Opinion: What we learned from free agency

Corey Griffin, TheJetsBlog.com

It’s been 30 days since NFL free agency first tipped open its doors and GMs either tightened the purse strings or opened the flood gates.

While you and I were paying the rent or mortgage, well-compensated men in suits were putting the NFL’s newfound revenue and salary cap space to good, and not so good, use. With a month gone and almost all of the premier free agents off the market, this is as good a time as any to count our blessings and recount the lessons forgotten every new league year.

We learned it’s great to be under 30 and talented. Regardless of why you’re a free agent – usually because of contract, injury or attitude concerns – there will almost always be a GM suckered by your athleticism, past accolades or statistics earned in an environment completely different than the one you’re about to enter. Got a Pro Bowl or two on your Pro-Football-Reference page? How about a double-digit touchdown or interception campaign? Welcome to the winner’s circle, son. Here’s $20 million (guaranteed for skill and injury, of course) for your time and energy on someone else’s team.

John Idzik

Does Jets GM John Idzik have the right plan for the Jets?

It’s even better if you’re a cornerback or offensive tackle. The NCAA factory can’t turn those out fast enough.

As soon as Rodger Saffold, Brandon Albert, Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis hit the market, it was every GM for himself. Never mind the fact that Saffold couldn’t stay on the field in recent years, nor the fact that the Chiefs desperately tried to dump Albert last offseason. Pay the man! And pay him handsomely! Let’s forget that only a year and a half ago, Talib nearly shot himself out of the league (literally) and then spent the second half of the 2013 season limping with a hip injury that he swears wasn’t real. And Revis … well, you know.

It’s a great time to be a free agent in the NFL. It’s always a great time to be a free agent in the NFL. Aging pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen can command eight- and seven-figure paydays, respectively, while Michael Johnson and Everson Griffen, both members of the talented-and-under-30 club, can command even more based partly on the promise of youth.

And let’s not forget the NFL’s new glamour position.

Damn, it feels good to be a safety.

Did you see what T.J. Ward and even Donte Whitner pulled down this spring? I love me a big-hitting safety, but man that’s a lot of cheddar for a pair of guys who spend way more time in the box than they do backpedaling.

And let’s thank the Saints for reminding us of free agency’s biggest lesson – and greatest annual lie – salary cap space is as big or as small as you make it. Despite having among the least money to spend, New Orleans blew it out the box for Jairus Byrd (and all four ways to pronounce his name). The Byrd deal – and subsequent roster maneuverings by Mickey Loomis – proved what we fans and pundits always seem to forget by early March. Unless you’re the Cowboys, the salary cap isn’t a strict stop sign. It’s a fungible number that you can dance around and get creative with. If you have a player willing to play ball, you can fudge the numbers however you’d like to get that first year under the cap. Future years? Worry about when the TV money kicks in and the cap continues to rise under the previously-limiting CBA. And if that fails, restructure. You can always restructure. When the bill comes due, if you don’t have a ring to show for it, it’ll be probably be someone else’s problem anyway.

The truth is, free agency is a deep, deep body of water and the worst GMs get sucked in and never get out. The goods ones realize it’s best to dip your feet in ever-so-rarely. And the great ones usually spend most of free agency fishing on a yacht, lighting cigars with the $100 bills they didn’t give to the cornerback with attitude problems who was only going to the highest bidder anyway.

Those guys, the GMs who build teams that compete year-in and year-out, expend their resources, both financial and organizational, on cheap, controllable talent, mostly in the draft. They reward their own and create a sustainable culture instead of playing – and paying – for a three-year window.

I’m not sure if John Idzik is a great one. I don’t even know if he’s a good one. To be honest, we probably won’t know if he’s a bad one until it’s time to look for the next one. But I do know he’s a student of the game and he’s got enough self-control to stick to the plan.

And if I’ve learned anything over the past 30 days?  That’s the best thing your general manager can be.




58 comments
Brian
Brian

>>The truth is, free agency is a deep, deep body of water and the worst GMs get sucked in and never get out. The goods ones realize it’s best to dip your feet in ever-so-rarely. And the great ones usually spend most of free agency fishing on a yacht, lighting cigars with the $100 bills they didn’t give to the cornerback with attitude problems who was only going to the highest bidder anyway.<<

I challenge the writer to break down some of the GM's into the different categories he listed. For instance, name me some of the great GM's fishing on a yacht, lighting cigars during free agency. I can't think of any "great" GM's that have done this, maybe he enlighten us.

Kramer Kent
Kramer Kent

REALLY!!! Broncos and pats are doing really well with getting FAs. and the jets well give me a break

Tooned In
Tooned In

Great objective article. Thank you.

Monty
Monty

   That's a really good article and I dont completely agree with you. But its truthful and not covered in glasses of rose. :) we really dont know if he is the worst gm weve ever had or the best. Things changed this year..a lot of teams that dont usually spend did ..because the talent available was extraordinary. Cimini is right...(oh my god I threw up in my mouth)..he put it on the draft,,,were win now :) Its all on him to pick and prove.

