 3rd year, not a total bust as he was brought in to help change the culture in Detroit. Had 8 sacks in his second season with the Lions, but only 15.5 in 43 games.

Aaron Kampman: 4 years, $25M. Despite a knee injury ending his 2009 season, the Jaguars gave the 30-year old a huge contract, watched him play 8 games, then get injured again. He would play a total of 11 games in two seasons before being released.

Nate Burleson: 5 years, $25M. Average receiver who probably should do better considering the attention Megatron gets. His second season was solid, but injuries derailed his 3rd season.

Joey Porter: 3 years, $24.5M. Signed to fill the void left by Dansby, Porter had a decent first season before injuries affected him. He only played 6 games in year 2, retiring after the season.

Jarvis Green: 4 years, $20M. Like Bryant, didn’t make it out of the pre-season.

The looming lockout changed the rules for free agency, resulting in over 200 players being switched to restricted instead of unrestricted. This limited activity significantly and reduced the FA class to older players, so it shouldn't be a surprise that injuries helped derail a lot of these deals.
6 of the 10 didn't last past 3 seasons, 2 of which didn’t even make it out of pre-season.

Peppers and Rolle fulfilled their end of the bargain, although only Peppers would go to the play-offs this season. The rest were disappointing for a variety of reasons, some more than others. If we generously credit Vanden Bosch for helping the culture and Dansby for being pretty solid, that’s still only 4 out of 10 contracts, again, about half.

So throwing big money at big stars hasn't guaranteed playoff success for many teams recently. Only Peppers, Joseph, and Manning have gone to the play-offs in the first year of their big deals.

16 of these 38 deals provided good value for the price, while 12 of 26 wouldn't even last past the third year of their contracts (this number may rise as many of these contracts haven't even gotten to the 3rd year yet).

So while we all love to see big free agent signings and hope we'll get the top guys in free agency, it's worth looking back to realize it doesn't guarantee much of anything really.
 

Brady6

Pro Bowl Player
FA can be a great way of adding talent without giving up any of your own, but the biggest FA signings aren't always the best.

Looking back at previous years, it's clear that big signings don’t guarantee big results. I’ve taken a look at the biggest FA signings over the past 3 years. While I have tried to be as comprehensive as possible, I probably missed a few. Also, time constraints led to using the first reported contract figures.

I've tried to get every deal for $5M or more per season. I'm not comparing the signing bonus vs. guaranteed vs. other escalators, just years and total amount. Some amounts may not be 100% accurate; the $24M might be $23.925M. For the purposes of this comparison, it's not really a deal-breaker one way or another.

I'm also excluding re-signings, as it's a different thing to evaluate your own talent and how they will fit in your systems vs. projecting a new player. And while some players have been disappointing, they could turn it around at any time. Some of the 2012 free agents in particular are snap judgments at this point, and they may eventually be worth their contracts, but first impressions count for a lot.

2012

Mario Williams: 6 years, $100M. After a slow start, Williams turned in a pretty good individual season, but it didn't translate to any more wins. Buffalo went 6-10 before signing Williams, 6-10 after.

Peyton Manning: 6 years, $96M. It's extremely rare for a top-3 QB to be available but there were a ton of extraordinary circumstances surrounding his release. Still, the Broncos took advantage and improved by 5 wins.

Vincent Jackson: 5 years, $55M. Had his best season ever after signing the big deal.

Brandon Carr: 5 years, $50.1M. Pretty solid season, but not elite as the money suggests.

Cortland Finnegan: 5 years, $50M. Like Carr, had a really solid year but not what I would call elite. I wouldn't consider either deal a bust though, but I bet both franchises hope for more moving forward.

Carl Nicks: 5 years, $47.5M. Injuries limited Nicks to 7 games so give this an incomplete grade for now.

Pierre Garcon: 5 years, $42.5M. 44 catches for 633 yards and 4 TDs doesn't seem like good value.

Eric Wright: 5 years, $37.5M. Suspended 4 games for Adderall. The suspension voided his guaranteed money so the Bucs are now considering cutting him to get out of the contract.

Ben Grubbs: 5 years, $36M. Grubbs had a pretty good year but this could also be seen as quite a deal considering he was signed to take over for Nicks, who signed for over $2M more per season.

Kamerion Wimbley: 7 years, $35M. Submitted a mediocre season with a career-low in tackles.

