Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC South [Print without images]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Why free-agency patience is a good thing

By Paul Kuharsky

Despite history showing over and over that jumping out and being the lead dog in free agency isn’t the way to go, fans are routinely tortured when their team doesn’t jump out as the lead dog in free agency.

We’re just two hours away from free-agency’s kickoff. The prospect of adding a productive player who might transform a unit, or even a team, can be too tantalizing to bear. But even a productive player isn’t enough for some -- it must be the perceived treasure of treasures, a “big name.”

Like anyone with a job like mine, my Twitter feed’s been inundated with this: Will my team sign a big-name free agent? The primary qualification being not whether said player is a good fit or a good value, but whether said fan is familiar with the player.

Good teams, of course, shouldn’t operate on any such premises. But for a team in trouble, where a coach or a general manager could be less than a year away from being fired or not renewed, swaying public opinion with a splash move can help the market’s mood. And the market’s mood can be important to NFL power people, consciously or even subconsciously.

But I promise you, the best thing that can happen to your team today is ... nothing.

I can’t articulate it any better than Bill Barnwell of Grantland does.

The basic premise of his piece: An intelligent team will wait a bit and can get 90 percent of the player at 50 percent of the price.
“What those smart teams will do in this new economy is -- very simply -- be patient. The true stars will disappear off the market early, and the dumber teams will pay a premium for talent to lock them up in the first 24 to 48 hours, but the smart teams will wait. Even if it's just a week, antsy players will see the open slots beginning to fill up around them and settle for far less than they would have at the opening of free agency.”

If the Colts want a right tackle, perhaps Sebastian Vollmer, Andre Smith and Phil Loadholt go off the board early and for high prices. Well, if Sam Baker is still out there and is far less costly, then he’s the get.

Shift the names or rankings around as you see fit. Odds are four right tackles are not hitting the jackpot. You don’t generally want your team to be the team to set that bar. You want your team to be the team that casually limbos under that bar after someone else jumps out.

If the Colts or the Titans or the Jaguars jump out today or tomorrow and bring someone in for big dollars, it’s not automatically a bad thing. (The Texans don’t really have the cash to do it.)

But the free-agent market is flooded with good options at all of the positions all these teams need.

Not doing anything today or tomorrow certainly doesn’t rank as a bad thing, either. More likely it ranks as the best thing.