clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Spending in free agency doesn't make NFL teams bad

New, comments
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars shelled out a ton of money in free agency over the past few days, and it's not likely they're done. They're probably done handing out massive, multi-year deals, but they'll still be adding some players here or there. The biggest deals they handed out this offseason were to A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and Barry Church, with Church being the most moderate deal of the three.

The Jaguars also spent a lot of money last offseason, locking up defensive lineman Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson. They spent money the season before with Jared Odrick, Julius Thomas etc. I don't need to detail they're spending over the past few seasons, but the end result has been roughly as good as their drafting.

That's not really why the Jaguars have been bad for nearly a decade, though. There's a narrative going about now that is pushing spending in free agency is why teams like the Jaguars are bad, but that's pretty short sighted and doesn't take everything into account.

This nugget from Peter King's MMQB column sums up the take that you constantly see being thrown around, that doesn't assess the whole picture:

Testing Shad Khan's patience. The Jags committing $541 million to free agents in 25 months. This is the third straight year we'll think, This is the year they turn the corner. But we still have no idea if they'll be any good.

Bad teams do spend in free agency, but spending in free agency isn't necessarily what makes teams bad. There are significantly more layers to it other than just "they're bad because they spent a lot of money in free agency!"

The Jags whiffed in free agency on the likes of Zane Beadles, Davon House, Toby Gerhart, Odrick, Thomas, etc. That's not why they're bad, though. They're bad because they not only whiffed on those players, but they whiffed on so many draft picks before them. Those players were supposed to supplement the drafting that the Jaguars were doing now, after the evil reign of Gene Smith was finally over, but alas... the team still drafted poorly and still have questions about their quarterback.

Quarterback is the other big piece of this equation, because teams who spend a lot of money in free agency usually don't have a good quarterback, which in the modern NFL is why they have so much cap money to spend to begin with. The Jaguars haven't had good quarterback play for a while and until they get it, they'll be bad.

Ultimately though, the point that always seems to be missed is, what's the alternative to not spending in free agency if you have the means to do so and the needs those players fill? The Jaguars won 15 games over the last four seasons, 11 the past three where they've spent a lot in free agency. Now, would the Jaguars be any better off had they not spent in free agency? They'd probably be worse. They certainly weren't "hurt" by spending money, as the cap situation is as healthy as it's ever been and one of the healthiest in the NFL with virtually no dead money.

But that's what gets me, is the way the point is made that the Jaguars spent a lot money and have nothing to show for it infers that not spending a lot of money and still having nothing to show for it is better. It's not. It's worse. I'd rather the Jaguars have spent and struck out in free agency and gone 15-49 than not spent any money at all and gone 15-49. The alternative of not paying anyone and playing worse players at the position isn't really a sound strategy and doubling down on draft picks that are bad is usually a big reason why bad teams stay bad, more so than spending big in free agency.

Not to mention it's really had to get in cap trouble now, as evidenced with all the money the Jaguars have spent in that time frame, including this offseason, they still have nearly $60 million in cap space.

So again, bad teams spend a lot of money in free agency, but spending a lot of money in free agency doesn't necessarily make you a bad team.