2018 NFL Free Agency – What We Learned

The major dust has settled for free agency in 2018.  We are still waiting to see where Ndamukong Suh decides to play, and if that locale involves teaming up with Aaron Donald to create a real life defensive cheat code.  But we are at a point where we can look around the league and draw out some themes:

  • – Certain teams have no plan
  • – WR & RB contracts are out of control
  • – The state of offensive line economics is extremely player advantageous
  • – Bill Belichick is still, by far, the single most impactful individual in the NFL

We can start with the Dolphins and hit three birds here.  The Dolphins just don’t get it.  I’ve touched upon before how Mike Tannenbaum has no idea how to manage an NFL cap sheet.  The concept of future value, and surplus value, is entirely lost on Mr. Tannenbaum.  Andre Branch had the his upper limit of his personal mediocre seasons in 2016, in a career defined by medicore at best seasons, and was handed a fat contract.  Reshad Jones, at the blossoming age of 29, was handed the second largest safety contract by both total value and average annual salary.  Kenny Stills, the obvious regression candidate, was paid handsomely after a “break out” season.  Lawrence Timmons for $6 million a year? Sure!

Everyone in the entire NFL world – teams, media, fans – knew the Ndamukong Suh contract was an albatross the team could never see all the way through, except for the Dolphins.  The Dolphins gave up draft capital to take on the declining Robert Quinn’s contract.

So the Dolphins, in their infinite wisdom, didn’t want to pay perhaps the best slot receiver in the league $14 million annually because they didn’t deem the position valuable enough.  So they traded Jarvis Landry away and then spent $14 million annually on, wait for it, TWO slot receivers!

Of course the Dolphins dished out a combined $14 million a year to Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola after shipping Jarvis Landry out of town.  Hey, two heads are better than one, right?  That does seem to be the Dolphin’s strategy: The Dolphins have no idea what they’re doing so instead of just having a single general manager ruining the team, they have both “Executive Vice President of Football Operations” Mike Tannenbaum and General Manager Chris Grier ruining the team.

The Dolphins gave an inexplicable three year, $24 million contract to Albert Wilson with $14.45 million guaranteed.  Albert Wilson, whose career high for yardage in a season is 554.

ProFootballReference has a value metric called “Approximate Value,” known as AV.  The metric attempts to attach a singular number to a player to quantify his value in a given season.  The creator acknowledges it is not the end-all, be-all, but if someone has a significantly higher AV we can confidently conclude that player was better in that season than someone with a significantly lower AV.

So here are some base line values to bare in mind.  Over the past five season, Antonio Brown has posted an AV of 14, 16, 17, 12, and 15 for an average of 14.8.  That is an elite receiver.  Marvin Jones Jr., a pretty solid receiver, has posted an AV of 9, 8, and 9 the past three seasons for an average of 8.66.  In Albert Wilson’s four seasons, he has posted an AV of 3, 5, 3, and 6 for an average AV of 4.25.  Apparently this makes him worthy of being tied for the 23rd highest average annual value among WR’s, which in theory means he is good enough to be a team’s #1 wideout.  Sure.  This average salary, by the way, is higher than what Crabtree got from the Ravens, who has posted an AV of 8, 8, and 5 the past three seasons for an average of 7.  At least Wilson is younger?

Even if you want to convince yourself that Wilson is going to explode in a role that allows more opportunities, where are those opportunities coming from?  He is now competing with DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, and Kenyon Drake for targets.  The absolute best case scenario is that Wilson provides the exact amount of value that $8 million a year buys.  There is no possibility the Dolphins end up getting surplus value out of this contract.  That is how you fail in free agency.  Also, who the hell were the Dolphins bidding against for Albert Wilson’s services that they ended up at this number?

And maybe, like maybe, there’s a reason professional NFL overlord Bill Belichick didn’t want to give Danny Amendola $6 million a year.  Here the Dolphins go again, chasing prior production with big money, handing a 32 year old a two year, $12 million contract to be the 4th receiving option on the team.  Yea, the Dolphins are totally in such a position of luxury that they can shell out this type of money to a 4th receiver/2nd slot receiver.  But this is what happens with Patriots free agents.  ESPN can hoot and holler all they want about how the environment in Foxborough is crumbling, but Belichick’s success and culture have basically made every single Patriots free agent a restricted free agent.  Go out on the market and come back with what you were offered.  If we think it’s fair we will match it or perhaps you can settle for a little less to stick around.  If not, it’s been nice knowing you.  The only way a Patriot leaves in free agency is if he is significantly overpaid for his services (or you benched him 15 seconds before Super Bowl kickoff).  More on this later.

