View Full Version : Rufus again on free agency

03-17-2005, 08:41 AM
Mar 17, 2005, 2:27:41 AM by Media Watch by Rufus Dawes

In a relationship typical of today’s sports marketplace, fans demand of their teams improvements that affirm their strivings and media more often than not nourish popular thinking. Free agency dominates the NFL’s off-season but, despite some undisputed essentials, is a practice surrounded by mythology. On one hand, there is the practice’s true history, an accurate account of what in fact free agency has actually produced for teams who have participated, not participated, or participated only sparingly. On the other hand, there is the public’s interpretation of free agency. The public’s version originated in the idea that adding players from other NFL teams was the sure way for teams to improve.

One cannot play down or ignore fan expectations. As fans, the people of the Kansas City metro area have consistently made known their opinions about free agency. In the last couple of weeks, letters, emails, telephone calls, and radio talk show chatter have facilitated the reconstruction of those opinions, revealing a single opinion overwhelmingly devoted to the idea that the Kansas City defense can only be improved through a more deliberate attempt to sign other players who are available via unrestricted free agency. Timing is everything, so say the many communications, and there is not a minute to lose.

Furthering that opinion and, indeed, helping to set the tone has been a media corps who time and time again has expressed alarm that the Chiefs are not active enough. But for every statement such as “K.C. made no significant moves in free agency to fix ailing defense” or “it doesn’t look like the Chiefs have done enough,” there is a growing chorus of media that know free agency is not the prescription to fix all that ails NFL teams.

Indeed, in the last few weeks since the 2005 period of free agency began those voices denouncing free agency or, at the very least, calling into question its lure, have become louder.

But while media have caught on to free agency’s empty promise, there’s every indication that teams are not listening or studying its true effects. Driven by fan expectations and they’re own inabilities to build a team, they will pay any price for players no matter what the past has taught. GMs and coaches may give every appearance of being, in the words of the Rocky Mountain News’ Jeff Legwold, “Cool. Calm. Collected,” talking about the “importance of restraint in the early going,” remembering “all the bad deals that have been done over the years,” and the “salary-cap trouble because of them,” even admitting that this year’s “talent available in free agency was down,” only to jump in with both feet as soon as the gun sounded and players were available. (March 11, 2005) “The money is flying out the door by the wheelbarrow,” Legwold reported.

The idea that teams would use restraint made ESPN’s John Clayton “laugh.” It was all so “predictable,” Clayton wrote mockingly. (ESPN.com, March 10, 2005) “While it might be impossible to pick the teams who will spend for the players, the prices are right in line with expectations,” which is to say: high, too high. “To sign a top free agent during the first week of free agency requires overpayment,” he claimed. FOX’s John Czarnecki observed that “before the bidding, there was speculation there would be less spending without an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. Well, after the first five days nothing could be further from the truth.” (FOXSports.com, March 7, 2005) “Lessons of past years are being kicked to the curb as teams jump on players early in the hopes of making the big splash,” warned CBS SportsLine’s Pete Prisco. (March 3, 2005)

What happened to “teams spouting buzzwords such as “fiscal responsibility” and “restraint” and “prudent spending” asked Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com. (March 1, 2005) There wasn’t even the “pretense about attempting to wait until the (free agent) market set its own level,” it was out of the blocks to sign anyone first. “In short, no sign of discernible restraint, especially by those franchises that have created a cozy cap cushion.”

Indeed, even the most rational of teams now move with a sense of urgency – maybe even desperation. It was only a few years ago that Baltimore won a Super Bowl thanks to some fruitful drafts. Then, after gutting their team of high-priced veterans and re-building again through the draft, they suddenly grew impatient and became one of the major players in free agency signing in the opening salvo high-priced veterans Samari Rolle and Derrick Mason. Even Pittsburgh, “among the most fiscally conservative teams in the league,” wrote Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette began frantically “restructuring contracts to create immediate salary cap relief,” seemingly to stay in step with division rival Baltimore. (March 4, 2005) “The Steelers once stood steadfast against such tactics,” Bouchette reminded readers, but now face a “financial judgment day” down the road, when cap problems will require a blood-letting of players perhaps equaling those in San Francisco and, most recently, Tennessee.

What has led even the most cautious to ignore their past?

