Friday, February 27, 2015

1 comments Bleacher Report's Provides Insight on the Dos and Don'ts of NFL Free Agency By Stating the Obvious

Bleacher Report has gotten their shit together mostly (or more than they used to have their shit together) and now they are spawning copycat sites, which is always terrible news. These other sites probably think they can use the same "hot takes which provide pageviews" formula that ended up making Bleacher Report successful. These other sites just need to find enough unpaid writers willing to do a lot of the work and then grab some real, paid sportswriters a few years down the road. Bleacher Report still has crap on the site though. Today, we will learn the Dos and Don'ts of the 2015 Free Agent Market. By "learn" I mean that you might say, "Well yes, I knew that. What's the purpose of this column again?" after reading the column slideshow. As always, the last slide of this slideshow is really the first slide to the next slideshow. It's such a devious little trick used to pump up pageviews.

Let's start the slideshow!

For the 30 teams not participating in Sunday's big game, however, planning for the 2015 season has already begun.

Thank God this slideshow is being published just in time to properly prepare these teams for the offseason. What a favor the author has done these NFL teams!

Since free agency—which begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 10—is less than a month-and-a-half away, now is definitely the time for NFL organizations to start weighing their options.

It's not the time for NFL organizations to start weighing their options, it's DEFINITELY the time for NFL organizations to start weighing their options.

What follows is a quick rundown of what teams should and shouldn't do during the 2015 free-agent period in order to kick-off a successful offseason. 

Pay attention! Deep insights will follow! None of these insights are so shockingly obvious that they shouldn't have been written. Not at all.

Don't Be Afraid to Spend Money

Definitely don't be afraid to spend money. I mean, just go spend it, and victories will come. Every year a few teams spend money on free agents and those teams ALWAYS end up in the Super Bowl.

Last year, the base salary cap for NFL teams was $133 million. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL has informed teams that the 2015 salary cap will be somewhere between $138.6 million and $141.8 million.

This is a large sum for teams to play with, even considering the league's rising salaries.

The CBA also put a rookie wage scale into place, which means teams no longer have to set aside astronomical sums in order to negotiate with high draft picks.

And none of those players under the rookie wage scale are looking for a contract extension since they have been in the league for four years now. None! Go spend that money, the rookie wage scale will save you.

This means that teams in need of immediate help or looking to get over the playoff hump can and should eschew frugality during the free-agency period, provided they haven't already gone overboard in terms of salary.

So teams should spend money, unless they don't have money to spend. In that case, DO NOT spend money. Got it.

There is simply too much proven talent to be had and, as always, plenty of questions surrounding the incoming draft class.

More great advice. At this point, no one has been able to accurately predict how every draft pick will perform. So go with the proven talent over building through the draft.

Do Look to Fill Holes

DO look to improve the team. Great. 

Does your team struggle to protect the quarterback, move the ball through the air or defend against the run? If so, your best bet is to bolster the area of weakness in free agency.

Wait, so if my team struggles to rush the passer then they should look to improve that area of the defense? What if my team struggles to run the football, DO they go try to find a running back in free agency? After all, no one can predict how the incoming draft class will perform, so it's probably best to find a free agent running back like Ben Tate or Toby Gerhart. It will be worth the expense.

This doesn't mean that every team needs to go out and overspend in order to plug a hole. However, it makes perfect sense to seek out a starting-caliber player or solid depth option.

Oh, so DON'T go out and waste money? I think I understand.

Even the most promising rookie prospects are unproven and each team is limited by the number of draft picks it possesses.

Because rookie prospects are so much less certain than those free agents. History has proven that to be correct. Sure, rookies are cheaper, but who cares. DO spend money. DON'T trust your scouting department. I'm also vexed by each team being limited by the number of draft picks it possesses. So that means my favorite team can't select 10-12 players in the first round?

Filling holes allows for more flexibility on draft day.

Okay, so try to improve the team through free agency before trying to improve the team through the draft. I'm not sure why NFL teams haven't thought of doing this before. This may be why free agency starts before the draft occurs. Probably not. It's just a coincidence.