But the Dolphins aren’t the only team to have handed out really bad wide receiver contracts, without any semblance of a big picture plan.

I can’t decide which receiver contract was the worst one handed out.  There are some contenders.  One is Albert Wilson.  Another is the contract that never was.  Ryan Grant missed out on a four year, $29 million contract with $14.5 million in guarantees from the Ravens because he “failed” his physical with the team, which “coincidentally” coincided with Michael Crabtree becoming a free agent.  Ryan Grant, whose career high in receiving yards for a season is 573, and his career AV totals are 0, 2, 1, and 4 for an average of 1.75 during his career.  Grant then went back out on to the free agent market and could only garner a one year, $5 million deal with the Colts.

Paul Richardson’s agent should just be every single NFL receiver’s agent.  After a “break out” season of 700 yards and 6 touchdowns, Richardson scored a five year, $40 million contract with $16.5 million guaranteed.  Where the hell did this come from?  Before this season Richardson had never even eclipsed 300 yards in a season.  His 6 TDs came on an unsustainable TD rate of 13.6%.  Over the past five seasons, Antonio Brown’s TD rate is 8.9%.  During Richardson’s four year career his average AV is 2.75.  If you want to completely throw out the year he played only one game and ranked up a 0 AV, his three year average is 3.66.  I would really like to know who the hell Washington was bidding against when this contract was negotiated.

The Richardson contract is probably the worst receiver contract handed out this year.  Wilson is close, but the Dolphins can get out of his deal after two years where as Washington is tied to Richardson for the next three.  Don’t worry, though, because there are plenty more head scratching WR moves.

Sammy Watkins’ agent is really, really good at his job.  Watkins is now the 4th highest paid receiver in the NFL based on average annual value, and he got the 6th highest amount of money guaranteed at signing.  Plus, Watkins is only 24 years old and it’s only a three year deal, so if Watkins has a monster season or two he can get back on the market at age 27 for one more massive payday in his prime.

Good for Watkins, bad for Kansas City.  The problems on the team side here are two fold: 1. The Chiefs paid for Watkins ceiling, not past production or a little premium on past production, meaning they won’t actualize any surplus value on this deal.  2. If Watkins hits that ceiling, instead of being locked up for four or five years, he can leave town in three years.

This deal is really bad from the team perspective.  The only hope is Watkins hits his enormous potential and this ends up being on a fair market deal with a top ten receiver being paid as such.  I personally believe in Watkins’ talent and think if he can stay healthy he will reach his ceiling.  I don’t know how well catching passes from Mahomes will go, but Watkins can be that good.  Let’s play guess Player A and Player B!

Player A Player B
Games Played 37 37
Receptions 197 153
Yards 2,530 2,459
Touchdowns 23 17

Obviously one of these players is Sammy Watkins, so I’ll  just tell you he is Player B.  The “Games Played” line item is the first 37 career games of each player.  If you guessed Player A to be “Julio Jones,” congratulations, you win.

The first 37 career games of Julio Jones and Sammy Watkins aren’t that far off and Julio had Matt Ryan the whole time while Watkins had EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor, which perhaps explains the gap in receptions and touchdowns as one quarterback is more accurate and engineers more scoring drives.  They also sustained the exact same foot injury that caused them to miss time early in their careers.

The simple transition from Sammy Watkins is to the other big fish, Allen Robinson.  Before we get to Robinson’s new team, let’s take a look at Robinson’s old team.

The Jaguars decided not to franchise tag Allen Robinson coming off his ACL tear for the price of $15.982 million.  They decided the option of seeing how Robinson does for one year after knee surgery before making a decision to commit to him long term came at too high a price.  Ok, fair enough, it that’s your plan.  The Jaguars clearly believed that money would be better spent elsewhere, and that they had young, in-house options to fill the void.

