The secret meetings and late-night flights on private jets might still be a part of this year’s NFL marketplace.
Ah, but for glam, glitz and pure mega wattage, no one will come close to reprising the free agency frenzy that caught the country’s attention last year when Peyton Manning was wooed and wowed from coast to coast before finally settling on Denver.
Most of the big names in this year’s class of free agents aren’t even BIG names. They’re not even BIG stars. Certainly not in Manning’s class.
Sure, Ed Reed is coming off helping a Super Bowl season with Baltimore, Wes Welker catches 100 passes every year, and Dashon Goldson is an All-Pro.
But this crop is more about aging defensive players like Charles Woodson, Brian Urlacher and Ronde Barber. And then are some solid but hardly unforgettable receivers and running backs: Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Reggie Bush and Michael Turner.
When full free agency begins at 1 p.m. today, with all 32 teams under the $123 million salary cap, the bidding wars might be furious for a while. Or perhaps not, considering the dangers of signing players beyond their peak years to rich deals that can financially hamstring teams in the future. The stakes are high.
“We did this study to try to determine what the hit rate was,” says Bill Polian, who built the Bills, Panthers and Colts into Super Bowl teams and now is analyst for ESPN and SiriusXM. “It ends up in our study being about what it was for the draft, right around 50 percent, slightly above that.
“You then get into the qualitative judgment or subjective judgment of ‘at what cost?’ So player A, who cost you $12 million a year, is he a success if he starts or is he a success if he helps you get to the playoffs?”