It’s that time of year again, friends: the season of high hopes and heartbreak, when dreams come true for some, but most are left wanting.
It’s time for March Madness.
Now, I understand that there’s a very popular collegiate basketball tournament held every Spring, but that’s not what I’m talking about, so you can put your brackets away for now. No, the March Madness to which I refer is the NFL’s annual free agent feeding frenzy, and this March has been as mad as any I can recall.
For football fans who believe their favorite team is “just a player away” from becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender, free agency provides a glimmer of hope. NFL fans, in their infinite wisdom, clamor for their teams’ owners and general managers to dig deep into their pocketbooks and sign whichever flashy names happen to be available, no matter the cost. The fans want to win now, and they see free agency as a quick and easy fix.
Unfortunately, winning in the NFL is neither quick, nor easy.
Free agent fever among fans is a perfectly understandable affliction. Fans want the big names, and most of the time, they don’t care about the implications of the accompanying price tag. I get it, football fans aren’t economists. But when owners and GM’s fall into the trap and begin mortgaging their teams’ futures for a chance to win now, that’s when the madness ensues.
As of The Lorian’s press time, it is being reported that the Miami Dolphins are on the verge of signing free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a deal which would make the former Lion the highest-paid defender in the history of the known universe. According to multiple reports, the Dolphins plan to pay Suh the type of money ($17 million per year, almost $60 million guaranteed) normally reserved for the starting quarterbacks he’s accustomed to stomping upon. It seems a bit excessive to invest so richly in a player who will never throw a touchdown pass, but maybe the Dolphins are hoping Suh will tear off Tom Brady’s throwing arm so they can attach it to Ryan Tannehill.
The current hubbub surrounding Suh reminds me of last March, when fans around the league decided “Byrd” was the word, and tied their hopes and dreams to landing Jairus Byrd in free agency. The New Orleans Saints signed the much sought-after safety to a 6-year, $56 million deal, and still failed to reach the postseason. Aside from long-term salary cap devastation, there are no guarantees when courting high-profile free agents.
Of course, there have been cases where big ticket free agent signings have produced the desired effect. One need look no further than those same New Orleans Saints, and their signing of Drew Brees in 2006. Brees led the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV. And then of course, there’s Reggie White, the patron saint of free agency. White was a key part of the Green Bay Packers’ resurgence in the mid-90s, a revitalization that has lasted more than two decades.
But for every Drew Brees or Reggie White, there are dozens of Albert Haynesworths and Nnamdi Asomughas, who contribute nothing to their new teams but heartache and dead money.