The Jaguars gave Marqise Lee a four year, $34 million deal with $16 million guaranteed.  Lee, who has never topped 851 yards in a season and has averaged 4.5 AV per year in his career, is now the 22nd highest paid receiver by average annual value.  You know what, fine, you believe the guy you see every single day in practice can become good enough to justify this contract when we judge it through to lens of history.  The base salaries are back loaded with the guaranteed money up front, so Jacksonville can bail after two seasons.  Lee’s cap hit in 2018 will be $4.75 million, a far cry from the nearly $16 million franchising Allen would have cost.

The Jaguars also clearly believe in the other young guys on their roster, such as Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole, since they let Robinson leave and cut ties with Allen Hurns to save some money.  Fine, while I don’t agree with all of these moves, at least they make sense in concert with each other.

Except then the Jaguars went and handed Donte Moncrief a one year deal worth at least $9.6 million with the ability to reach $12.2 million.  I don’t know how likely it is he reaches those incentives, but either way this contract is inexplicable.  Moncrief is basically replacing Hurns who had a 2018 cap hit of $7 million and no dead money let on his deal, which means the remaining three years were all functional team options.  Is Donte Moncrief even better than Allen Hurns?

  Allen Hurns Donte Moncrief
Seasons 4 4
Career High Yards 1,031 733
Career High TDs 10 7
Career High Rec 64 64
Career High AV 8 6
Career Yards 2,669 1.875
Career TDs 21 18
Career Rec 189 152
Career AV 19 16
Average AV/Season 4.75 4

No?  Hurns is better?  Regardless, how is Moncrief worth at least $2.6 million more than Hurns this season?  And the best part, in the extremely unlikely event Moncrief lives up to the production that should coincide with this contract, he will just hit the market again next season as a hot commodity that Jacksonville will be in a bidding war to retain, instead of having three more seasons of team control, like Hurns had.

Moncrief has not had a single season in his career anywhere near the same stratosphere of Allen Robinson’s 2015 season, and after cutting Hurns to save enough money that the Jaguars can fit, potentially, $12.2 million on their books in 2018 for Moncrief, they couldn’t have found another $3.7 million to just franchise tag Allen Robinson and see how he looks coming off knee surgery?  That’s where they drew the line?  Oh, man, we can’t possibly afford a $15.982 million cap hit for a receiver who at least once put up a season of really good numbers coming off an ACL, we need to just absurdly overpay injury prone trash for $3.7 million less.  You just gave Blake Bortles a three year, $54 million contract with $26.5 million guaranteed as a result of completely mismanaging that situation, and decided to skimp on receiver continuity for that investment?

As for Robinson’s new team, Grier and Tannenbaum should be thanking the heaves that Ryan Pace is a General Manager because without Pace, those guys would be the worst decision makers in the NFL, but alas, Ryan Pace is the worst general manager in the NFL.  

So, a year ago, Ryan Pace decided that the home grown, proven wide receiver Alshon Jeffery wasn’t worth a long term commitment or even the franchise tag to gather one more year of data for a future decision as to whether or not he should commit to Jeffery long term, because, I’m assuming, Jeffery is kind of injury prone and misses games sometimes.

So OF COURSE Ryan Pace, a year later, gives $25.2 million guaranteed to a guy coming off a torn ACL.  Not only does Ryan Pace not have a plan, but he has absolutely no idea what he is doing.

Let’s talk about another decision Ryan Pace made a year ago, which is declining the 5th year option on Kyle Fuller.  I just googled that decision, trying to see what Fuller would have been paid on that 5th year option and read 8 different articles that were published at the time.  Not a single one mentions what the 5th year option would have cost.  Man the state of journalism is depressing.

The Bengals did exercise the 5th year option on Darqueze Dennard, another 2014 first round cornerback.  Fuller’s option may have been more expensive since he was drafted 10 slots higher, but Dennard’s 2018 salary is $8.526 million.  Let’s use this number.

