That’s The Way It Is: Buyer Beware In The NFL Free Agency Market

By Derrick Robinson
Updated: March 24, 2007

Joey Porter

Joey Porter

PHILADELPHIA — Once again sports fans, it’s that time of the year again. No, I’m not talking about Mike Tyson staging another laughable comeback. I’m referring to the beginning of the NFL free agent signing period, the league’s version of Black Friday shopping.

The only difference is you can always return those gifts with a receipt. You can’t exactly return a nose tackle to the store. This is the time of year when the teams open up the vault and in many cases parallel park the Brinks Truck on the lawn of the Prima Donna NFL player they’re looking to court.

What most often happens is that teams wanted to become players in the hotbed of free agency is that they’re willing to overpay every Tom, Dick, and Freddie Mitchell that is available. The two things that are unique to this years draft that is vastly different from those of recent memory.

First, not only are the perennial impact positions such as wide receivers getting signed for big bucks, but also players in positions you would definitely not expect are commanding big salaries. Buffalo signed former Redskins guard Derrick Dockery to a seven-year, $49 million dollar contract. An offensive guard? 7 million a year ? You’ve got to be kidding

The Cowboys re-signed their Pro Bowl punter Matt McBriar for five years at $8.5 million. Unbelievable. Then they turned around and signed former Arizona offensive tackle Leonard Davis to a five-year, $50 million deal to help further solidify their offensive line.

Now I understand that McBriar is looked at by Dallas as an important field position weapon (he placed seven punts inside the 20 yard line in 2006) and Davis is necessary as an established run blocker who was brought in to anchor the Cowboys’ line.

But, you have to admit that this is another sign of the impending apocalypse when Dallas shells out almost $ 60 million for a punter and an offensive tackle.

The team that beat everyone running to the bank however none other than those San Francisco 49ers. There really must be gold in them hills, and they needed every bit to be able to afford to sign perhaps the biggest prize in free agency, cornerback Nate Clements to an eight-year, $80 million contract.

Clements marked the largest in NFL history for a defensive player. He also becomes the leagues’ first $10 million cornerback. (This is not a typo). The Falcons even jumped in the love fest, signing fullback Ovie Mughelli to a six-year, $18 million contract. A $3 million a year fullback? Hilarious. I’m definitely in the wrong profession.. Look for me at next year’s combine.

The second part of what was so strange about the signings was that even though many of those signings look good on the outside, the reality is that many of the players are average at best.

Save for a few notable stars like Joey Porter (five years, $32 million) who signed with the Miami Dolphins, so far this free agent crop has been one of the most mediocre ones in recent memory.

It’s kind of like getting that sweater home from Black Friday shopping and finding out you picked up a small instead of an XXL. For every Joey Porter, there were about five Ashley Lelie’s available.

Aubraya Franklin, a little known nose tackle getting $2 million a year. The Falcons signing Mughelli for $3 million a year? Who?? At least Atlanta redeemed themselves a little by signing veteran Joe Horn to a multiyear contract.

One of the top receivers in this year’s draft was Wesley Welker? Quick how many Wesley Welker Jerseys were sold last year? Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Clements is one of the top corners in the game, but just not worth $10 million a year.

There is at least three or four other corners I would take ahead of him. Once again the teams in the No Fun League have subscribed to the theory of signing guys who haven’t done anything in the leagues thus far. GM’s and their teams need to spend more time cultivating better draft habits and developing their young players than relying on free agency to save their floundering franchises.

Note to NFL Teams: Buyer Beware! Just because the sweater is 80% off, don’t get it if it has a hole in it.

And that’s the way it is.