1969JAN12th
1969JAN12th

"Those guys, the GMs who build teams that compete year-in and year-out, expend their resources, both financial and organizational, on cheap, controllable talent, mostly in the draft. They reward their own and create a sustainable culture instead of playing – and paying – for a three-year window."


By Jove....I think you've got it!.......aka sustainable successs

Nepoznat77
Nepoznat77

@cgriffin415 Awesome, Corey. Great article. (Or is that because I completely agree with you?)

bradysucks
bradysucks

Who kidnapped the Corey who thinks Sanchez shreds defenses and gives the Jets the best chance to win? I miss that clown

Lol

WW85
WW85

Well written & solid article...

SackDance99
SackDance99

Hell must've frozen over; I agree with Corey.

davem
davem

Idzik doesn't light his cigars with $100 bills... He wipes his arse with them. Then washes it and uses it again and again, so he doesn't have to spend money on toilet paper.

Ceifus Hornswoggle
Ceifus Hornswoggle

Yeah, great approach.  Let's start a company and not hire any veteran talent for the most important positions.  Instead, let's pay as little as possible and hire desperate, exploitable kids just out of college.  Wonderful.


Maybe John can outsource the entire defensive backfield.  I hear you can get fifty HB-1s for the price of one seasoned corner back.


We shall soon see how this method pans out.

bradysucks
bradysucks

Decker & Vick were good moves.....Just add some offense in the draft in the early rounds.....


Idzik hasn't proven JACK yet......only wins do that....we'll see what happens......

bobbyj
bobbyj

Nice article, but there is another side to that coin. Those GM's who are lighting cigars on a yacht are the GM's that draft really well. Let's be honest, we have no idea how John Idzik is going to fair in this draft or any to come. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but I'm totally done with this idea that the last draft ( that brought, Dee, Sheldon & Geno are his. Anyone who follows the draft knows it's an " all year " process. This simply means you begin to prepare for the next draft the day after the subsequent one. When the Ny a Jets hired Idzik, Scott Cohen & friends had been working on last years draft for the better part of a year. So Idzik walks in the door with very little draft/scouting ability & completely takes over & makes all the decisions? How do you think that would go over? If that was the case, why did Idzik keep Cohen & his kind around? Idzik fired Cohen & friends AFTER the draft, not before it. Idzik is a smart dude, I will give him that, but he hired Rod Graves for a reason, to run the draft, it's what Rod Graves does. Do I think him & John will work together? Absolutely, will they have sucess,

MS
MS

Good article. 


There seems to be two types of teams that dip heavily into free agency 1) the clueless that have been clueless for a long time 2) teams that are ABLE to dip into free agency because they have an established QB and core 


The Jets are neither of those teams this year and rightfully so. We DONT have an elite QB and we need to slowly build around what we do have to win on a consistent basis. Broncos, NE, Saints, Seattle have the luxury of gambling on FA because they are SET at the most important position. 

UncleJoesJetFarm
UncleJoesJetFarm

@Kramer Kent  Look at it as the Jets are building for the future. Some other teams are much closer this season to a real run and are trying to go over the top with FACY, the Jets are a ways off so are more measured in their approach. I agree though, that we could have done a little more in Facy, but what the hell do I know. Lets see what happens.

bradysucks
bradysucks

Maybe his mommy wrote it for him...

bradysucks
bradysucks

A broken clock is right twice a day

Okay fine....good job Corey

Zartan
Zartan

Or bring in outside talent that has no clue whats going on inside and most fizzle out.

You're selling your perspective, there are lots of vets already on the team.

boomer
boomer

@Ceifus Hornswoggle  Yea, because its not like any other NFL team has done it exactly this way.  Say some team like the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Brian Serviss
Brian Serviss

@bradysucks  but he went 8-8 with a team projected to win 3 to 5 games? So he does have wins. I agree he hasn't proven anything yet. I was just saying is all

boomer
boomer

@bobbyj  So Idzik wasn't looking at the exact same talent when he was in Seattle?  It's not like he just jetted in from Mars, he has been in the NFL for years, mostly dealing with some aspect of personnel.


I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and say that Idzik knew way more about the draft last year and this year than a bunch of us random commenters on the internet.

bobbyj
bobbyj

I agree about the franchise caliber QB, especially now that it has become such a QB driven league. Most teams that went all the way had franchise QB's ( NE, Denver, Saints ect ) who are either at the top or slipping & there respective teams are loading up for a last run or two. You will always have bad teams like the Raiders & Browns ect, who have drafted badly & are trying to compensate. We will see where we land. Only time will tell if the Idzik /Rod Graves marriage will work. Bent how successful was Rod Graves at drafting?

Ron Alexander
Ron Alexander

@jake100 @Kramer Kent  Jake, we wouldn't be so far away of our penny pinching GM had gotten the message that the free agency period had started!Wouldn't our defense look all the more menacing with a Jarrous Byrd or T.J.Ward  at FS and a DRC or one of the other top corners lining up with a hopefully improved Dee Milliner? 