According to Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, “people do crazy things just for the chance, the promise, of maybe having a better team. Indeed, free agency is a time in which otherwise very smart men quickly become dumb, it seems.” (Pasquarelli, March 1, 2005)

Consider Rich McKay, general manger of the Atlanta Falcons, who one day could say, “I tend to like the strategy of ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s wait and let the market settle, you don’t go to the grocery store hungry,” only to rush out this year and give San Francisco’s Jason Webster “a contract that included $7 million in upfront money, perhaps double what they originally thought it would take.” Webster, according to Pasquarelli, appeared in just 10 games and “over a two-year period he has started about a dozen contests.” When asked if the change of heart was based on panic, McKay replied: “Yeah, it was.”

Down the road in Miami, new coach Nick Saban, after claiming he “plans to borrow the Bill Belichick approach” to free agency, contradicted himself by making a $30 million dollar agreement with former Titans defensive end Kevin Carter including $8 million in guarantees in signing and option bonuses. “He’ll make $10 million over the first two years of his contract,” reported John Clayton. (March 7, 2005). So much for adopting the Patriots model.

Panic appears to be the driving force all around the league now, except from the more successful teams. Dallas’ Jerry Jones, growing “surprisingly emotional,” to hear the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill tell it, called March 3 one of the “most rewarding important and expensive days” in the history of the Cowboys. (March 4, 2005) Jones doled out $30 million in seven days for free agents Anthony Henry, Jason Ferguson, Marco Rivera and Drew Bledsoe. “It speaks volumes to our time frame when our expectations are to win,” Jones said. With the possible exceptions of the final two years of Ferguson’s contract, none of the other contracts are back-loaded with exorbitantly high base salaries, suggesting much shorter deals. (DallasCowboys.com, March 9, 2005) The impetus is obvious: Dallas must win now.

Expectations are what compel Dallas and others to go against better judgment. How else to explain a Baltimore, a team that has realized the ultimate victory by building through the draft, and then suddenly goes on a spending spree? How else to figure Pittsburgh and it’s willingness to mortgage the future despite repeated trips to the playoffs following a plan founded on fiscal responsibility, a plan that has worked?

How else to explain “Jacksonville, which only recently got a get-out-of-cap-jail card,” giving Denver defensive end Reggie Hayward a five-year deal that includes ”$10 million in guaranteed money,” or cap-strapped San Francisco, who only a year before had been forced to slash their roster to include only five players who were making more than the NFL’s minimum wage, giving left tackle Jonas Jennings ”$12 million to $14 million in bonuses?” (Pete Prisco, CBS SportsLine.com, March 3, 2005) Has Jacksonville forgotten the Hugh Douglas catastrophe? Has San Francisco’s hierarchy amnesia? Or what can Carolina be thinking. “When a smart team like Carolina pays $13 million to sign Ken Lucas,” Sports Illustrated’s Peter King moaned, “I mean, corners shouldn’t be that valuable, particularly with the rules favoring receivers so much and taking away some of the edge the physical corners have had.” (SI.com, March 7, 2005)

And then there’s the poster child of free agency, the Washington Redskins. “How many years of overspending and underachieving is it going to take for Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to finally figure out that you can’t build a Super Bowl team with your checkbook?” queried Philadelphia Daily News columnist Paul Domowitch. “How many more sub-.500 finishes does he need to be hit over the head with before it finally dawns on him that the draft is a much more critical building block than free agency for NFL success?” (March 4, 2005)

Apparently a long time. After dumping $13 million into the Jets Laveranues Coles two years ago, the ‘Skins found it necessary to trade him back to the Jets for Santana Moss, taking “a $9 million cap hit that actually was roughly $6 million because Coles was scheduled to cost $3 million this season.” (Nunyo Demasio, Washington Post, March 8, 2005) Washington could have used that money, “in golden cap space,” wrote the Post’s Mike Wise, to retain corner Fred Smoot because it has used “all the cap savings from restructuring Chris Samuel’s contract to cover the Coles hit.”

“January, February and March used to be hopeful months,” Wise remembered, with not the least bit of sarcasm dripping from his computer. “Dan Snyder opened his wallet, a bevy of big names signed for big dollars and Washington’s pro football team went undefeated until August.” Now even that ruse is up.