Even if a team only finds one or two starters in free agency, that's one or two picks it can potentially package to trade up for a prospect it really wants

Yeah, but why would an NFL team do that when rookie prospects are so unproven and there are questions around a draft class? Plus, history has definitely shown the best bet to improve an area of weakness is to use free agency. Just look at how the Seahawks built their team.

Don't Expect to Find a Star Quarterback 

WHAT? There aren't star quarterbacks just lying around on the free agent market? This is definitely news to me.

The 2015 draft class isn't particularly deep at the quarterback position and the free-agent pool might be even more lackluster.

How could the free-agent pool be more lackluster than the draft? The draft class is totally unproven and nobody knows what those rookies may do.

The quarterback group is headlined by the likes of Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker and Brian Hoyer. These are guys that might hold down the job for a season or help mentor a rookie or developmental quarterback, but they probably aren't going to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

I'm not arguing the point, but umm..., Mark Sanchez has twice led his team to within one win of the Super Bowl. So, it has almost happened before.

Other experienced quarterbacks expected to hit the open market include Michael Vick, Jason Campbell and Matt Moore. There's nothing wrong with grabbing a guy to provide backup presence or add to a quarterback competition, but don't go looking for a long-term solution to your team's quarterback woes.

I'm still shocked there isn't a star quarterback just hanging out there on the free agent market.

Do Target a Wide Receiver

As teams move to re-sign their own, the list of available receivers is sure to shrink. However, proven veterans like Miles Austin, Eddie Royal, Nate Washington and Hakeem Nicks may still be available to strengthen your receiving corps.

I'm assuming this is a joke. The only thing "proven" about these wide receivers is they are good, but not good enough to not be replaced.

Don't Plan to Count on Guys with an Injury History 

cc: Jeff Fisher

I hate to repeat myself again, but....WHAT???? You mean it's a bad idea to count on a guy with an injury history to sign a new contract and then immediately stay healthy? I never knew this. Boy, these NFL teams are very fortunate this author is around to provide this type of advice.

It's definitely a going-after-a-receiver year in free agency, but guys like Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne should be avoided.

This is as opposed to "proven" veterans like Miles Austin, who has appeared in more than 12 games once since 2010? Welker and Wayne appeared in 14 and 15 games last year respectively. Obviously they are older, but I don't get why Miles Austin is "proven" and Welker and Wayne are injury risks. I would imagine these two receivers could come very cheap, so other than that I'm not advocating for them necessarily. It's just the obviousness of not counting on guys with an injury history to stay healthy has blown my mind and I can barely type right now.

Welker has suffered three concussions over the past two years and Wayne has missed 10 games in that span due to injury. At this point, Welker should seriously consider retirement and Wayne only really makes sense if he's returning to the Indianapolis Colts for a final act.

Or if he would be going to whatever team Peyton Manning plays for next season. That would make sense too.

Do Look for Pass-Rushing Help

So if a great pass-rusher is available, then DON'T ignore him? Make him an offer? What if he has an injury history? What if your team has very little money to spend?

Fortunately for teams currently without a dominant pass rush, there are plenty of younger players scheduled to hit free agency who can bring pressure on opposing signal-callers.

The list is headlined by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (36.0 sacks in five seasons),

Oh, he should come cheap.

defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (42.0 sacks in five seasons)

Pierre-Paul missed five games in 2013. Wouldn't that mean he has an injury history? I guess when a player has an injury history the author wants to ignore then that injury history doesn't matter.

Promising players like linebacker Jabaal Sheard (23 sacks in four seasons), Jason Worilds (20.5 sacks over the past three years) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (20.0 sacks over past two seasons) are also scheduled to become available.

Not that it means much, but Sheard's sack numbers have steadily declined since his rookie season. Also, Jason Worilds is probably a good fit in a 3-4 defense where he can rush the passer, because he's labeled as an OLB and not a DE.