So instead of having Fuller on his 5th year option for $8.5 million, Pace, who in 2017 decided Fuller wasn’t worth $8.5 million, slapped Fuller with the transition tag for $12.971 million in March 2018.  Of course Pace used the transition tag because using the franchise tag and shelling out another $2 million for the $14.975 cost of the franchise tag so that other teams CAN’T negotiate with Fuller was just way too pricey for a general manager who entered free agency with roughly $60 million dollars of cap space that was clearly burning a fucking hole in his pocket.  (More on this in a minute, and by the way the Bears still have a functional $26.782 million in space left after all their moves).

So that is twice now that Pace decided to not lock up Fuller on a one year deal to get another year of data before deciding on a longer term commitment.  And my god did it backfire.

Fuller went out and got an offer sheet from the NFC North rival Green Bay Packers, which was four years for $56 million with $18 million guaranteed.  The deal, at a minimum, is a two year commitment for $29 million and probably at least a three year commitment for $42 million.  A year ago Ryan Pace decided Kyle Fuller wasn’t worth $8.5 million, now he is invested long term for at least $29 million because HIS DIVISION RIVAL dictated those term.  And he could have paid $14.975 million for 2018 after he messed up the 5th year option decision, but decided to save $2 million for no reason.

OH AND DON’T WORRY, because Pace matched the offer sheet in roughly 14 seconds.  He had five days to match, and every minute he would have waited to match, that money is held against the Packers’ cap sheet, hindering their ability to pursue other free agents.  Pace could have made this painful for his division rival, and used every single second of those five days before matching the offer sheet so Green Bay would be hamstrung in other endeavors.  But nope, Pace decided it was absolutely imperative to let Green Bay off the hook and match as quickly as possible.

This fallout of events itself is a fireable offense.  This is mismanagement at its finest.  This is having absolutely no plan whatsoever combined with having absolutely no idea what you’re doing whatsoever.  But Pace’s incompetence doesn’t stop there.  He himself decided to hand out a terrible wide receiver contract, one even more confusing than the Robinson deal.

Why on earth did Taylor Gabriel get four years, $26 million and $14 million guaranteed?  Gabriel’s career high in yardage for a season is 621, and his career high for AV in a season is 7.  The other seasons are 4, 2, and 4.  You want to know why he had a season of 7 AV?  Because he caught 6 TDs on an absolutely unrepeatable 17% TD rate.  6 of his 35 receptions in 2016 were TDs.  2016, as a member of the Falcons, as in that year the Falcons had one of the greatest offensive seasons in NFL history where every single person was due for regression and, oh yea, every single person regressed in 2017 on the Falcons’ offense.  In 2016, Gabriel, the 5’8″ 167lb Gabriel, saw 50 targets, caught 35 of them, and hauled in 6 TDs.  In 2017 those numbers for Gabriel were 51 targets, 33 catches, and 1 TD.  You tell me which Gabriel is more likely joining the Bears.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.  Ryan Pace handed Trey Burton four years, $32 million and $18 million guaranteed.  What the fuck is this contract?  Burton’s $18 million guaranteed is the largest sum for a tight end in the league, and it isn’t even close.  Burton is the 6th highest paid tight end in the NFL on average annual value, and his $8 million a year is only a half million less than Zach Ertz’s $8.5 million a year.  As in, the dude who backed up Ertz, a top three tight end last year, now makes only $500,000 less per season than Ertz.  Burton is making only $1 million a year less than Gronk.  That’s it.  Didn’t Pace just use a second round pick on a tight end in 2017?  Is he just admitting failure on that pick? Didn’t Pace just give Dion Sims $6 million a year in 2017?  In case you were wondering, the Bears are now 2nd in the NFL in the percentage of the cap they have allocated to the tight end position.

Pace went into free agency with the mind set of “if Trubisky doesn’t show signs of improvement in 2018 I am going to get fired,” and decided to just throw money at the problem.  The thing is, if Trubusky doesn’t show signs of improvement he probably will be fired.  But in case you needed more evidence that Pace is worse than the two guys down in Miami, even the Dolphins understood the value of signing Josh Sitton to a contract.  Who would want to protect their second year quarterback with the services of a ten year, rock solid, quality, starting guard?  Seriously, why would anyone want that?  Charles Leno, Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, and Kyle Long made up one of the best four man combinations on an offensive line in the entire league.  But, when your job security is directly tied to the development of your young quarterback, why would you want to keep continuity among an outstanding unit, a unit where continuity is more important among it than any other unit in football.