Meanwhile, the league’s most successful teams, the Patriots and Eagles roll on following a plan that pays little mind to free agency. “I think we’re going to sit back and take some time off and let the market settle,” Eagles president Joe Banner said. “The Eagles, despite more than enough salary cap room,” reported Mark Eckel, “do not plan to jump in and overspend for the average players who are receiving contracts that used to be reserved for Pro Bowl players.” (NY.com, March 9, 2005) The Patriots are taking their usual wait-and-see attitude as well and “it’s these types of moves that define the greatness of this franchise,” Prisco believes. “More teams should make that one of their personnel rules, and then they might actually catch up to this group.” (March 10, 2005)

“A successful front office operates in much the same way a movie producer generates box-office receipts,” The Sporting News Vinnie Iyer makes the comparison. “The Patriots and Eagles operate like independent filmmakers, relying on just a few big stars and the brilliant direction of coaches to consistently get bang for their bucks.

“Last off-season, the Eagles acquired huge talents in Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. But they passed on re-signing one of their best 2003 performers, cornerback Bobby Taylor” and they let fellow corner Troy Vincent go, too. In turn, Seattle signed both Taylor and defensive end Grant Wistrom to deals valued at $44.3 million. They combined for nine starts (all by Wistrom).” (March 1, 2005)

The Patriots parted with Ty Law, who fans in Kansas City apparently covet. “It was the right move,” wrote Iyer, “and he really isn’t a loss because he wasn’t there for most of last season. Law was once a great player. Nobody knows if he can get there again.”

But apparently that doesn’t matter now to the rest of the league, even to a team that has reached the game’s pinnacle following one path only to chuck it all and go for it in one full rush. Expectations must be met, or so it would seem. “We weren’t at the point we thought we were,” said Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, only five years removed from a Super Bowl championship. (Mike Preston, Baltimore Sun, March 1, 2005) “Given our track record and what the market was, you would have had to figure on conventional thinking that we would have filled those spots at a lesser level based on the price and timing,” bragged Baltimore’s Brian Billick, explaining his team’s change in strategy.

Conventional thinking would appear to be missing at most NFL franchises today.

But even the media – or those that have studied free agency – know its truth or are beginning to. It’ll always have its appeal as a news item at a slow time of year. But that’s all it’ll be when they stop to take a look at it.

“The first week of free agency, no matter what anyone says, always will be an exercise in fast-twitch muscles,” noted Jeff Legwold, “of the push through the doors when the store opens. Because free agency is that tidy little $9 whipped mocha smoothie. The draft? Now that is the breakfast of real champions.”

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs

the Talking Can
03-17-2005, 08:45 AM
wow..another "The Patriots do it this way" article...thanks for that pointless piece of shit, news flash: we ain't the Patriots..WE JUST RESIGNED CP YOU %^*%

if we were the Patriots we would have fired CP's ass a decade ago....

Hammock Parties
03-17-2005, 08:46 AM
bla bla bla...spin spin...bla

I never even read this tripe anymore.

03-17-2005, 08:48 AM
Rufus Dawes = A sock pupet on King Carl's hand! Stop putting this useless crap on the board, bad enough we have to see it on the Chiefs site.

03-17-2005, 08:50 AM
There is some good information here.

Taking all the football insight he can get.

03-17-2005, 08:53 AM
The problem is that the breakfast of champions that Carl cooks is instant coffee and a freakin' big ass donut.

Bob Dole
03-17-2005, 09:00 AM
While free agency may not be the cure-all, we all saw how effective building from within was...

We can't draft for shit. What else does that leave us, another decade of mediocrity?

the Talking Can
03-17-2005, 09:01 AM
What else does that leave us, another decade of mediocrity?

So, you heard about CP's new contract.

03-17-2005, 09:19 AM
A few weeks ago, Pittsburgh was included in his "teams that know how to do it the right way" category. Now that they are getting aggressive, they all of a sudden are dumb like the other 29 teams in the NFL that don't get it.

And using Philly as a model is simply a load of sh*t. They landed two huge contract guys last year, and it got them to the Superbowl. If we would follow Philly's example, we would be aggressive in filling needs, and we wouldn't be resigning Eric Hicks and Jerome Woods

03-17-2005, 09:37 AM
There is some good information here.

Taking all the football insight he can get.

