Welcome to NFL free agency! Given the strategic mastery and sheer manpower necessary to field a successful NFL team, every franchise has something on its to-do list. Whether they’re trying to retain the services of a player who’s hit the open market, or scanning the talent pool for outside reinforcements, league executives are in incessant negotiations. Some of the resulting decisions will cause great joy; others will prompt cries for the public execution of team officials. The somber truth, however, is that every flashy move your team just made sucks. And down the river Styx we go:
Signing A Supporting Member of a Championship Team
When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed ex-Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson to a massive contract last week, they participated in a rich tradition of mediocre-to-bad teams overpaying recent Super Bowl winners. It happens every year! Look no further than the Giants’ 2015 signing of Shane Vereen, the Dolphins’ 2013 overreach for former Raven Dannell Ellerbe, or Mario Manningham’s brief and eminently forgettable time as a 49er after he played the role of hero in Super Bowl XLVI with the Giants. These are just examples from the decade currently in progress! Teams have been enamored with newly-minted champions and clouded by recency bias since there have been champions to overpay. Surely, this would have gone on in the world of ancient Mayan ballgames, if the people contesting those games hadn’t been offered as human sacrifices so often.
Hot-Commodity Quarterback Signing
Congrats, Texans! You have just signed Brock Osweiler! Although Osweiler may soon prove to be the greatest quarterback in franchise history, this only means that he is better than the Free Safety’s Dream that is Matt Schaub. History shows that even if he clears the low bar, he is not likely to achieve high-level success. Since 2000, the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls after having been acquired as free agents have been Drew Brees, the withered and shambling corpse of Peyton Manning, Trent Dilfer, and Brad Johnson. All but Brees were seen as warm bodies who were there simply not to nullify the performances of historically great defenses, defenses dominant enough to give Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson rings as starting NFL quarterbacks. The 2015 Texans, shockingly, were not really on par with those great squads. The “backup quarterback who just saw minor action and wasn’t a total embarrassment” is a well that the Texans themselves have been to many times in their brief existence. In fact, every perpetually lackluster NFL team has done this distressingly often. I’d imagine Brian Hoyer, Sage Rosenfels, Ryan Mallett, and Matt Leinart have barbecues frequently, and have matching jackets signifying their membership in this exclusive cadre.
Making a Non-Quarterback Extremely Rich
As I said before, football is a game with myriad moving pieces and tactical considerations. It’s a sport with a salary cap, ostensibly to keep Jerry Jones from riding into the facilities of opposing teams and whisking away their best players with billion-dollar novelty checks. Awarding a couple of players giant contracts dictates the composition of the rest of the roster for years to come. Case in point: I won’t pretend to know all of the nuances of the NFL salary cap, but Detroit’s decision to lavish Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson with $5 billion, a shipping container of flawless rubies, and the rights to the complete Michael Jackson catalog meant they had to part with several key players, including Ndamukong Suh. Suh, as you know, then turned around and signed a megadeal with Miami, a team that also gave Ryan Tannehill a deal at the same time. The result? Olivier Vernon had to go. Vernon, now a very wealthy New York Giant, will be teammates with a soon-to-be very wealthy Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants will inevitably have to get rid of a very valuable cog, who will then be paid handsomely elsewhere, burdening the cap situation of his new team. I’d like to think this cycle will continue around the league (affecting everyone except the Patriots) constantly, until Detroit is again hoisted on its own petard sometime around 2040.
Jaime Alayon will be a writer for Crooked Scoreboard until he takes up too much cap space. You should follow him on Twitter.