Laurent Robinson: 5 years, $32.5M. 24 catches for 252 yards in 7 games.

Curtis Lofton: 5 years, $27.5M. Solid starter, not elite money, pretty fair deal.

Matt Flynn: 3 years, $26M. Whoops. May end up as a better asset with time, but not much value in year 1 of this deal.

Robert Meacham: 4 years, $25.9M. 14 catches in 2012 despite being active for 15 games.

John Carlson: 5 years, $25M. This is a pretty big deal for a TE, especially one who missed the entire 2011 season due to injury. Carlson averaged 45 catches a season before the injury, but had only 8 catches in his first season with the Vikings in 14 games.

Brodrick Bunkley: 5 years, $25M. Apart from kicking a guy in the head, had a pretty solid season.

Kendall Langford: 4 years, $24M. Pretty good deal and improved on his 2011 season.

Scott Wells: 4 years, $24M. Injuries limited him to only 7 games. Incomplete.

That's 18 big free agent deals. Manning was the best of the bunch, no surprise. 8 of 18 signings could be considered good, around half. 2 more were limited with injuries, and 8 more were disappointments.

Out of this group, only Manning was a key contributor on a team that made the play-offs. So a big FA contract is hardly a guarantee of playoffs.

2011

Nnamdi Asomugha: 5 years, $60M. The top FA turned out to be the top bust as well. He won't be the only Eagle on this list.

Johnathan Joseph: 5 years, $48.75M. Excellent in his first season. Injuries slowed him a bit in his second season, but still looks like a great signing.

Paul Posluszny: 6 years, $45M. Solid contributor who often gets overlooked because of where he plays.

Sidney Rice: 5 years, $41M. Rice only played in 9 games in 2011, but had a good season in 2012, leading the team in receiving yards with 748. However, for $8M+ per season, one would hope for more production.

Barry Cofield: 6 years, $36M. Pretty solid contributor.

Zach Miller: 5 years, $34M. After getting out of Oakland, expectations were higher but Miller submitted his two worst seasons as a pro after signing with Seattle. Has yet to break 400 yards in a season as a Seahawk.

Ray Edwards: 5 years, $30M. Cut partway through his second season.

Clint Session: 5 years, $30M. Concussions unfortunately cut short his career. He was waived after his second season.

Stewart Bradley: 5 years, $30M. Cut after two disappointing seasons.

Jason Babin: 5 years, $28M. Released during the second year of his contract.

Stephen Bowen: 5 years, $27.5M. Had a great first year after signing the contract, setting career highs in tackles and sacks. Regressed in 2012 though part of that was due to injuries.

Quintin Mikell: 4 years, $27M. Solid starter for 2 years, rumours that he may need to restructure contract.

Daryn Colledge: 5 years, $27M. Solid starter.

Cullen Jenkins: 5 years, $25M. Also released after his second season.

Matt Hasselbeck: 3 years, $21M. Improved a 6-10 team to 9-7 before giving way to Jake Locker. Still a valuable mentor and back-up, though will have to take a pay-cut to stay on the team in 2013.

Danieal Manning: 4 years, $20M. Solid starter for a play-off team.

FA was a bit of a rush due to the lock-out but this wasn’t a great class. 6 of the 16 wouldn’t even make it into the 3rd year of their deals. Joseph turned out to be the best of the group. You could argue 8 of these players played up to the value of their deals, again, about half.

Only Houston made the play-offs based on their FA signings of Joseph and Manning. I'm not including Edwards in this group, as Atlanta made it in spite of him.

2010

Julius Peppers: 6 years, $91.5M. Yes, I know, you wanted him. He's been everything the Bears could have hoped for. The Bears had traded many draft picks so they really needed to sign some big FAs that year, and it worked out for them.

Dunta Robinson: 6 years, $54M. Cut after 3 years.

Karlos Dansby: 5 years, $43M. At the time, it made Dansby the highest-paid inside linebacker. Solid production but nowhere near elite like the contract suggests.

Antrel Rolle: 5 years, $37M. Rolle has made a successful transition from disappointing highly-drafted corner to Pro Bowl safety.

Antonio Bryant: 4 years, $28M. Cut before the end of training camp.

Kyle Vanden Bosch: 4 years, $26M. Despite being released after the 3rd year, not a total bust as he was brought in to help change the culture in Detroit. Had 8 sacks in his second season with the Lions, but only 15.5 in 43 games.

