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The BIG Free Agent

The BIG Free Agent




Every year, there's the temptation of signing the "big name" free agent.  Every year, somebody pays an exorbitant amount of cash for one player. Does the player help a team win a championship? The short answer?  No.





Every year, Daniel Snyder's private plane is fueled up as he prepares to outbid Jerry Jones. Last year it was Albert Haynesworth, who played on a 4-win Redskins team this year.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was prematurely polishing his Lombardi Trophy when he signed with the Seahawks. Needless to say, the Seahawks won a whopping 5 games this year.


Remember how much money the 49ers paid Nate Clements a few years back?


So, does signing a big free agent pay off?  Is the answer not signing the free agent?  Should a team solely rely on the draft?  By analyzing the people who get paid to make these big decisions, we, in hindsight, can measure their effectiveness (or lack thereof).


Let's look at the Packers and Vikings under the reign of their current coaches and general managers: Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson and Brad Childress/Rick Spielman, respectively.


The Packers' approach has been to build a foundation using its draft choices and to sprinkle in a couple of free agents year by year. The following is a list of draft choices and free agents who have played significant roles in the past four years:


A.J. Hawk, Daryn Colledge, Greg Jennings, Jason Spitz, Will Blackmon, Johnny Jolly, Brandon Jackson, James Jones, Korey Hall, Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, T.J. Lang, Quinn Johnson, and Brad Jones.


Free Agents:  Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, and Brandon Chillar


In contrast, the Vikings' approach has been to build its team through the combination of the draft, free agency, and trades.  The Purple and Gold have drafted a number of starters and regular contributors as well, such as:


Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Tarvaris Jackson, Ray Edwards, Brian Robison, Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, John Sullivan, Tyrell Johnson, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt, Asher Allen, Jasper Brinkley, and Jamarca Sanford.


Free Agents/Trades:  Chester Taylor, Ryan Longwell, Ben Leber, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe, Madieu Williams, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen.  Oh yeah, and a guy named Brett Favre.


Even though the methods of acquiring players have been different, the results have been remarkably similar.  Over four seasons, McCarthy's overall record is 38-26 with a 1-2 playoff record.  Childress is 36-28 with a 1-2 playoff record.  Both coaches have lost the NFC championship game and both have lost in the wild card round.


Two different approaches, and two very similar overall records.  Most importantly, neither coach has been to the Super Bowl. Whose approach has been better? Only time will tell.


But, have no fear, football fans, the offseason is almost over.  Free Agency begins on March 5 and then it's a mere 7 weeks until the draft.  And there is that "big" free agent, Julius Peppers.  Will he help anchor a championship defense?  If history is any indicator, the answer is no.  I say he signs with a team that ends up winning, let's say, 6 games next season.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

IronMan's picture

Welcome to the Lounge Max. You are off to a good start. Cheers.

Alex's picture

Great to have you Max -- thanks for the offer. More Viking hate please...

Max's picture

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll see what I can do about the Vikings hate. I thought that reminding Vikings' fans that Brad Childress was their coach was hurtful enough for one post.

Drizzle's picture

Welcome.. I like the post. Its true most 'big' free agents end up being on bad teams but that comes from ego. They think they will be the guy to turn a franchise around. Whereas someone coming to a good team, Reggie White to the Pack and Randy Moss to the Patriots, can make the difference between losing in the first round and going all the way to the Superbowl. Reggie even went so far as to help us WIN a Superbowl. If Peppers wants to play for a championship, he should follow in those footsteps. I'd love to see him with a big G on his head.. but I fear it'll probably be a Patriot on his helmet.

PackersRS's picture

That was a great article. Welcome, Max, and great find Alex!

There's a lot of talk about methods of building teams in the forum I participate, and, if you don't mind, I'll use your article.

There's also the illustration of the Giants using mainly drafted players to win the SB, and when they went to the FA (Canty, etc...), they didn't even reach the playoffs. There's the Steelers example.

But there's also the Saints example.

I believe it has more to do with being competent with your approach.

If you're going to use mainly the draft, be great at it. You have to hit in a high basis. All Steelers' first rounders since 2003 are key contributors.

If you're going to use the FA, you have to make sure the player you're getting has the right personality for your team, has the will to win, and not just earn money, and that he fits your system.

PackerMax's picture

Feel free to use the article as you please. Glad you enjoyed it.

I like your point about hitting it right in the draft. If Ted Thompson can repeat the success of last year's draft, the Packers should be set for a long time.

PackersRS's picture

Thanks, I did and it turned out into another argument, about if the change to the 3-4 actually delayed our sucess, that if we had stayed in the 4-3, and gotten more pieces to it, we would have a much readier defense.

I don't feel like it, I think such hypothesis are just it, and are futile because points made can't be proven... But anyway...

Jersey Al's picture

Welcome to the Packers Lounge, Max. Get ready for a fun ride...


Erik's picture

Nice article. I think it makes a great point about how there is one formula to winning it all and that even though two teams, in the same division that therefore play a lot of the same opponents every season, have almost identical records despite different formulas.

Looking forward to more of this.

And also to Alex, I just saw the awesome Stop That Nun banner on right side of the site. Thanks much for that :)

Alex's picture

A little slow being a big time movie director and not paying attention to our Packer blogs are we? You're welcome....

Erik's picture

ha! Has it been there for a while? Sorry >.>

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