Skip to main content

Eisenberg: Just Don't Look at NFL Free Agent List


It's out. It's all over the place. I'm talking about the list of NFL free agents who are scheduled to become available in March.

I'm sure you've seen it. As always, like the menu at a great restaurant, it contains an array of temptations, only these come in helmets and cleats rather than, oh, on a bed of arugula.

The list includes so many players who could help the Ravens that the mind spins. Would Denver's Von Miller or Kansas City's Tamba Hali spice up the pass rush? Would Carolina's Josh Norman tighten up the secondary? Would it help Joe Flacco to add Chicago's Alshon Jeffery to his receiving corps?

The answer to all those questions is, of course, yes with an exclamation point. Just contemplating the possibilities is enough to make a fan's toes tingle. I've already heard from many with these or similar suggestions.

But … ah … you know what's coming next:

The chances are slim-to-none that the Ravens will pluck any big names from the shelves of the open market.

"I don't think we'll be as busy as some teams are in March," GM Ozzie Newsome said at the team's end-of-season press conference earlier this month.

Sorry to be a killjoy, but it's hardly breaking news that the Ravens are unlikely to go high-end shopping. "We never have" been active at the height of the free agent season, Newsome said at the presser.

The Ravens are always tight against the salary cap, a predicament that mostly arises from having good players (plus handing out a few contracts they wish they could have back). Things are no different this year.

Actually, they ARE different in that the Ravens have more issues after going 5-11 in 2015 – enough issues that they can't afford to throw the bulk of their available cap space at one problem. In other words, if they were to grab, say, Miller, who will cost plenty, they probably wouldn't be able to add a receiver, tackle or anything else at the quality level they desire.

That would be the case, by the way, even if Flacco's contract gets reworked to lower his reported $28.55 million cap hit for 2016 (which I'm guessing will happen.)

But while a chronic lack of cap space generally gets fingered as the reason why the Ravens avoid big-money free agents, I think something else is in play. Last March, The Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King used them as the centerpiece of a story about how spending a lot in free agency doesn't work.

King reviewed the performances of the seven teams that spent the most in free agency in recent years. Collectively, their sprees produced just three playoff berths in 14 opportunities (two seasons per team after the big money was spent). King then noted how the Ravens don't even participate in the process, preferring to accumulate the compensatory draft picks they receive for losing free agents. The idea is they then turn those picks into young players who don't cost as much.

That system didn't produce a winning team in 2015, but it has helped the Ravens make the playoffs in six of the past eight seasons, so it warrants attention.

Newsome wasn't quoted in the article. No one from the Ravens spoke. But it seemed King was speaking FOR them in depicting the pitfalls of big spending.

"There are lots of unknowns in free agency," former Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner told King. "They're not your own players, and you don't really know them the way you know your own guys. My advice now is, proceed with caution. It's a total crapshoot."

I'm not saying the Ravens will avoid the process entirely. They can't afford to after going 5-11. As always, Newsome will hunt for free agent bargains (think Justin Forsett) and pay close heed to salary-cap casualties (think Steve Smith, Sr.).

If they were to spend more than usual at any position, I'm guessing it would be receiver. Newsome sounded adamant at the presser about wanting to bolster the team's quality and depth at that position. But as for making any of the above "dream" scenarios come true, don't expect it. My advice? For the sake of your sanity, don't even look at the free agent list. Seriously. Take the time you would spend contemplating the possibilities and do something else. Read a book. Watch "The Bachelor." Go outside and shovel more snow. There's still plenty out there.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content