Free agency in the National Football League started off with a bang this past Tuesday afternoon. At 4 p.m., teams around the league were free to sign free agents to contracts, and GMs did not disappoint.
In the first 24 hours alone, teams spent $1 billion combined as struggling teams looked to remake their rosters while established contenders sought to bolster their chances for a Super Bowl run.
Of note, the Denver Broncos made a huge push to balance out their team after getting walloped by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. John Elway and Co. added CB Aqib Talib for six years for $57 million, LB/DE Demarcus Ware for three years for $30 million and SS TJ Ward for four years for $23 million to turn a subpar defense into one of the top units in the league at least on paper.
Nothing screams “win now” like spending $110 million on new players, but were they good moves? No doubt the Broncos are a better football team after shoring up their defense. And for a team that has been on the cusp of a Lombardi Trophy ever since Peyton Manning came to town, the moves certainly put the team in a position to finally get over the hump.
However, the big question is, what happens if the moves don’t pay off. If the Broncos are unable to win a championship in the next few years with Manning at the helm, that $110 million dollars, with $60 million of that guaranteed, suddenly becomes an enormous burden in the rebuilding process.
Regardless, the window to win championships is only open for so long, and taking advantage of having a Hall of Fame quarterback under center means going all-in is the best way to win a title.
On the other end of the spectrum, the San Francisco 49ers made some intriguing moves to add to their roster, which have been met with mixed reviews.
To start their free agency period, the 49ers traded for Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a former first round pick who has struggled as the main man in Jacksonville.
In addition to the Gabbert move, San Francisco also traded for embattled offensive lineman Jonathan Martin from the Miami Dolphins. This was the same Martin who was in the middle of the bullying scandal that exploded across NFL circles and nearly tore the Dolphins apart from within their locker room.
Although they seem like odd moves, which do not address major needs for San Francisco, the trades make more sense when looked upon from the perspective of head coach John Harbaugh.
In the lead up to the 2011 NFL Draft, Harbaugh attended Missouri’s pro day, where Gabbert worked out for scouts, so Harbaugh clearly had an interest in the quarterback.
Meanwhile, before Martin abruptly left the Miami Dolphins, he had been a highly touted prospect coming out of Stanford where his coach at the time was — you guessed it — John Harbaugh.
So while Gabbert and Martin may not make significant impacts for the 49ers this season, they are low-risk projects for Harbaugh to dig in on.
If the first few days of free agency are any indication, more money will be doled out, and more players will be changing addresses as the spring wears on.