By Will Stevenson
The chances of a player duplicating their numbers on a new team is 50-50. The ceiling is a 50 percent chance of duplicating your success, everything else is lowered form there. There’s more to free agency than just “Copy & Paste”. We feel a wide receiver for this team will have the same production on another team. In some cases, it happens, but rarely. We tend to forget about offensive systems, jargon, quarterback play, offensive lines, plays run, defensive strategy and of course, injuries. We like to assume the best for guys, or do we? Are we assuming the best for Brandon Cooks because we want to see he succeed as a human being, or are we solely invested in our fantasy leagues and personal bragging rights. We love to take a player from one team and drop him on the next team and simulate his numbers to an All-Pro level like we are a General Manager for Madden, and then ridicule them if they don’t live up to our expectations.
This isn’t fantasy sports, nor is this Madden. This year’s NFL Free Agency has once again reminded us that the game has changed while we were stuck in the middle of who to draft in the 5th round of our fantasy league. For most fans, when it comes time for the sports-transaction period (trade deadline and free agency), we tend to get caught up in the names of players, what they use to do, and what we would do if we were the GM on Madden. I don’t know if we have noticed, but it doesn’t work that way. We have been fooled from time to time from owners like Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder and other teams that use to spend whatever it took to get a certain player on their team, overlooking the possibility that a certain player might not mesh with the current installed gameplan. We watched a few years ago when Darryl Morey decided to throw together any and everyone for the Houston Rockets. They did have a successful season in which they advanced to the conference finals against the Warriors, but the way that team was setup, it was destined to fail. Remember the Rockets had James Harden, Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverly, Trevor Ariza on that team. They then decided to keep Josh Smith, sign Ty Lawson and bring in Michael Beasley. Just with those names, look at the personalities and add in a coach in Kevin McHale that was on his last legs with this team.
That’s what we as fans do, we look at a player and then we cut and paste their previous production to a destined team and “wallah”, we are projecting them to be an All-Pro. We do this kind of analysis with the quarterback position all of the time. We will take Tony Romo and literally put him on 26 teams for the upcoming season, and somehow he will be projected to have a great season on all 26 teams. We put him on the Texans and he’ll lead the Texans. The AFC South is so horrible is Brock could get them to the playoffs, we know that Tony Romo could. We put him on the 49ers and of course he’ll flourish under that offensive system. We dare not put him on the Jets because the Jets ruin all quarterbacks and all passing offense projections.
The one Copy and Paste we have overlooked is the running back position. Some of us have caught on that teams care not for the expensive running back. I feel like this happened once Demarco Murray led the league in rushing with the Cowboys and the low-balled him with an offer a rookie wouldn’t take. He ended up with the Eagles, and of course the projections were he would dominate again under Chip Kelly, but as we know now that was never possible. So while the quarterback position has be elevated, but not so much the talent at qb, the running backs are becoming the center position in the NBA. After the rookie wage scale was scaled back, we thought older players would get the money that was taken away from the rookies: Not even close. There is a salary floor for each team, but that money isn’t going to a position that is becoming more replaceable by the season. Adrian Peterson is still on the market, and more than likely he’ll sign a one year deal, for no more than 5 million. Eddie Lacy signed a one year deal with the Seahawks, and Jamaal Charles is still on the market. It’s strange how the running back has be weeded out each season. Not having a feature back has allowed for more running backs to have the opportunity to be in the league, which is good. That bad thing is the 3rd string running back can’t get paid as a feature back in this league once it’s his time to test the market. When you can only garner 10 to 20 percent of interest, and then knowing that those teams aren’t starting a bidding war for you, it’s destructive to the position. Why pay Adrian Peterson when you can draft a 5th rounder or sign Legarette Blount on a one year deal for less. Even guys like Devonta Freeman are one season away from becoming Ron Mercer.
Lastly, the wide receiver. We’ve watched Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall move to two teams on deals that seem incomplete. Alshon signed for one year with the Eagles, so we’ll Copy and Paste his production and elevate his numbers because the we feel the Eagles are a better offensive team than the Bears. We think he will be a success in Philly, but we’ve seen this before with players going to a new system with a new quarterback and a young one at that. There’s more to signing with a team than just the dollar amount. There are agents, former coaches, living situations and others. Terrelle Pryor left the Browns (one destructive organization) to sign a one year deal with the Washington franchise (currently another destructive franchise). They literally let the old receivers leave to make room for the young ones, then brought in a average aged-one in that is trying to get paid.
One last thing about this year’s free agency: Why is everyone being so nice to the Patriots? People are trading them decent players and not signing away their own players. I just don’t understand what is going on. For all we know Rex Burkhead will be a gem for them next season, and Brandon Cooks will be an afterthought. Crazy as it sounds, the higher profile you are before the Patriots, the higher chance you won’t even dress for the playoffs. The Patriots have more misses than hits on the offensive side in free agency, but we tend to forget those types of things.
Tyrod Taylor took a pay cut. Why? I’m so use to the NBA that I forget these NFL contracts are worth as much as Blockbuster credit cards. I wish these contracts were fully guaranteed, or 80 percent at the least. There’s no reason for a player’s contract to be 60 million, but only 24 million are guaranteed over 4 years, and the team can release them after year two. Brock Osweiler, as bad as he was in Houston, should not be traded like he’s Luke Ridnour or Keith Van Horn. The penalty of making a bad free agent signing is the cap number to your team. You either start him, bench him, or cut him and take the penalty. The NFL is making money all over the place, and it just seems like teams have once again been able to maneuver contracts, restructure them, or give themselves a yearly out-clause. The more injuries that take place, the easier it is to lower the pay of those that are just trying to make a team. Even the 24-26 year old players are taking cuts to stay with a team or signing shorter deals, even though they are 2 knee injuries away from becoming Priest Holmes.