By: Eric Dowdall
Nothing illustrates the true business aspect of the sporting world like National Football League (NFL) free agency. Relationships are destroyed, loyalties are nonexistent and the players are treated as nothing more than measly pawns in a game of monopoly. Heavily compensated pawns, to be fair.
It makes for exciting times as a fan, to say the least. No matter what aspect you enjoy, there is a little bit of everything.
It could be players who have spent their whole careers with one team being released (Steve Smith and DeMarcus Ware to name a few), often spoiling once sturdy relationships between players and their organizations.
Maybe it is the unrestricted free agents coming off career seasons who sign massive contracts elsewhere, often never reaching the same success they had. Yes, I’m looking at you Eric Decker.
Alternatively, perhaps you are one of the true die-hards that get excited about your favourite team’s new offensive line signing, feeling that finally this will be your season (guilty as charged).
Regardless of what you like most, there is no denying what free agency truly represents and that when it all comes down to it, it is all about business. As a business, franchises must make the tough choices that they feel is best for them, and often this entails players feeling the brunt of the decision. Whether it is teams parting with integral players due to salary-cap issues, or teams attempting to trade players without their knowledge, things can often turn ugly. Again, the Steve Smith situation in Carolina serves as a perfect example.
Apparently Smith found out the team was going to try to move him the same way we fans did: through social media. Some would argue that Smith deserved better from the organization, while others would simply look to the “business is business” motto, claiming the organization owed him nothing. Regardless, it makes for an ugly ending.
That is the unfortunate reality of the situation, although it is hard to truly feel bad considering the contracts these players often proceed to sign. These same players who receive the “short end of the stick” from management, more often than not, wind up signing elsewhere for just as much, if not more.
That’s another reality of free agency: overpaying for talent or services. The NFL is just like any other business in that they are subject to supply and demand. This normally results in outrageous contracts that seem destined to be disappointments, yet the teams have no choice but to meet the market price. People can argue all day about whether a player is worth it, but just like in any other business the price is determined by demand.
But in the end, that is truly what makes it exciting as a fan. The movement of players keeps it fresh and interesting and makes the desire for the upcoming season that much greater. Yet for the players it reinforces what they already know, that just like any other product or service, they are replaceable.
Key 2014 Free Agent signings
Ware agreed to a three-year $30 million contract. He will be a big contribution to Denver’s struggling defense as Ware recorded 117 sacks in nine seasons in Dallas.
Revis signed a two-year deal worth $32 million after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Revis, a five-time Pro Bowler is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Decker joins the Jets after signing a five-year deal worth $36.25 million. Decker was a key piece to Denver’s offense last season recording 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Bethea signed a four-year deal worth $23 million with the 49ers. The former 2006 Super Bowl champion had 110 tackles, two interceptions and a sack last season.
Smith agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with the Ravens. Smith was cut from the Panthers after spending 13 seasons there. He is fourth among active NFL recievers with 12,197 career yards.