Free Agency More Than A Simple Science

Posted: 04/15/2014 in Player News, What's New
Some have success in the offseason while others get burned. Photo by: Eric Nichay

Some have success in the offseason while others get burned. Photo by: Eric Nichay

 

Free agency is not completely a science, it’s just as much an art form as well. Teams search far and wide for the exact player that they want to stick into their system. The amount of factors that play into the free agency process is immeasurable. And just like a fingerprint, no two players that enter free agency are exactly the same. Some teams get burned while others flourish. I will give a simple example of an individual situation that displays the utter randomness of the business:

A team may end the season at 11-5 and still not win the division. They would be looking for that guy that will really put the roster over the top and get them one to two more wins en route to a division crown and home field advantage in the playoffs. That, in the majority of cases these days, results in a tireless manhunt for the perfect prospect. Whether it be a game-changing skill player (WR/RB), a leader (QB/C/MLB) or a ballhawk (CB/S). But in our particular case, let’s say they choose to get a ballhawk because the defense lacked consistent production from the secondary anyway.

During their search they are extremely surprised to find that a veteran cornerback was just released from the only team he’s ever played on. He happens to be in great shape for an old vet and is a future hall of famer. That means he is a really special talent, but he will also command big dollars. Also, one must stop and think why his longtime, now former team, went and released him in the offseason. Regardless, let’s say this coach has been in the league a long time and knows that this player has still “got it”. But, does the player want to live where the team is located? In this case, the team is located across the country. The player is 35 years old, with a family that probably isn’t thrilled about moving and has no idea what the culture is like in that area. The player also wants to win a championship because he knows he doesn’t have long left in his career.

So the player has a visit with the team and right away the coaches and general manager click with the visiting prospect, and it’s a real comfortable, productive conversation. Everyone is on the same page. The team is impressive too. With a stable quarterback and good coaching they have a surefire chance to compete. But, for the story’s sake, the player just can’t make up his mind if this is the right place or not to actually commit to. With five other offers on the table, he doesn’t want to make any rash decisions.

Then he remembers something helpful. He had a friend that played for the team so he gives him a call on his cell. The friend answers and gives a personal glowing report of the franchise. He says “You’d be hard pressed to find a better team.” The veteran future Hall of Fame cornerback subsequently calls his agent and tells him to get something done with that team.

A phone call to a buddy made all the difference in the signing, an out-of-the-blue factor into the player’s decision that could not be calculated or duplicated by another team. It naturally happened by chance. Fate could be the word to best describe it, if you’re a believer in that. And lucky for that team, the player can now focus exclusively on football instead of nervously worrying about if he made the right decision or not to finish his decorated career.

If that example sounded a little familiar, it might be because it actually happened this offseason when cornerback Champ Bailey was released by the Denver Broncos and picked up by the New Orleans Saints.

Free Agency is a crazy time of transition but players like Champ Bailey don’t know where they are going any more than the teams do. There are details that come into play that can not be solved by money or persuasion. The feel has to be right. The fit has to be right for what the player is trying to accomplish.

Champ Bailey is content with his choice in New Orleans. Still starving for a ring after clawing so close to glory in a blowout loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl this past February, Bailey can start salivating once again at the opportunity he now has with another loaded roster that includes Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Jairus Byrd and Cameron Jordan along with a superb coaching staff including Sean Payton and Rob Ryan, to get him that ever elusive Lombardi Trophy to hoist for the city that welcomed him with open arms, Champ’s new home.

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