With free agency less than 24 hours old, there’s still time for big spending around the league for those teams that have healthy cap situations. Soon after, the pace of signings will slow down and clubs and players will look for the best fit. As NFL general managers and coaches see it they’re only concerned with getting the most bang for their buck.
“We’re going to be a player probably in free agency at some point,” said Nix. “It may not be the first day or two, but we’ll be looking for guys that can come in and help us and take some pressure off the draft. We think we can be active and go places.”
The case is a bit different for division rival Miami. With a healthy cap situation the Dolphins were fully expected to spend, and they did, but GM Jeff Ireland insists they only spend big if they believe the targeted player can deliver in a big way on the field.
“You’re always looking for value, to get production. You hope it matches the value for what you’re going to get,” he said. “Everybody wants a bargain, and in free agency, if you’re going to play in free agency, there’s not a ton of bargains out there, especially if you’re playing at the top of the market.
“You just have to feel confident that what you’re paying for is what you’re getting. That’s always been a philosophy of mine, that the value of the production and the value of the ability, they match, and that you’re not overpaying for a lesser talented player.”
The Tennessee Titans also freely acknowledged that they intend to be early players in the market as well, and followed through signing TE Delanie Walker and Bills free agent G Andy Levitre.
“I think there were people we were identifying that we're interested in that can help us," said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. "The hard part is we could want them real bad, but five other teams may want them also. So we'll see what happens. That's the challenge of this phase of the deal of building your roster through free agency.”
Often when a club spends early in free agency, it’s typically a household name player, but Ireland isn’t opposed to paying big for a lesser known free agent if they believe he’s a perfect fit for them.
“I don’t really feel the pressure that it has to be a name guy, if that particular player we think is going help our football team move forward and take a big step, that’s our first and foremost primary reason why we signed the player.”
Different teams have different needs and different philosophies. Some clubs need to get faster, some are young and need to add a dose of experienced talent. Some prefer to stay young feeling their development and taking the next step with happen naturally as their young players mature.
Such is the approach of the Seattle Seahawks.
“Oh, just get one more guy because we were close last year? I don't think that,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “And (GM) John (Schneider) and I don't feel that way. We just want to keep developing our team. Allow our team to grow, and to mature.
“We'll still look at every single opportunity, but not with the thought, 'Let's just get a couple of old guys to really put it all together.' I don't think that that's where we are. This team has really been built from the inside with the young guys, and we'll continue to go that way.”
Teams with a greater recent history of success like the Giants and Steelers, clubs that have each one a pair of Super Bowls in the past 10 years have different decisions to make. Almost right up until the start of the new league year at 4 pm Tuesday GMs Jerry Reese and Kevin Colbert had to make subtractions to stay fiscally responsible in a year where the cap barely increased.
“When you have some success, you’ve probably had good players, some of them have probably been a little bit older and as I stated earlier, they’re going to move on,” said Colbert, who released James Harrison and let Mike Wallace walk. “We have to be prepared, both from a salary cap standpoint and from a talent standpoint to make those changes.”
The Giants released players earlier in the process as Reese terminated the contracts of veterans Michael Boley, Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Canty.
Colbert subscribes to the popular approach of building through the draft and re-signing your own believing it reduces the risk for mistakes.
“I’m not a real big believer in spending in free agency. We’re always going to try to build through the draft and continue to do that because I think that way you maintain a roster that can be competitive year in and year out. Not only on the field but also from a financial standpoint of staying within the cap and looking at the overall cash. I think you have a lot more success when you sign your own players as unrestricted free agents because you know them the best.”
With 32 NFL rosters all in different states of development the positional needs and philosophical approach to free agency is going to differ as well. As far as the Bills are concerned they know they have holes to fill. It just doesn’t sound as though they’ll spend big to fill them.
“I do expect us to be involved in free agency,” said Nix. “We’ve targeted some guys we think can help us and if we’re in the ballpark money-wise we’ll get in the hunt.”