For NFL teams, as soon as the Combine is over, they immediately set their focus on free agency. This time of year, teams start cleaning house of players they no longer want or need and begin to get a real sense of what they are looking for on both the free agent market and in the draft. I guess you could say this is the NFL’s version of spring cleaning.
Free agency is a great opportunity for teams to fill some holes just before the draft. But is it worth taking a chance? Will teams take a chance on seasoned veterans such as Dwight Freeney and Charles Woodson? History teaches that taking these types of gambles can bring either heartache or pain. For example, the Eagles took a chance on Nnamdi Asomugha and it worked out because opponents became so scared of him they wouldn’t throw the ball in his direction. On the other hand, they took a chance on Michael Vick, and that hasn’t worked out quite so well. Another example is Denver who picked up Peyton Manning once he was released from the Colts. Manning had a great season last year and came in second to Adrian Peterson for both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. So can we say without a doubt that free agency definitely has its pros and cons?
There will be a lot of free agents on the market this year because there are several teams who are over their salary cap limits, such as the Panthers and the Cowboys. If you are wondering what the salary cap is, I will explain. The salary cap is the amount of money a team is allowed to spend on their roster every year. The current cap limit is $123 million. That sounds like a lot of money, but when you have several players on a team who want half of that, it doesn’t take long for it to be gobbled up.
Each year, depending on contract deals, the cap will go up or down, and teams are expected to stay under it, but that is easier said than done. Take the Panthers for instance, who are currently $10 million over the limit and are projected to be a few million more over next season unless some tough decisions are made. If a team is still over the salary cap limit around the start of the season, they will have to do whatever is possible to ensure they get under it.
On the reverse side of the coin, you have the Bengals who are $30 million under the cap. This means that they won’t have to worry too much about who to let go of to make some room on their roster. They should have plenty enough cash to stretch out from free agency to rookie signing.
This time of year can make a general manager a hero or a zero, and with this year’s draft prospects predicted not to be so great, many managers will be around the free agency craps table rolling the dice. Come December, we will know which ones rolled lucky sevens and which ones rolled snake eyes.