It's a nice article but I think Dawes fails to see the writing on the wall for the Chiefs. We haven't gotten enough good players out of our drafts so we're kind of forced to do this, though I don't think we overspent on either Bell or Knight. We will be overspending on a corner in the near future, unfortunately.
He's right in that the draft is the best way to build a team but the Eagles and Patriots didn't do it solely through the draft. Good teams draft well and find good players in free agency that they don't have to overpay for as a consequence of drafting well.

Dr. Johnny Fever
03-17-2005, 09:49 AM
I can't even get past the second or third line of Rufas' bullshit anymore. Go preach your sermon about the acceptance of mediocrity to Bears and Cardinals fans for a while.

03-17-2005, 10:10 AM
CoryT's 3 step approach to be a Super Bowl contender:

1. Draft well
2. Teach well
3. Prudent FA spending on smart, veteran players.

KC's track record on those 3 points? Poor, Poor, and ROFL

The Bad Guy
03-17-2005, 10:13 AM
The Chiefs tried the Patriots way last year and went 7-9.

When you can't draft worth a shit, then you have to get free agents.

Someone needs to tell this ass-licking, Peterson lover that.

I'm going to e-mail him and ask him why doesn't he start writing out 13 years without a playoff win instead of defending these jerkoffs every week.

03-17-2005, 10:16 AM
CoryT's 3 step approach to be a Super Bowl contender:

1. Draft well
2. Teach well
3. Prudent FA spending on smart, veteran players.

KC's track record on those 3 points? Poor, Poor, and ROFL

Yeah because there isn't one good player on the team. :rolleyes:

03-17-2005, 10:27 AM
Didnt even read it!

It just another article insulting us fans!

03-17-2005, 10:34 AM
Yeah because there isn't one good player on the team. :rolleyes:

An NFL team has 50+ players on it. One or two or ten good players won't mean much if the others are crap.

The standard Rufus arguement has been "the Patriots way" of building a team. That means:

1. Rely heavily on the draft for your players. The Patriots are considerably better than the Chiefs at drafting. There little question that KC's drafting has been more bad than good.

2. Don't spend too big to retain your own guys. I guess we don't spend "big" (because few of them are worth it). But the gist of that theory is knowing when to keep your own guys, and when to let them go. We have a roster full of brand new contracts that we should have let go last year. Another thing that NE does well, and KC does poorly.

3. Look for value in free agency. While they are out signing Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison, we are siging Johnnie Morton and Dexter McCleon. Again, The Patriots know how to pick these guys, where KC doesn't.

The point is, Rufus keeps saying "look how NE has done it". But we can't just follow the steps like they came on a floor mat with our last disco album. You have to be able to replicate the success along with the methods. KC has not shown the ability to do that. When we've tried the fiscally responsible way, and failed at it for 16 years, it's time to look at other methods.

Mark M
03-17-2005, 10:37 AM
... and they’re own inabilities to build a team ...

Which is exactly why KC had, and still has, to go out and get FAs this year.

The KC scouting department gets it wrong far, far more often then they get right. For every DT, Will Shields and Tony G., there are two Bartees, Trezell Jenkinses and Sylvester Morrises.


kc rush
03-17-2005, 10:49 AM
I got two paragraphs in before my eyes began to cross and I began to slip into unconsciousness. Sounds like the same article repackaged (does this guy get paid by the word?)

Anyway, it has been said a million times, the Chiefs need to draft better, train better, and evaluate their own talent better for this model to be successful. Because they have failed at each, the only way to improve is through free agency.

Mr. Flopnuts
03-17-2005, 10:50 AM
IMHO it appears that Mr. Dawes and Mr. Gretz take turns giving Carl and Lamar reach arounds ;)

03-17-2005, 11:00 AM
I really don't think there is that much difference between the philosophy of all 32 NFL teams regarding free agency. I think most teams draft the best player with an eye for need. They then use free agency and trades as a tool to correct draft "mistakes" and to fill their own holes created by free agency. The reason the Pats and Philly aren't as active in free agency is primarily because they've drafted and developed well and don't need to participate. Teams that haven't drafted well need to rely on free agency a little more.

03-17-2005, 11:29 AM
What happens when you can't draft and can't attract free agents? Ask the Bengals and Cardinals what they did before the got their current coaches.