Why NFL free agency is overrated

You know when you get your paycheck on Friday and suddenly have the urge to spend frivulously on an indulgence or guilty pleasure? 

The intelligent money managers fight the impluse, and save. The not-so-intelligent money managers give in. 

That very familiar desire and subsequent inner dilemma which typically arises the moment cash is fresh in your pockets can be likened to NFL free agency.

It's when the league opens its shopping-spree floodgates, and the hasty front offices splurge while the shrewd front offices wait to bargain shop after the dust settles. 

Without a doubt, though, the free-agency period is exciting. Players inking deals with new teams always brings enthuisiasm and optimism for the upcoming season and monitoring the wheeling and dealing between organizations is truly compelling. 

But, in the grand scheme of it all, free agency is overrated.

As Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder proved to us during the 2000's, those who make it rain during the free-agent period rarely, if ever even get close to a full return on their investment or investments.

The "build-through-the-draft" adage as been around for a while in NFL circles, but it's now more vital to sustained success because of the rookie wage scale in place. 

Draft picks are cheaper than ever. 

The free-agency enthusiasts can argue that teams are paying for an experienced player who's established himself in the NFL over an unknown commodity fresh out of college. 

That truth can't be argued. However, the monetary discrepancy between a prized free agent and a rookie has become so significant that the younger player with more long-term viability and upside should almost always been priortized over the expensive veteran.

But comparing the value of free agents and draft picks doesn't represent the only reason free agency is overrated.

It's overrated and, actually, ironic because while the "big-splash" free agents create all the fanfare, they're typically the players who ultimately create the most disappointment. 

More often than not, they become costly detriments to their team's chances to remain competitive after they were once lauded as "must-have" players.

The real value of the free-agency period can be found a few weeks in, when "lower-tier" players sign cost-effective contracts.

At the time, those agreements are viewed by many as boring deals for guys who'll have, at best, a minimal impact. 

But those free agents happen to be tiny blips on the salary cap sheet, usually have defined, specialized roles and unfailingly come with lower, easy-to-reach expectations. 

I will say this—if a team is set on spending the big bucks, it should do so on the most vital defensive position—pass-rusher. 

Reggie White. Bryce Paup. Charles Haley. Jared Allen. John Abraham. Dwight Freeney. Julius Peppers. Mario Williams. Charles Johnson. 

That group represents the highest-profile pass-rushers who signed the largest free-agent deals at the position over the past 20-ish years.

(Allen was traded to the Minnesota Vikings at the start of the 2008 free-agency period and signed what then was the richest contract for a defensive player in league history.)

Also, every player listed above lived up to the expectations brought on by their monster contracts.

For some reason, expensive pass-rusher signings—or re-signings—in free agency have a much higher "hit" rate than other positions.

In most cases, though, a bargain-seeking, role-player-adding approach to the free-agency period is much safer than anything else. 

Because early-round draft picks are much cheaper than they used to be, savvy teams should do everything in their power to utilize and groom young talent internally then spend big money to extend those players as they near the end of their rookie deals instead of breaking the bank on overhyped free agents with exorbitant price tags.

Unless sale-rack shopping is your thing—and it should be—NFL's free-agency period, especially the hoopla that surrounds the top targets, is overrated. 

Chris Trapasso

About Chris Trapasso

Chris Trapasso has been publishing his NFL-related opinions, rants, theories, philosophies and commentary since 2008 when he joined Bleacher Report during the site's infancy. He was the first Buffalo Bills Featured Columnist for B/R when the FC program began in 2009. Chris had a variety of jobs until he was added to the full-time NFL beat writing team at the beginning of the 2011 season. Brad Gagnon brought him onto This Given Sunday's staff in October of 2013. He was credentialed for and attended the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Chris is based in Western New York and currently a free-agent writer. (HIRE HIM, he's scrappy.) Beyond B/R and TGS, he's written for Yahoo Sports, rotoViz, BuffaLowDown, BuffaloSportsDaily and is featured on sports radio shows and podcasts in the Buffalo area.

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