So to make the list of quality pass-rushers available in free agency, does a player have to have a first name that begins with a "J"?

Don't Ignore Special Teams

Gregg Easterbrook would argue that special teams are not as important as offense or defense. It's probably good advice to not completely ignore special teams in free agency. I'm betting most NFL teams haven't thought about improving their special teams through free agency.

Do Consider Adding a Fullback 

This obviously only applies if your offense regularly depends on having a fullback in the backfield.

Yes, obviously. If an NFL team doesn't use a fullback then DON'T sign a fullback. This is probably good advice that some NFL teams had not thought of. DON'T sign a player at a position your team doesn't use.

(Trent Baalke) "There are some really good centers that are going to hit the free agent market this upcoming summer. We'll look at them."

(Jim Tomsula) "Well, gee boss! That's a great idea! I thought we were set at center though. But I like the way you think? Can I go to the bathroom now?"

(Trent Baalke) "No, you are not allowed to go to the bathroom and you've drank enough water for the day, so give me your sippie cup. I'm thinking of signing a guy like DeAndre Jordan or maybe a power forward like Kevin Love. What do you think?"

(Jim Tomsula reaches for his sippie cup of water and gets his hand slapped back by Baalke) "Aren't those basketball players? I read a Bleacher Report article about the dos and don'ts of free agency and it said not to sign any players who won't actually have a position on your team. I think that goes for the center and power forward position. This isn't basketball, so we may just be wasting salary cap space by signing them. I think it's time to change me, I went to the bathroom without permission."

(Trent Baalke begins to change Tomsula's diaper) "That's a good point. We may not need a power forward since we are a football team. You read this on Bleacher Report? Thank God that articl---"

(Jim Tomsula) "It was a slideshow, not an article."

(Trent Baalke) "You know what I mean, now stay still so I can put your pants back on you. If it weren't for that article, I totally would have tried to sign Kevin Love to a 5 year $120 million contract. I guess since we won't have a fullback in the new offense then we shouldn't sign one of those either."

(Jim Tomsula sits up and spits up his lunch)

(Trent Baalke) "Dammit, I'm going to have to put a bib on you, aren't I?"

If your offense relies heavily on the fullback, however, you want to have a good one.

Heady, important advice. NFL teams may want to write that one down. If your offense requires a fullback, try to find as good of a fullback as possible. Without this slideshow, so many teams would try to find a shitty fullback when there are plenty of good fullbacks available.

I'm not sure why this free agent class is different from other free agent classes and these dos and don'ts needed to be written. Many of them seemed rather obvious to me. Try to find good players in free agency, try to improve your team in free agency, and you will have to pay a lot for good players so spend money if you think the player is worth it and you have enough money, but don't pay a lot for good players if you don't have enough salary cap room. Also, nothing is known about the players coming out of the draft, so there are no guarantees there, AND a team's draft picks are limited.

All of these things are definitely obvious, but I'm not sure why the author seems to think building through free agency (which is really an inefficient market that can be spoiled by one team overpaying a player) is a more proven way to succeed than building through the draft.


Snarf said...

The only thing that could be considered non-obvious (at least on a superficial level) would be his discussion of the increasing salary cap. The thing here is, though, teams budget for an increasing salary cap. Most year-ones in LT contracts have relatively small cap numbers, which grow progressively year-over-year. Most players don't have flat salaries over the course of their deals, so it's not like the extra cap room is necessarily money found for NFL teams this offseason.

One thing I can't stand is vagueries posing as analysis. There is a local radio host here who was talking about the Ravens and what they need at WR. The host kept saying that the Ravens need to go get "a guy" who can be a true number one. No reference as to how to get that guy or which prospects in the draft fit that mold. He then went on to cite Julio Jones and AJ Green as examples of types of "guys" we should be looking for. That's great, just have a top-5 pick or trade a huge amount of resources to move up and get a "guy" that may or not be available in this draft. Similarly, in this article, we've got the equivalent of "sign good players, but don't overspend." Mindblowing stuff..