All week long we've analyzed every big move in free agency. Each transaction has given us a peek into each team's plans for the upcoming Draft and beyond.
But what's the big picture? What are some of the keys we can take away from the opening week of free agency?
Will the Need to Sell Tickets Come at the Cost of Long Term Success?
Ultimately, the NFL is about making money. But when a team enters free agency with ticket sales and a disinterested fan base in mind, things can quickly get out of hand. For Tennessee and Miami, there's a good chance that's how this week has played out. The two teams have combined to sign players to over $200 million worth of contracts, and yet it's questionable just how those deals will end up working out.
While Miami hasn't come out and said that attendance motivated any of their signings, there's no question that their fan base has been less than enthusiastic about the direction of the team, and adding explosive (and expensive) players like Mike Wallace can certainly help alleviate that.
In Tennessee, on the other hand, there's little doubt as to what drove their spending spree. Owner Bud Adams stated clearly that he was concerned about “losing customers” and that his wallet was wide open in the hopes that it'd keep fans coming to games. Will signing a plodding running back like Shonn Greene excite fans? It's doubtful to say the least.
All their additions may give Dolphins and Titans fans some renewed optimism in the short term, but spending in the neighborhood of $100 million in one offseason isn't how teams win Super Bowls. Long term success is the best way to keep a fan base happy, and it's questionable that these teams' offseason plans will result in that.
Choosing the Wrong Quarterback can Doom Your Franchise
It's a premise that's been true for decades, but nearly every offseason we see similar scenarios play out across the league. While some teams are busy spending big money acquiring someone they feel can be their quarterback of the future, several other teams are busy trying to minimize the damage from making the wrong choice a season or two in the past. There's no getting around it – choosing the wrong quarterback will set your franchise back years.
Kansas City made a bad decision when they acquired Matt Cassell, and to compensate they've paid a steep price to acquire Alex Smith and Chase Daniel. Arizona cut Kevin Kolb just a year after he was heralded as the answer for their quarterback woes, and Buffalo finally admitted their mistake signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a lucrative deal. If you also consider the disaster that is the New York Jets quarterback situation, there's a massive amount of resources for these teams that have been tied up in quarterbacks that simply haven't helped their teams win. It's no coincidence that all of these teams have been pretty awful over the past several seasons, and they've got more work to do than most teams during the offseason.
The 2013 Quarterback Class will Likely See Multiple Top Ten Selections
Seemingly ever since the 2012 Draft was in the books, we've been subjected to a never ending chorus proclaiming just how terrible this year's quarterback class will be. Some have even gone as far to suggest that there was the possibility that there would be no quarterbacks taken in the first round of the draft.
After some key moves during the first week of free agency, it's safe to put those thoughts aside. In fact, with Arizona, Buffalo, Oakland, and Philadelphia all expressing interest in some of the top quarterbacks in the class, its now looking more and more likely that we'll actually see more than one quarterback selected within the top ten of the first round. Just days ago it looked as though Kansas City wouldn't be able to trade down from the first overall selection even if they wanted to. Now, they may have more than one team looking to insure they snag their favorite signal caller.
Is a Strong Defensive Back Draft Class Holding Back Free Agents?
The strength of the quarterback class may be in question, but there's no doubting the quality of this year's defensive back prospects. The safety class is one of the best we've seen in years, and there's a good chance that a team could find a very good cornerback still available in the third round this year as well.
That's good news for teams in need of help in the secondary, but it's been especially bad news for defensive backs. Even with the added help of the three day window leading up to free agency, there's been almost a total lack of big contracts for cornerbacks. Last year we saw players like Cortland Finnegan land huge contracts almost as soon as free agency opened, and this year the deals made have been far more modest. Are teams valuing the position less, or are teams instead looking to fill their needs in April instead?
Above All, Money Talks
It's an aspect of the NFL that many fans try their best to ignore, but during this time of year it's nearly impossible. The business side of the NFL is far more powerful than any loyalty a player may have towards a team, fanbase, or city, and that's been no more clear than it was this week.
Greg Jennings left Green Bay, where he was one of the most popular Packers, to instead play for the bitterly hated Vikings. Wes Welker signed a contract with the Denver Broncos because he and the Patriots were just two million dollars apart on an extention. Josh Cribbs by all accounts wanted to stay in Cleveland, a city he's become a huge part of, but the Browns had no intention of bringing him back.
It's unlikely that any of these players would have chosen to leave had their former employers offered them the same contract their new one did, which makes the reaction each of these players have received from fans quite absurd. Going from one team to another is strictly a business decision – it doesn't make them a “traitor”.