Busts an dbreaks in NFL free agency
Halfway through the NFL season, an eerie epidemic is evolving. General Managers around the league are acting strange, scratching their heads in disbelief and spending long hours plopped in their plush office chairs questioning their actions from months ago. The reason these NFL executives are acting so wacky is the lack of impact this year’s wave of “big” name, big money free agents, who were signed mainly because of GM’s insistence on having them, have had so far this season.
Every year a team searches for that one player that is going put it over the top – that player who will launch it from cellar-dweller to Super Bowl champion. This year was no different for several teams that call the gridiron home on Sunday and Monday night. During this off-season, owners, coaches and general managers of teams like the Cowboys, Cardinals and Dolphins pooled their knowledge to pinpoint that special free agent, the guy that will make the difference. Then once that perfect player was identified, owners and GMs shoved mounds of money his way in an attempt to lure him into becoming part of their team.
It’s obvious money talks in the NFL, but no one’s money talks bigger than the checks Jerry Jones makes out. However, the Dallas Cowboys are experiencing some serious turmoil after snagging a huge free agent in the off-season.
The Cowboys used 25 million big ones to sign chatterbox wideout Terrell Owens, and thus far things have been mostly rocky in Big D. Aside from Owens being his alter-ego T.O. at times off the field, the ‘Boys have had trouble producing on the field this season. Owens was supposed to be the savior, righting the ship and putting Bill Parcells and company in the big game at the end of the season. Well, let’s just say things haven’t gone according to plan.
Dallas is over .500 with their 35-14 win over Carolina on Sunday night, but they can put a hold on the Super Bowl plans for now. With inexperienced Tony Romo as quarterback and an offensive line that wasn’t upgraded primarily because of T.O.’s huge contract, the ‘Boys will be lucky if they’re still playing in early January.
T.O., whose contracts depleted his team’s funds and prohibited them from enhancing other positions, and the Dolphins’ acquisitions of quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper, came at a time when other positions were already sufficient. However, like the Cowboys and Cardinals, the Dolphins have had a bumpy ride halfway through the season. In a year where the Dolphins were going to get over the top and were even supposed to make a run at the Super Bowl with Culpepper or Harrington taking the snaps, Miami currently sits alone at the bottom of the AFC East at 1-6. At this point, Miami is just praying that they can match last season’s win total of nine, which appears nearly impossible with only 10 games remaining.
Washington fell into the same traps, adding wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El to start across from All-Pro Santana Moss. They thought they got some big-name fish, but haven’t been able to keep the boat afloat so far. The Redskins sit at the bottom of the NFC East with a 2-5 record.
On the other side of the spectrum, teams that stood pat during the off-season, only making small changes in their rosters, have enjoyed immense success. These teams include the division-leading Colts, Broncos, Patriots and Bears, who instead of making headlines with colossal signings have made headlines by winning games. And winning games is what brings a team closer to the playoffs, not spending gobs of cash on players that fail to produce.
Maybe instead of trying to find the next Superman or savior, more teams should take a page out of the Colts’ or Patriots’ book and fill voids with players that seamlessly fit the system and don’t strain the checkbook. Bringing players along through smart drafting and strategically planned free agent pick-ups have solidified these teams and given them depth that keeps them in the playoffs. Which will result in less strain on the GM’s around the league when November rolls around.