Free Agency 2016

NFL Hot Seats Equate To Big Free Agency Spending


We’ve seen certain teams throw huge money at free agents during the first week of the league’s new calendar year while we’ve seen the usual suspects- The Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers- pretty much stand pat.

Sure, the best way to usually win in free agency is not to play the game, but not everyone has an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger under center.

Three of the teams that we’ve seen “go crazy” with their free agent spending spree are the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants.

Aside from not competing in the playoffs for 13 years, eight years and four years respectively, these teams have one other major thing in common.

A general manager on the hot seat.

As we know, desperate people will do desperate things and that is seemingly always the case in the NFL. Even if it means overpaying players to come to your team.

“The nature of free agency is — you’re going to overpay,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “You want a player? You’re going to have to overpay to get him, and that’s just the nature of the beast. There’s a talent pool, and this year there’s a large pool of money, especially in North Florida.”

The Jaguars put their best and final offer on the table for former Denver Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson, who was hardly a household name.  Now he can buy a household in any area he desires, thanks to his six-year, $90 million contract which includes $42 million of guaranteed money.

The team also inked former Jets running back Chris Ivory to a five-year, $32 million contract to split time in the backfield with 2015 second-round pick T.J. Yeldon.

Jacksonville followed suit by signing former Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson to a five-year, $35 million deal, and missed out on players such as Olivier Vernon and Robert Ayers, seeing them snub the team for cities with better nightlife in New York and Tampa.

Although Caldwell can feel the heat in Jacksonville after a 12-36 record over the first three seasons of his tenure, the Jaguars certainly weren’t the only ones spending.

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has been at the helm since 2012, and the results have been bleak.  McKenzie is on his fourth head coach and the best season they’ve had was 2015’s 7-9 campaign.

Oakland began free agency by signing former Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele, then followed with former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, and former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith. Those three signings account for nearly $65 million in guaranteed money.

“It’s good to see people call us and not always have to beg,” McKenzie said. “I think people can see what we’re doing. I think our players, they’re showing on the field, and players talk to each other. We had a handful of guys play in the Pro Bowl. It’s a strong fraternity within the NFL. Guys interact.”

After Giants ownership fired head coach Tom Coughlin concluding the 2015, they spared the job of general manager Jerry Reese.  It’s crystal clear that Reese needs to break the team’s four-year playoff drought or else he’s going to end up looking for work like his good friend Coughlin (who helped him get two Super Bowl rings).

Reese had some decisions to make in free agency and broke the proverbial bank for former Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon.  He then re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul to a one-year deal worth approximately $10.5 million (bidding against himself) and added former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins and New York Jets defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

Between the four players, the Giants are now committed to $114 million in new guaranteed money.

“You can fill some holes in free agency, but you still have to draft the right way,” Reese explained.

Perhaps if Reese drafted better, they wouldn’t have those holes to fill in free agency and he wouldn’t have had to pledge nine-figures of Wellington Mara and Steve Tisch’s money to saving his job.

All three teams are being lauded as “winners” for their potentially frivolous spending, but we do know that at least half of the big money signings won’t work out and the general managers who spent their owners’ money on those players will be out of work.

The only question will be which one or two will it be?  Or will it possibly all three?

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.