The Dolphins signed Josh Sitton to two years, $15 million and $8 million guaranteed.  Man, how would Pace have squeezed that $7.5 million annual salary into the nearly $27 million of cap space he has this season.  Maybe if Kyle Fuller was making only $8.5 million this year he could have afforded to keep Sitton.  BUT HE FOUND $9 MILLION GUARANTEED TO GIVE TO A KICKER.  #FirePace.

Don’t worry, Ryan, you weren’t the only GM to pay top dollar for a backup tight end.

What is with the NFL’s new found backup tight end obsession?  I’m not saying two tight end sets aren’t useless or effective, but there has to be a cheaper way to do this.

Jack Doyle is a good tight end.  For those of you that play fantasy football, he has gotta be the best tight end sleeper with the prospect of him playing 2018 with a healthy Andrew Luck.  So why are the Colts giving two years and $15 million to Eric Ebron?  In reality it doesn’t matter.  That Colts have more cap space than they can spend and none of the contract is guaranteed.  The idea of loading up on weapons for Luck is a good one.  But we all know the Colts’ issues: offensive line and defense.

And they have not addressed those issues at all.  Did they even call Nate Solder, Weston Richburg, Andrew Norwell, or Justin Pugh?  The Colts have $63.9 million in functional cap space and a quarterback that just missed the entire season because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.  You have money.  How do you not at least try to so outrageously overpay the top offensive lineman in free agency to assemble the best possible protection for Andrew Luck?  Instead the Colts are out here snatching up Eric Ebron and Ryan Grant.

In 2017, O.J. Howard fell to the 19th pick and the Buccaneers were happy to end his slide and everyone collectively lost their mind about the compilation of weapons Jameis Winston now had at his disposal.  One of those weapons was Cameron Brate.  Brate was a free agent in 2018, and you would have figured given the use of a first round pick on Howard the year prior, coming to a long term pact with Brate wouldn’t have ranked high on Tampa’s to-do list.  Wrong.  Brate got six years, $40.8 million with $7 million guaranteed at signing and the ability to get up to $22 million in guaranteed money.

I actually don’t hate this contract, I just find it odd.  The Buccaneers had oodles of money heading into free agency and a ton of issues on defense and the offensive line.  They addressed those issues some but I didn’t think Brate would get such a large contract.  However, for what it’s worth, Spotrac thinks the $6.8 million Brate is making annually is $1.1 million below his market value.  The Bucs are maximizing their cap space while they still have the massive advantage of their starting quarterback playing on a rookie scale deal.  It’s a solid strategy.  But this is a lot of resources invested in the tight end position, when the Bucs are trapped in the most competitive division in football with teams that feature Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees, and should be chasing Ndamukong Suh.  However, they might now find that difficult with only $21.89 million in functional cap space after splurging on Brate and Ryan Jensen.

And Ryan Jensen brings us to the state of the offensive lineman economics in the NFL.  The only reasonable conclusion is that the supply and demand curve is so out of whack in the direct of the supply does not come close to meeting the demand.

Professional not-that-good center Ryan Jensen got a fat four year, $42 million contract with $22 million guaranteed from the Buccaneers.  He is the highest paid center in the NFL by average annual value and got the 5th most guaranteed money at the position.  In what world is Ryan Jensen a top level center that he justifies this contract?

Every guard in the NFL with a contract that has a total value of $50 million or higher signed that contract no longer ago than 2016.  In 2016 Kelechi Osemele set the record for the largest contract value of a guard at $58.5 million.  Kevin Zeitler then broke that record in 2017 with a contract value of $60 million.  In 2018, Andrew Norwell broke that record, signing for $66.5 million with the Jaguars.

Norwell smashed the previous contract records for a guard.  His total contract value represents a 10.8% increase on the previous record of $60 million by Kevin Zeitler.  Norwell’s $13.3 million annually represents a 10.8% increase on the $12 million average annual record from Zeitler.  Norwell’s $30 million guaranteed at signing represents an 18.1% increase from the $25.4 million record previously held by Osemele.

