The New and Improved Free Agency

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By PFC Blogger Jason Clark

It’s easy for people to say that teams should build through the draft as opposed to free agency, but to what extent? Most successful teams such as the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven this method works. What about the teams at the bottom of the barrel such as the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions?

A team like the Cleveland Browns who are on their 7th head coach since their return in 1999 only has 5 of their former first rounder still on the roster, 4 of which were drafted in the last 3 years. With each coaching change there are different schemes both offensively and defensively which usually results in an overhaul of the previous regime’s roster.

The Lions in recent years have added quality pieces through the draft with a franchise QB and maybe the best WR in football and yet they are still missing that certain something to catapult them into contenders. You can only go so far with a young group and with constant change and lack of stability these teams are unable to build the solid foundation necessary to become a true contender in the league today. There are only so many draft picks and so little time given to a coach to prove he can win.

Free Agency has evolved tremendously since the days of Reggie White. There was a period of “Buyer Beware” because teams felt as though there must be something wrong with a player if his original team failed to retain him.

Now, while there are still some cases of “Buyer Beware” there are more players whom are available whose team simply cannot afford to keep them due to the lack of salary cap room. They are players in their prime who were once a solid “foundation” guy who outplayed his rookie contract and is ready to cash in on and off the field. These veterans are sometimes necessary for a young team to help mentor and lead by example and with the help of a new league rule which requires all teams to spend nearly 90 percent of their salary cap Free Agency will be a necessity for all teams. While the draft will always be the foundation, Free Agency is like the roof and is necessary to get to the top.