Aaron Kampman: 4 years, $25M. Despite a knee injury ending his 2009 season, the Jaguars gave the 30-year old a huge contract, watched him play 8 games, then get injured again. He would play a total of 11 games in two seasons before being released.

Nate Burleson: 5 years, $25M. Average receiver who probably should do better considering the attention Megatron gets. His second season was solid, but injuries derailed his 3rd season.

Joey Porter: 3 years, $24.5M. Signed to fill the void left by Dansby, Porter had a decent first season before injuries affected him. He only played 6 games in year 2, retiring after the season.

Jarvis Green: 4 years, $20M. Like Bryant, didn’t make it out of the pre-season.

The looming lockout changed the rules for free agency, resulting in over 200 players being switched to restricted instead of unrestricted. This limited activity significantly and reduced the FA class to older players, so it shouldn't be a surprise that injuries helped derail a lot of these deals.
6 of the 10 didn't last past 3 seasons, 2 of which didn’t even make it out of pre-season.

Peppers and Rolle fulfilled their end of the bargain, although only Peppers would go to the play-offs this season. The rest were disappointing for a variety of reasons, some more than others. If we generously credit Vanden Bosch for helping the culture and Dansby for being pretty solid, that’s still only 4 out of 10 contracts, again, about half.

So throwing big money at big stars hasn't guaranteed playoff success for many teams recently. Only Peppers, Joseph, and Manning have gone to the play-offs in the first year of their big deals.

16 of these 38 deals provided good value for the price, while 12 of 26 wouldn't even last past the third year of their contracts (this number may rise as many of these contracts haven't even gotten to the 3rd year yet).

So while we all love to see big free agent signings and hope we'll get the top guys in free agency, it's worth looking back to realize it doesn't guarantee much of anything really.

Great post. In my view Peppers was the only big name to truly live up to the investment given. If a player isn't extended early or franchised there is usually a reason and teams don't find out till its to late.

Peppers was a very rare type to slip away from a franchise in a major transition. Building through the draft is how great teams stay great.
 

Rob0729

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Looking at some of the numbers many decent, average, and/or mediocre players got; it isn't surprising they were busts. How in the hell did a guy like Robert Meachem get $6.5 million a year? The guy never got close to a 1,000 yards in a season with Drew Brees throwing to him. Or Laurent Robinson getting $6.5 million a year. I thought might want to take a pass at him as a #3 WR at $2-3 million a year.

There are certainly a lot of guys who were legitimate free agents who deserved big money based on their past performance who didn't perform like Mario Williams and Asomugha, but this list shows how many teams spend stupid money overpaying free agents who never really deserved the money as if you overpay mediocre talent and they will perform like elite talent.
 

Simple Jack's Brother

On the Game Day Roster
Looking at some of the numbers many decent, average, and/or mediocre players got; it isn't surprising they were busts. How in the hell did a guy like Robert Meachem get $6.5 million a year? The guy never got close to a 1,000 yards in a season with Drew Brees throwing to him. Or Laurent Robinson getting $6.5 million a year. I thought might want to take a pass at him as a #3 WR at $2-3 million a year.

There are certainly a lot of guys who were legitimate free agents who deserved big money based on their past performance who didn't perform like Mario Williams and Asomugha, but this list shows how many teams spend stupid money overpaying free agents who never really deserved the money as if you overpay mediocre talent and they will perform like elite talent.

I must say, now that it looks like teams seem to be facing the era of the "flat cap", hopefully this whole notion of throwing excessive amounts of money at mediocre players will subside. I think part of the major reason this was done initially was because the cap kept going up and up and up every season. If this is indeed how the trend plays out (and we're only a few days away from seeing the first part of that trend), the Pats could be in a very, VERY advantageous position over the next few years if these ridiculous contracts are only limited to a few "elite" players.
 

furley

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Reportedly, Danny Amendola and, possibly, Brandon Gibson will seek $6M annually. St. Louis is said to have moved on from Amendola, likely Gibson as well.

"...he gave the Dolphins a home-team discount at that." Wait. What? Hartline could've sought more than $6M plus? Which franchise would've signed him to that?



Gibson wouldn't come cheap either. The former sixth-round pick out of Washington State set career highs in receiving yards (691) and touchdowns (5) on 51 catches last year.

