NEW YORK — Let the bidding binges begin.
Armed with another $10 million or so to spend thanks to the increased salary cap, NFL teams dive into free agency on Tuesday. By the end of the week, most of the top prizes will be signed, to the tune of enough money to fund a small government.
The process will continue for months, with many of the real bargains not moving to new teams or rejoining their previous clubs until well after the early auctioning.
“Free agency in and of itself is an overpayment situation,” says former NFL executive Bill Polian, who built three Super Bowl teams and now is an analyst for ESPN and SiriusXM. “That’s why the union fought so hard to get it.
“These are essentially ‘B’ players whose agents are looking for ‘A’ money. Some situations teams are forced to deal with, and you have to bite the bullet and do it.’ “
While Polian makes the point that the really elite players don’t ever become available in free agency, the 2014 class is filled with former All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. They come in all sizes for all jobs, from pass rushers Jared Allen, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith to running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Willis McGahee.
The crop is spiced by a deep class of wide receivers, from those just emerging as standouts (Julian Edelman, Golden Tate, Eric Decker, Emmanuel Sanders) to those more established (Hakeem Nicks, James Jones, Santana Moss). Hardly a surprise, it is not filled with potential starting quarterbacks; the top names are Josh McCown, Chad Henne, Matt Cassel and Michael Vick.
And, as former NFL executive Pat Kirwan, who was involved in the development of the free agency process more than two decades ago, points out, “Once some of these guys sign, there will be even more players out there who are available because teams have to cut guys to make room for the new ones they sign.”