Free Agency Is Like A Drug, And Ozzie Newsome Just Says No
You want to know how to win in free agency?
Accept that it is a drug, and just say no.
On the surface, it looks like the perfect boost to your team. But more times than not, you're playing with fire and you can get burned.
"Even the smart teams sometimes get seduced by the siren song of free agency," wrote Sports Illustrated's Peter King. "That's what free agency is: a drug. It looks like a legitimate quick fix, but there are very few quick fixes in football."
"How exactly do you solve the problem? Two ways: You get a quarterback. And you learn to say no."
Do the Ravens have a quarterback? Check.
And has General Manager Ozzie Newsome learned to say no? Check, check, check, check, check, check ….
"The Ravens just do free agency smarter than almost everyone else," King wrote.
King reached out to Newsome to talk about Baltimore's free-agency system, but Newsome declined. King gathered that the Ravens general manager stayed mum because Baltimore's system is a competitive advantage, and Newsome isn't willing to give away trade secrets.
So, the respected NFL reporter did some (impressive) research on how the Ravens go about business and believes he has proven that big spending doesn't result in on-the-field success.
"NFL teams trip all over themselves spending money on free agents," King wrote. "They do it even though, year after year, mounting evidence suggests (no, proves) that the free spending doesn't result in more wins. It's indisputable."
Admittedly, there are signings that work here and there (see Peyton Manning to the Broncos in 2012), but generally "going nuts" has a negative effect, says King, and the six of seven teams that invested the heaviest in free agency between 2010-2014 demonstrate that point.
2011 Eagles: $177 million spent in free agency --------> minus-9 wins from previous 2 years to next 2 years
2012 Broncos: $139 million spent --------------------------> plus-14 wins (Manning helps buck trend)
2012 Redskins: $81 million spent ---------------------------> plus-2 wins
2012 Bucs: $141 million spent -------------------------------> minus-3 wins
2013 Dolphins: $124 million spent --------------------------> plus-3 wins
2013 Titans: $97 million spent -------------------------------> minus-6 wins
2014 Bucs: $124 million spent -------------------------------> minus-9 wins
2014 Raiders: $91 million spent -----------------------------> minus-5 wins
Juxtapose those results with the Ravens, who, year after year, painfully watch their players walk for bigger paydays, but have a compensatory pick/farm system in place to re-stock their roster.
----> DL Cory Redding (30 games, 60 tackles, 7.5 sacks in 2 Ravens seasons) left in 2012 via free agency for Indianapolis
----> Ravens awarded a fifth-round comp pick in 2013 draft
----> Ravens used comp pick (No. 168 overall) to select RT Rick Wagner
----> T Michael Oher (never misses a start in 5 years) left in 2014 via free agency for Tennessee
----> Wagner takes over Oher's job in 2014; Wagner ranked the No. 2 RT by Pro Football Focus
----> Ravens will be awarded a comp pick for Oher; King predicts another fifth-rounder
----> Ravens select DE Dwan Edwards in second round of 2004 draft
----> Edwards left in free agency to Buffalo in 2010 after becoming a part-time starter in Baltimore
----> Ravens awarded fifth-round compensatory pick for Edwards in 2011
----> Ravens selected Pernell McPhee with 2011 comp pick; becomes key pass-rush specialist
----> McPhee left for Chicago in 2015 via free agency
----> Ravens will get a comp pick in 2016, King predicts a third- or fourth-rounder
That means, for the 51st pick in the 2004 draft, the Ravens got a combined nine seasons and 116 games worth of contributions on the defensive line, plus whatever the Ravens get with the McPhee comp pick next season. And all at the cost of a rookie contract.
"Now, not all picks work out. Baltimore has its clunkers. But it works enough that Newsome aggressively seeks out the extra picks, and he has built substantially with them," wrote King.
"It's a smart system, even if it doesn't look like it when your own free agents are flying out the window in March. But if you have patience, the thick skin to take criticism from fans and media for doing nothing, a good quarterback and a smart front office, you can profit from the system. Beyond Baltimore, there aren't many teams trying."
How Much Space Does Webb Free Up?
Just about all players say they want to be with their current team. They say they want to be a "Raven for life," but cornerback Lardarius Webb put his money where his mouth is.
About 24 hours after Lardarius Webb told The Baltimore Sun that the Haloti Ngata trade made him wonder whether he would be the next to leave, the newspaper reported Webb took a pay cut to stay with the Ravens.
"This wasn't a normal restructuring that puts the same money in player's pocket, and actually puts it there sooner," CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora tweeted. "Webb taking less to stay. … Huge move for Ravens who badly wanted to keep Webb but who also badly need cap room. CB was already thin. Webb allows them to sign others.
The move creates some cap space for the Ravens, but all the numbers are yet to be reported so it's unclear exactly how much. If reports are correct, it should at least free up $2 million, because Webb is going from $8 to $6 million in base salary. It's also possible that more space was cleared depending on how bonuses were structured.
The Sun's Aaron Wilson reported that, in addition to the $6 million base salary, Webb also received $3 million in bonuses that will be prorated over the last three years of his existing contract. The deal includes $5.5 million guaranteed this year.
"The Ravens didn't want to cut Webb and he didn't want to leave the Ravens," wrote Wilson. "If the team had cut him, they would have saved just $2 million against the salary cap and created $10 million in dead money."
So the Ravens got the $2 million in savings anyway, plus there's no dead money, plus they still have a corner that they believe will be very effective now that he is going into a season without any injuries.
What will the Ravens do with the money?
"This additional cap relief from Webb could help the Ravens add a wide receiver or tight end in free agency," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
2008 Draft Do-Over … Ryan STILL Beats Flacco
Even with 20-20 hindsight, former NFL scout and NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks would still take quarterback Matt Ryan over Flacco.
In a 2008 draft do-over, Brooks had the Miami Dolphins change their No. 1 overall pick to Ryan, which pushed offensive tackle Jake Long to the St. Louis Rams at No. 2.
Flacco made a huge leap from No. 18 to No. 3 overall, putting him in Atlanta instead of Ryan.
"You have to have a quarterback to win the game. Think about what Matt Ryan has done in Atlanta," Brooks said. "He's an outstanding player and has led them to the playoffs five out of six years. He is a fantastic player. …
"How can you not like Joe Flacco and what he's been able to do? He and Ryan are similar in terms of winning games. [He's a] Super Bowl MVP, getting it done. He still drives some people crazy because he's not the classic franchise quarterback, but when you look at his resume, it's hard to dispute his winning percentage and the fact that he has a Super Bowl ring. I think that Atlanta would gladly have Joe Flacco on their team."
Both have enjoyed success in their careers, but the big difference between the two? Postseason wins. Ryan has one, while Flacco has 10.