Ceifus Hornswoggle
Ceifus Hornswoggle

@boomer @Ceifus Hornswoggle  

You do realize that John was the Vice President of Football Administration with the Seahawks.  Which, if you understood anything about football operations, means he was a glorified secretary.  It's a position usually reserved for the head coach's nephew or the owner's illegitimate son.  He had more input on the coffee than the roster. 

bobbyj
bobbyj

Noooo, not at all. He sat in on some personell meetings, those are his words. Just think for yourself, if you have half a brain, to be successful, you must have everyone on the same page. If Idzik was just gonna take over, he would have fired Cohen & company the min he walked thru the door.

MS
MS

@bobbyj  Agreed. Ultimately I think we need to respect the approach THIS free agency. After an 8-8 year with SEVERAL pieces missing (not one or two positions to fill), we are doing right by making value moves and saving money. If you honestly evaluate this team, we are neither the Raiders/Browns OR NE,Denver, Saints. We are somewhere in between (on the upswing).

a57se
a57se

@Ceifus Hornswoggle

that is actually quite true Spent! he made the travel plans for people, kept the Toilet paper in good supply, hired the caterers for their meals........

Brian Serviss
Brian Serviss

@Ceifus Hornswoggle @boomer  he never even said that Idzik turned the Seahawks into Super Bowl Champions. All he said was that the Seahawks used the approach that Idzik is now using and they won with it. Was that really that difficult to understand?

boomer
boomer

@bobbyj  The Jets were rated last summer as the 6th most valuable franchise in the NFL at over $1.3 billion.  They had over $320 million in revenue and $77 million in gate revenues.  These numbers are right in line with other top valued franchises like the Giants.  The Giants are a much older team with a much more established fan base and they are worth $1.5 billion and have about 5% more in revenue and gate receipts.


They have plenty of cash.

bobbyj
bobbyj

What is he supposed to say? I'm not killing Idzik. He is basically an unknown. Of corse Seattle is gonna say great things about him, there friends...Doesn't mean his is good or bad time will tell. There is an issue on this front that has been completey ignored. The Jets don't make a lot/money. The Jets aren't filling seats like they want too & aren't flush with cash. I think this issue, our low revenues are as big a reason for our approach as any ideology

bobbyj
bobbyj

Somewhat true, however he does have some past scouting experience. Another issue with his article can be argued by David Caldwells actions in Jacksonville. Caldwell left Woody at the alter, Woody planned on naming Caldwell our GM at that end of year presser. Caldwell just signed the Mack kid to a 50ml deal. & he has also signed a few free agents. Bottom line, it's ok to shop, but shop wisely

boomer
boomer

@Ceifus Hornswoggle @boomer  A no, it does not mean that at all. In fact, John Schneider, the Seahawks GM had this to say about Idzik when talking about personnel decisions.


Having known Idzik for so long, Schneider said it was a "very easy" decision to retain him when Schneider took over. For the next three years, Idzik was a valuable asset, though not as a "yes" man.

"I think he was very good at just always playing devil’s advocate," Schneider said. "If we were starting to go down a different path, he would say, ‘What about this? Have you thought about the ramifications?’ Somebody to be able to just bounce things off of, philosophically."


And here are a couple comments from Ruston Webster, GM of the Titans and Woody Johnson.


"John was always that guy that was last to leave the building, burning the midnight oil," said Webster, who worked with Idzik in Tampa and Seattle. "I'd say, 'John, let's get out of here,' and he'd say, 'I have to call guys on the West Coast,' or something like that. Always there late at night, working."


Johnson liked how detailed Idzik's staff was in preparing for the draft. By Johnson's count, there were 5,000 reports compiled and 300 schools scouted. Johnson also noted how Idzik wanted everybody's input and discouraged sitting back.


Idzik is be every account an extremely hard worker who gets deeply involved in understanding the talent he is evaluating. You can find comments like this from former colleagues all over the place including guys like Pete Carroll and Tony Dungy who know a thing or two about building winning football franchises.

boomer
boomer

@Brian Serviss @bobbyj  Not to mention a QB who ran and understands MM's offense.  


Absolutely no different than the Jets bringing in Brunell to help Sanchez or Garard to help Geno last year.

Brian Serviss
Brian Serviss

@bobbyj  Nothing vested in Geno? Bringing in a veteran QB, who has had success and downfalls in the NFL, so he can teach and mentor a much younger 2nd year QB shows he has nothing at all vested in Geno?   

bobbyj
bobbyj

When have you herd him take credit? Brining in Mike Vick basically tells you that Idzik has nothing vested in Geno. I'm not saying he had no part in the draft, I'm saying the Jets draft board for the most part was assembled before he came. For lack of a better word, he worked with what he had...

boomer
boomer

@bobbyj  I don't necessarily believe all the crap I read on the internet.  The guy was brought in as GM to turn the franchise in a new direction and I'm pretty confident he didn't just sit there and do what he was told.


Sure, he took advice and counsel just like every GM in the league but the draft picks were ultimately his responsibility.  People would be killing him right now had Miliner and Richardson not worked out.  Can't have it both ways, he gets the credit when draft picks work and the blame when they don't.