I’m not sure exactly when the fizzling out point is in free agency, but Day 10 feels about right. Oh sure, there’s still plenty of names out there, starting with one marquee defensive end who’s still good for about a dozen or so sacks (Jared Allen), and behind him are the handful of useful pieces who can make an important contribution in the right role (LeGarrette Blount, Lance Moore), and the dirt cheap lottery tickets (Miles Austin, Jermichael Finley). The pickups who fit into the latter two categories are often the most impactful in the fall.
Allen aside, the major cannonballs into the free agency pool are over. So when the dust finally meets the floor, we will look back on this free agency period and see a particularly mad time when Darrelle Revis was on the open market for a few hours alongside DeMarcus Ware. They’re two of the best defenders of this era, and we’ll also see a market that dumped all the money on cornerbacks, and cared little for running backs. The times, they’ve changed.
But inevitably like every free agency period we’ll also see something else when we look back. It’ll take at least a year, but a few of the contracts handed out since March 11 will become a salary cap burden that’s far too heavy. Like Ware this year, that can end in the player being a cap casualty, a fate which usually comes due to age, declining skills, and an astronomical dollar number that can’t be justified.
Teams typically set a max number they’re comfortable dedicating to each position, and even if they have cap room that can lead to the yearly curb kickings we see. Having money is nice, but it’s irrelevant if your current payroll isn’t being maximized. Ware and Revis may have been the most notable cuts this year, but D’Qwell Jackson was also axed by the Browns even though they entered free agency with the third most cap room. Similarly, despite having ample space with over $18 million to work with, the Falcons cut safety Thomas DeCoud—the same safety they signed only two years ago to a five-year contract extension.
The cycle of life in the NFL can lead to an abrupt professional death. So who could be the DeCoud of this free agency class a year or two from now? Well, let’s start with the guy who replaced D’Qwell Jackson.
You’re going to quickly notice a theme here: defenders who won’t age gracefully.
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