NFL free agency periods are always a fun time of the year, but have teams across the league forgotten the true meaning of it? Like the true meaning of Christmas is sometimes forgotten, the true meaning of the NFL free agency period is also sometimes forgotten.
In today’s league, we are seeing a heavy dosage of the “instant gratification” model, where teams quickly play their rookie quarterbacks and often expect near immediate success. It’s become an arms race in a way; teams try to find the next elite head coach, quarterback, and then work their tails off to try and fill out the rest of their roster.
The true and proper team building methods is through the NFL draft. Full stop. Teams are supposed to build the core of their teams through the draft (quarterback, left tackle, cornerback, edge rusher, defensive line).
The other positions that perhaps aren’t as important are sometimes filled out in free agency. I do believe that all 32 general mangers, if asked, would tell you that the draft is way more important than free agency, and I do think they’d also say that free agency exists to help cover up misses in the draft.
The other purpose a free agency, perhaps a secondary one, is an “all-out” method. Remember, free agency can also include offseason trades. The modern-day NFL has become so focused on immediate success that teams feel comfortable spending tens of millions of dollars in free agency, covering up draft misses before they even happen.
This past offseason saw a perfect example of this all out arms race. The AFC West was “guilty” of this. The Chargers decided they were going to overhaul their defense in free agency, highlighted by trading for Khalil Mack.
The Raiders decided they needed more production out of their wide receivers, so they draft valuable draft capital or Davante Adams and signed Chandler Jones in free agency even while having Maxx Crosby on the roster.
The Denver Broncos tried to solve their half decade long quarterback issue by trading multiple first round picks for Russell Wilson. Other examples include the Miami Dolphins trading about 49 draft picks for Tyreek Hill.
Even the defending Super Bowl champion Rams dipped in free agency, signing another pass catcher in Allen Robinson and also an inside linebacker in Bobby Wager.
Teams across the league aren’t using free agency to cover up missed draft picks anymore, they’re using it to get ahead in the arms race.