From the perspective of the NFL teams, there is nothing free about free agency. Talented free agents are costly and markedly more so this year with the big jump in salary cap. In the case of the Patriots, free agency, both their own and those of other teams, it is all about the value, and value does not necessarily correlate with the current cost for high-end talent.
More Free Agent News:
- Saints Sign Jairus Bryd
- Former Carolina Panthers Safety M. Mitchell Signs With The Steelers
- Vikings Add L. Joseph To Defensive Line
Talent is important, of course, but other factors are heavily weighted too. Factors like how does the player fit in amongst team members, how important is winning to the player, do his strengths and weaknesses fit the Patriots' system, are his skills broad enough to allow play at more than one position, and does the player cost fit within the Patriots' dollar range and risk-benefit for each position on the team.
The free market with a salary cap prohibits a team from acquiring a top 5 or 10 talent at every position, or even more than two or three positions. Many team managements (and fans) tend to fall in love with their players or other highly touted players, and, as a result, drive up the salaries for the very talented ones. This human trait (a tendency to over pay a favorite or highly-desired player) prices the top talents out of the market for prudent teams, forcing them to search for the second tier, or lower, to allow building a competitive team with depth to deal with the injuries.
Escalating long-term salaries is why Aquib Talib and Julian Edelman were not signed before official free agency began yesterday. Each has an agent that believes their client can find a team with a need and will be willing to pay more than the Patriots will offer.
The Patriots were reported to have a $15 million, 3 year offer on the table for Edelman conditioned on his acceptance by the 4PM start of free agency. Predictably, as I speculated last week, Edelman opted to try the market. He will get a better offer.
Expensive recent cornerback signings (Sam Shields and Vontae Davis), then topped by the news Darrelle Revis is looking for a $39 million new contract with $24 million guaranteed in moving on with a release from Tampa Bay, have priced Talib out of the Patriots' market...too much cost for the risk-benefit.
When presented with the new salary conditions brought on by the cap increase, I expect the Patriots will not reach to compete for high end talent. They will retrench in their tried and true value model for players and make do with signings of second or third tier talent farther down the list. They will then use the draft, and post draft rookie signings to fill their roster.
Fans, of course, will be disappointed with no marquee signings, but it is tough to argue with consistent Patriot success despite many changing conditions over time.