While he isn't a burner like Wallace, Gibson has a knack for getting open, and had just five drops in 75 passes thrown his way last year. Some believe that Gibson could earn a contract comparable to the one given to Brian Hartline last week (five years, $31 million).

The Dolphins are also said to have interest in the Patriots' Wes Welker, who began his career in Miami.

Miami Dolphins show interest in Rams receiver Brandon Gibson - Miami Dolphins - MiamiHerald.com



Once you get past the "glitter" in this year's free-agent wide receiver crop, namely Mike Wallace (Pittsburgh), Wes Welker (New England) and Greg Jennings (Green Bay), the market falls off noticeably. With that in mind, the interest Gibson has generated isn’t really surprising.

The lean market also could work in Amendola's favor. Brian Hartline provided a benchmark of sorts Friday when he re-signed with Miami for a reported $6.1 million a year over five years, saying he gave the Dolphins a home-team discount at that.

That's the kind of deal Amendola seeks, according to those familiar with the negotiations. That’s more than the Rams are willing to invest, given Amendola’s recent injury history.

Rams, WR Gibson will part ways : Sports
 

convertedpatsfan

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Whoops, just noticed my totals at the bottom didn't make sense, as I had gone back and added in a few contracts I missed and not revised the bottom line. :censored:

It should read 20 of 44 contracts were of good value, compared to 13 (now including Mikell) who didn't last past year 3 of their deals.

Great post. In my view Peppers was the only big name to truly live up to the investment given. If a player isn't extended early or franchised there is usually a reason and teams don't find out till its to late.

Peppers was a very rare type to slip away from a franchise in a major transition. Building through the draft is how great teams stay great.

That's an important point. Most franchises will extend or franchise a player unless they make a few mistakes somewhere or the player is a bit of a question mark. Manning had the health, they couldn't afford Peppers, now the Jets can't franchise Revis because of contract negotiations. But it's extremely rare for a true superstar to be available.

Dan Pompei's latest article talked about how it's a WR's World because so many are available for free agency, but I look at it the other way: they're available for a reason. Huge price tags, egos, injuries, whatever, bottom line is most teams could keep them if they really wanted to, and decided the resources it would take to do so just wouldn't be worth it.

Looking at some of the numbers many decent, average, and/or mediocre players got; it isn't surprising they were busts. How in the hell did a guy like Robert Meachem get $6.5 million a year? The guy never got close to a 1,000 yards in a season with Drew Brees throwing to him. Or Laurent Robinson getting $6.5 million a year. I thought might want to take a pass at him as a #3 WR at $2-3 million a year.

There are certainly a lot of guys who were legitimate free agents who deserved big money based on their past performance who didn't perform like Mario Williams and Asomugha, but this list shows how many teams spend stupid money overpaying free agents who never really deserved the money as if you overpay mediocre talent and they will perform like elite talent.

No kidding. I was laughing at some of these deals as I was typing them up. But that's the cost of desperation. A WR worth $2M gets $8M. And that's why I don't agree with the crowd that says sign Talib no matter what. It has to be for the right price.

Sure, we have cap room now, but if we continue to overspend on one player at a time, you end up in cap hell. It's all about satisfying the short-term attention spans for many fans.
 

b72s

On the Game Day Roster
Assuming we do not overpay the depth of FAs in pats areas of needs is promising.

If we hit 2 out of 3

on Pass rusher, cb and safety our defense will measurably better.

WR is an iffy too expensive I think.
 

VJCPatriot

Pro Bowl Player
Assuming we do not overpay the depth of FAs in pats areas of needs is promising.

If we hit 2 out of 3

on Pass rusher, cb and safety our defense will measurably better.

WR is an iffy too expensive I think.

Odds are more likely that we hit on about 1 in 2 deals if you've read the post. I think that is why BB prefers the cheap, high volume approach to free agents. Even if he misses on some he is bound to hit on a few other solid free agents. And it didn't cost him too much cap space to do so.

There are very few can't miss free agents out there. As seen by the result of signing Adalius Thomas. However that doesn't mean you should stop trying if you think they can really improve your team - ie see Pats heated pursuit of Peppers and their signing of Rosevelt Colvin.
 

convertedpatsfan

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Missed Dawan Landry in 2011, 5 years for $27.5M, cut after 2 seasons.

20 of 45 big deals were of good value, 14 didn't make it past the 3rd season of their contract and counting...
 
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