The NHL free agency period opened up right before the holiday weekend, and a slew of teams eager to spend a surplus of cap money pushed prices through the roof. The Red Wings made a couple of decent Plan B and Plan C signings, along with bringing back every current Wing they really wanted back—but fan hopes of blowing through a $16M war chest and landing an impact defensemen, impact forward, and veteran goalie in the opening 48 hours were dashed. Per Nick Cotsonika, the Red Wings’ attempt to see how the market breaks didn’t break their way; they were forced to bring in players they didn’t like because their targets went elsewhere.
The zaniness surrounding the upcoming NFL free agency period will be an order of magnitude worse. First, the salary cap will likely be higher—and the salary floor will be definitely be much higher. It’s likely that the cap will be less “artificial” and more tied to actual cash outlay. Penny-pinching teams (like the Bucs) will have to go out and burn money just to get up to the minimum, pushing the market price for all free agents through the roof.
The question is, are the Lions going to be spenders, or savers? Martin Mayhew famously will not pay more than he thinks a player is worth—and yet he spent lavishly to secure the services of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson. Are there any players who’ll get the Lions to open up the purse strings, or will they be nickel-and-diming it in the second week?
I can't claim to know the thought processes of Mayhew and company, so I’ll just talk it out. First, we’re past the point of stopgaps. The Lions won’t be going out and getting an Anthony Henry or a Grady Jackson on the cheap—hoping an over-the-hill veteran will be able to step in and start. So, don’t expect any of the “need” spots, like cornerback or linebacker, to be filled with penny-ante guys (who’ll likely be paid handsomely in this market anyway). In the Free Agent Cornerback OMH, I said I thought Lions would more likely target a Chris Carr, an Antonio Cromartie—or even both—before laying out the massive cash required for a Nnamdi Asomugha.
Thinking about it in terms of market forces, though, Chris Carr could make double what he’s actually worth. If you’re concerned about getting value for your money, would you rather back up the Brinks truck for one of the best players on the planet, or pay 70% of that king’s ransom for a B+ starter you’re particularly fond of? It’s an open question. As the negotiations go down to the wire, and both sides talking about when, not if, an agreement is made, the Lions will have to know their targets and pursue them aggressively from the jump—if a third-tier guy is your Plan A, be on his doorstep at midnight with a bucket of money. Get the guy you want, whether that’s Nnamdi or Carr or Cromartie or Eric Wright or Dre Bly. Whoever it is, the Lions can’t be holding their nose as they offer contracts.