Now that NFL free agency has kind of slowed down, we’ve really had the opportunity to sit back and let it soak in. We’ve seen franchise guys move around, and with every passing year it seems to surprise us less. As very well that it should, because free agency is crazy these days.
As you very well may know, I am a diehard New York Giants fan. The Giants had their most active offseason in recent history where they made some decent acquisitions, even garnering a B+ rating from their beat writer on NFL.com. They have brought back WR Mario Manningham, signed corner Walter Thurmond from the Seattle Seahawks and acquired a big name in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to help him try and repair that less than impenetrable New York Giants secondary amongst several other players. For the first time in as long as I remember, they really impressed me by going out of their way to make bold moves.
But as Dubsism would say…Here’s the $64,000 question: Did the Giants finally decide to make moves based on the way that they are going to run their own franchise for the next ten years; or did they make moves based on the way that they rest of the league seems to be losing their patience with players who do not perform? I personally think this is a case of monkey-see, monkey-do. The New York Giants will never be trendsetters; the franchise is just simply too old and doesn’t have what it takes to stick their neck out and lead the way due to their football-oriented conservative fanbase and ownership. So I believe that they have finally just caught up with the rest of the league, but in their defense the rest of this league has moved really fast. Just think about what’s happened this offseason already…
Champ Bailey is now a New Orleans Saint, leaving the Denver Broncos who also lost Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins. Part-time quarterback and full-time GQ spreadboy Mark Sanchez switched franchises with everybody’s favorite animal lover Michael Vick, but that wasn’t even the biggest story by a longshot because amidst swirling rumors of gang association the Eagles released him and we was picked up just a short distance away in Washington as he’s now a Redskin. The Raiders have given Maurice Jones-Drew a new home, but it paled in comparison to the league’s biggest running back-related news – the fact that the Titans let Chris Johnson go.
Now, keep in mind this is just a fraction of all the seemingly endless moves made since free agency began. So with that in mind, let’s talk about Chris Johnson for a second. Just a couple of years back, Johnson was in the conversation right along with Adrian Peterson regarding who was the best running back in the league. It looked like he was unstoppable. But as time wore off, so did Johnson’s charm with fantasy owners because the numbers just simply weren’t there anymore. And this past week, the Titans followed suit and released him. We already know that the average career life expectancy of the NFL running back is getting shorter every year in a league that is becoming increasingly dependent on the pass, as well as the quarterback’s ability to run the ball. LaDanian Tomlinson’s career ended so quick we almost forgot who LaDanian Tomlinson was, and others soon followed.
But maybe there’s a bigger issue at hand here…Maybe some of these franchises are getting less patience in the “Not For Long” modern day state of professional football…And maybe it might even make its way to the rookies. If a guy is a top tier draft pick such as an RG III or a Jadeveon Clowney, you can pretty much bet that they are going have their agents negotiate a three year deal. It’s the industry standard because it’s the perfect balance of risk and reward for both the player and the franchise. In the example of RG III, you have the test of that third year to see just what a guy is really made of – or if he’s going to be a bust.
However, I believe that’s about to change. I’m starting to think that eventually these rookie contracts will be two years. This way, the franchises won’t have to commit to three year contracts in order to sign a guy that’s doesn’t have any pro experience when he inks his name. And then if there are some franchises who still believe the kid isn’t a bust and could make a real run at it with another team, they would then have the opportunity to sign him via…(wait for it) free agency.
The entire landscape of the structure of the NFL is moving ever so quickly. Five years ago the idea of an expanded playoff setup was almost unheard of, and five years from now we’ll likely be watching it from the comfort of our own homes. But I honestly believe that one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the way teams do business is how free agency has increased the number of airline miles they pick up during their career. It’s made the way that these teams go about their business seem even more impatient in a sport when impatience is already rampant.
So if you’re a Giants fan, or a Raiders fan – you may be happy with the current moves that have been made by your team. But it’s hardly your team sticking its Johnson on the chopping block – it’s them simply adjusting to the ever-changing free-for-all that free agency has become. It will eventually trickle down into almost every other element of the game, and two will be the new three.