Some teams have an absolute aversion to spending a first round pick on a guard because they don’t see the positional value in such a pick.  But in free agency, guards are getting paid more than the best right tackles in football, and aren’t far behind the highest paid left tackles.

Norwell, an All-Pro, getting $66.5 million is one thing.  Zach Fulton got more money than Josh Kline, both in terms of total contract value and guaranteed money, and Kline is the superior player.  Zach Fulton got four years and $28 million, which is significantly more than what Josh Sitton got, and Josh Sitton is significantly better than Fulton.

Nate Solder obliterated the records for contract details of a left tackle.  Solder signed a four year, $62 million deal, making his average annual value $15.5 million.  The next highest average annual value is $13.6 million, so Solder increased the previous record, held be Trent Williams, by nearly 14%.  Solder got $34.8 million guaranteed at signing, breaking another Trent Williams record, this time by 16% (Williams got $30 million at signing).

I’m a Patriots fan.  I know all about Nate Solder.  This may read from here forward as a bitter Pats fan trying to down play how good Solder is, but, whatever.  Solder is a good left tackle that is better as a run blocker than a pass blocker.  He has never been an elite pass blocker.  Pro Bowl voting is a sham, but the guy who protected Tom Brady’s blind side for seven seasons never made the Pro Bowl.  Solder has never received an elite PFF grade in a single season of his career.  Solder is simply not worth being, by far, the highest paid left tackle in the history of the NFL.  But Dave Gettleman was that desperate to not have Ereck Flowers as the starting left tackle in 2018.

You know what Gettleman wasn’t desperate to do?  Retain Pugh or Richburg at the prices they found in free agency.  The Giants had arguably the worst offensive line play in the NFL last year, they employ a general manager that believes the trenches allow you to compete and loves himself some “hog mollies,” in those trenches, and that guy decided to let Pugh and Richburg walk out the door.

Maybe Gettleman is just an idiot.  Who knows.  But Justin Pugh, a good guard for four years, regressed in his 5th season and suffered some injuries.  So as a result, of course, the offensive line desperate Arizona Cardinals gave Pugh a contract that ranks in the top ten among guards in both total contract value and average annual value.  It is a five year, $45.025 million deal with $13 million guaranteed at signing.  Remember, the hog mollie loving, offensive line desperate, New York Giants didn’t want to keep this guy.

And they let Richburg walk too.  Richburg was solid and alright in 2015 and 2016, missed all but four games in 2017, so naturally the 49ers gave Richburg five years, $47.5 million with $16.5 million guaranteed at signing with the potential for $28.5 million guaranteed.  Richburg’s total contract value is the third largest in the league for a center, the average annual salary is the third largest in the league for a center, the guaranteed money at signing is the 4th largest in the league for a center, and he has the highest amount of practical guarantees in the league for a center.  Richburg simply isn’t this good.  If you want to pay him based on just 2015, you could argue he is worth it.  But there are three other seasons of performance data to consider.

And the Richburg signing comes exactly one month after the 49ers gave a three year contract to their incumbent starting center, Dan Kilgore.  This is literally something that you do in Madden.  You have to take care of your own free agents before they let you move on in the offseason queue to free agency.  You look at the guy on your roster and think “well, he’s alright, I may as well just keep him because I don’t know what else will be out there,” and then you get to free agency, so a better alternative, and immediately manipulate yourself out of the previous commitment.  The 9ers signed their uninspiring guy, saw Richburg, paid Richburg immediately, and then got lucky the Dolphins were willing to help them out of their dilemma by trading for Kilgore.  At least we got a glimpse into what John Lynch does in his free time?

We need to talk about the running backs, and let’s start by continuing to talk about the 49ers.

Perhaps the worst contract handed out this year, or at least the most perplexing, was the deal the 49ers gave Jerick McKinnon.  The news that San Francisco gave McKinnon four years and $30 million dollars is the real life GIF for “WTF?”  Where the hell did this come from?

Jerick McKinnon has the third largest contract of a running back by total value, 4th highest at the position in terms of average annual value, and got the 7th most guaranteed money at signing among running backs.  Jerick McKinnon is making $7.5 million annually.  McKinnon has never made it to 600 yards rushing in a season.

