Let’s assume that Wes Welker re-signs with the Patriots, because Wes Welker not signing with the Patriots would cause an immediate zombie apocalypse. And for fun, let’s also assume that the Dolphins continue spending all of their money, as even after signing Brian Hartline late last night — as was widely expected — they still have $33 million in cap space. Thanks for that very manageable 2013 cap hit of about $3-4 million, Brian, which leaves plenty of cash to overpay for either Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace while further supporting Hartline and sophomore quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
When that happens, contracts will inflate, and we’ll all die.
No, that’s not true. We’ll keep living joyously, but the safety of banks in several areas of the country may be in question with markets at two positions thinning quickly, one day before the negotiating window officially opens. Later on this afternoon we’ll unleash our rankings of the top free agents at each position, because no one else is do those anywhere. What will quickly become obvious is that at most of the primary offensive skill positions (wide receiver, running back, and quarterback), the drop off at the top is swift, and sizable.
Take wide receiver. With Hartline now secured and Dwayne Bowe re-signed by Kansas City last week, Jennings and Wallace are alone in the first tier (again, we’re assuming Welker isn’t going anywhere). That leaves the other wide receiver needy teams — Bills, Vikings, and yes, still the Dolphins — to either pay a somewhat aging and somewhat slowing Packers castoff, or a burner who’s just a burner. We’ve rehashed the weaknesses of Wallace and Jennings many times over the past week or so, and that will continue as the march to Tuesday goes forward. They’ll both fill a need somewhere, and they’ll both make significant contributions. But they don’t need to be paid $12 million annually to do it, and now without Hartline as a fallback option for a starving offense, their leverage has increased.
We’ll likely see that wallet crippling phenomenon trickle down too, with the paycheck given to Danny Amendola ballooning at least slightly, and then suddenly the reaching for the likes of Kevin Ogletree and Donnie Avery will begin. To a lesser extent Matt Moore staying in Miami could have a similar effect.
The backup quarterback is crucial both for insurance and to provide competition. Moore is only a year removed from a fine season in relief of Chad Henne which included three games with a passer rating over 120.0. He would have been a far better option for the Jets to compete with — and maybe start over — Mark Sanchez, and he was in a tier by himself atop a typically shallow quarterback free agent class. Now the Jets and others pursuing competent quarterback depth are left to grasp at David Garrard and (ugghhhhhh) Brady Quinn.
What we’re about to see over the next week is the 2013 version of what we see nearly every year: championship-winning teams don’t buy their rings and banners in March. They invest long term in April.