Free Agency: Riverboat Gambling

>> 7.05.2011

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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.

8 comments:

randomguy313 July 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM  

Ty, do you think Carr potentially getting more than his value and Nmandi getting top dollar puts Jonathan Joseph's number, 8 mil according to John Clayton, a more desirable target for the Lions?

Keep up the good work!! You got some LB OMH coming?

Tiger July 5, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

Ty, do you have any info on what the Lions Cap numbers look like at this point?

I know the cap and floor are going to shift, but actual cap used is not going to change.

This would really help answer the question. However, I personally say go after Nnamdi. He is still in his prime, and I think he will fit in our scheme very well.

If not him, JJ would be #2. Cromartie is an awesome talent, I just don't care for his "character".

Chris Car and a lot of the others are stop gaps that will disappoint.

Wilson is the only one I would not cringe at them bringin in, outside of Nnamdi and JJ.

telemakhos,  July 5, 2011 at 12:54 PM  

As a lions fan living in maryland, I've seen most of the ravens games and I've seen enough of chris carr to know that the lions shouldn't want him. He's a nickel corner at best and the lions already have in house options for that.

Alvin,  July 5, 2011 at 4:04 PM  

Hey Ty, nice article and good read. I was against going after Nnamdi Asomugha because of the price. But after reading your article I figure the Lions might as well go after the best, because I'd rather have the best at full price then the middle tear way over priced.

Al

Anonymous,  July 6, 2011 at 12:27 PM  

"Stay the course." seems to be the mantra of the Lions front office. A big play for Asomugha seems far removed from this paradigm. In the case of the CBs, the Lions might very well take a Chris Carr, but put him on a short contract "leash." The 2012 draft is loaded with young CB, and LB talent and value. 2011 free agency may be another year where the Lions shop for square peg stopgaps from other teams and UDFAs

Ty July 6, 2011 at 6:06 PM  

Randomguy313--

It's a great question. Unfortunately, I think JJ is going to be pursued hard by the Bengals, who'll be looking to overspend to get up to the salary floor. If he's there, he'll be a nice fit.

Peace
Ty

Ty July 6, 2011 at 6:10 PM  

Tiger--

Great question; I'll be looking that up! Last I knew, the Lions had a higher cap figure than about 2/3rds of the league--a consequence of all those high draft picks.

Peace
Ty

Matt,  July 7, 2011 at 2:19 AM  

On the cap question, doesn't how the CBA actually, finally, officially pans out effect this somewhat? There's all kinds of rules that govern how the pay-out stipulated in a contract actually count against the cap. Some of these are bound to change, so can we really count on a player's "2011 cap number" in 2010 actually holding up in 2011?

Also, any cap room talk has to be asterisked with the fact that not a single rookie has signed a contract yet. Is there going to be a rookie wage scale or will it remain as it was (including hold-out potential)? Is there going to be a brief "rookie & resigning" period before full-on free agency or are teams going to juggle negotiating with free agents, rookies, and their own RFA/UFAs (however those rules play out) all in one league-wide feeding frenzy?

These kind of questions lingering about make it difficult to know how big a "player" any specific team might be even if you know that team's number. That being said, here's a link to some projected 2011 salary cap numbers.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/37327/looking-at-2011-salary-cap-figures

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