The Shanahan family has, literally, for three decades taken dudes you have never heard of and made them 1,000 yard rushers based on the blocking system.  Why did John Lynch give out this contract?  The 9ers can get out of it after a year, but it just makes no sense.  The best skill McKinnon brings is his ability as a receiver at the running back position.  Valuing such a skill from a team building perspective is fine.  In fact it’s smart in the modern NFL.  But you can find a dude to catch passes out of the backfield for much, much cheaper than this.

Le’Veon Bell was a second round pick.  David Johnson was a third round pick.  Alvin Kamara was a second roudn pick.  Kareem Hunt was a third round pick.  LeSean McCoy was a second round pick.  James White was a fourth round pick.  Dion Lewis was a fifth round pick.  Duke Johnson was a third round pick.  Get the picture?  John Lynch absolutely nailed his first ever draft, but 2018 free agency coupled with him making Kyle Juszczyk the highest paid full back by 210% makes me question his understanding of free agency.

As for the guy that left San Francisco, Carlos Hyde, yea, he totally deserves to be the 9th highest paid running back by average annual value.  John Dorsey gave Hyde a three year, $15.25 million contract with $8 million guaranteed.  Hyde as a player is fine but he isn’t going to live up to this contract.  And why are the Browns finding new, more expensive ways to not get the ball to Duke Johnson?  Plus there is at least a decent chance they spend the 4th pick on Saquon Barkley.  Have a fucking plan.

Isaiah Crowell makes as much annually as Mark Ingram.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The three year, $12 million contract the Jets gave Crowell is really a one year deal worth $4 million, so it isn’t the end of the world, but that is one pricey season of Isaiah Crowell.

Everyone thought Gettleman would go after an ex-Panther, it was just assumed to be Andrew Norwell.  Instead, he brought in the carcass of Jonathan Stewart on a two year, $6.9 million deal.  Because, yea, the 31 year old Stewart is totally going to fix the running game issues the Giants had last season.

Then there is Dion Lewis who signed with the Tennessee Patriots Titans.  Lewis got a four year, $19.8 million deal from the Titans to be the 11th highest paid running back in football by average annual value.  I understand why the 27 year old who has torn his ACL took the most money he could find in free agency.  I just don’t understand any of these teams spending this amount of financial resources on the running back position, especially the Titans.  Not only do the Titans have Derrick Henry, but Jon Robinson is from the Patriots organization.  Belichick never spends resources like this on a single running back.  He drafts Dion Lewis in the 5th round, watches him be the #1 RB by DYAR on a cheap deal, then let’s someone else pay full value.

The Titans have a ton of cap space and are trying to maximize the cheat code that is having a starting quarterback on a rookie scale deal.  Robinson was smart to keep Kline around and paid fair market value for Malcolm Butler.  He is trying to bring in Ndamukong Suh.  But the Titans are not Dion Lewis away from winning the Super Bowl, and if you just want someone to catch passes while Derrick Henry does all the heavy lifting, using a 4th round pick to address that likely would have sufficed.

Before we leave, let’s just reaffirm no single individual has a larger impact on the NFL than Bill Belichick.

Basically, because of the sustained success and culture in New England, every Patriots free agent is a functioning restricted free agent.  They all give the Patriots the right to match or come close to matching after getting an offer.  Devin McCourty got an offer from the Eagles that the Patriots matched.  Dont’a Hightower got an offer from the Steelers that the Patriots matched.  If you want to pry someone away from the Patriots organization you have to offer a ludicrous amount of money knowing the Patriots will stay disciplined in their financial strategy.

That’s how Nate Solder completely obliterates the left tackle market place.  That’s how a 27 year old running back with a previously torn ACL gets $5 million annually.  Danny Amendola restructured his contract three times to take less money so he could stick around Foxborough, until the Dolphins went all Dolphins on the situation and offered him $6 million a year to retire to Miami.

Even when you’re not playing Belichick on the field, he is still manipulating you.  You basically do the contract negotiations for him, and in order for you to get a guy you want you have to inflate his value, which harms your ability to make the best team possible.  Or he just matches the offer you made on a guy that he deems worth it, and spent the time he would have spent negotiating that contract on other stuff.  Not even ex-members of his own organization have caught onto this yet.  There will never be another Bill Belichick.

filed under: NFL

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