Free Agency or Draft?
I don't know how many of you feel about the proper way to build a NFL team and get the right quality players to fill in the holes. I have always felt like the draft was the best way to go about this. I have never been a fan of free agency although I know it is a very important part of the process. Free agency has always seemed like a quick fix to me. If you are not drafting properly you will be shelling out big contracts year in and year out to cover your mistakes in past drafts. Of course there are the players who have excellent talent and big names that you just simply cannot pass up in free agency if the opportunity presents itself but I prefer to find the young and raw talent. I feel like most coaches want a player that can molded to fit their scheme and to do away with bad habits. To teach young players not only the right way of doing things but the way they want it to be done.
Draft Pick and Free Agent Upside
Big name free agents bring in bad habits that coaches probably won't be able to fix completely and will have to get by on just tweaking a little something here and a little something there. Of course the free agent will want to do things the way he wants to do them and the way he has been doing them his entire career. I also don't like the idea of bringing in free agents because you know what you are getting. That might sound like a good thing but by the time most big free agents are released by the original team that signed or drafted them they have already been in the league for five to eight years.(Rookie contract plus the big deal after the rookie contract) By this time there is not much upside to the player. He has hit his peak and the injuries will increase and stats will begin to decline. I don't like the idea of signing someone to a big money contract for things they did in the past and knowing that they are not gonna meet those same levels of play while on your roster. This is exactly what the Redskins do year in and year out and look at the state of their team.
Repairing the Jim Haslett Years
Now this is probably the time you will start thinking of free agents that have been a huge part of success for the Saints during the Payloo era. Payloo had to start grabbing free agent upgrades immediately to add to a roster that lacked talent at many positions. This bought them time to begin drafting properly. Names like Sharper, Fujita, Greer, Shockey, Vilma, and of course Brees are probably coming to mind (Who knew Brees would become the touchdown machine he has become?). But all of these were initially brought in to provide a quick fix to poor player evaluation and poor drafting during the Jim Haslett years. I know you are probably thinking some of these names are more recent pickups and have nothing to do with the Haslett era, but it does. It has taken this long to fix all of the mistakes made during that tenure. I think we have just now caught up and fixed all the damage that was done during that time. I don't know how many years I begged and pleaded on draft day for the Saints to take a high round QB to compete with Aaron Brooks but they never did. I even got excited when they drafted Adrian McPherson in 2005 (and then he got ran over, literally). I was so surprised how quickly Payton turned the team around without having time to properly build it through drafting but it was a quick fix. What were our records after the 10-6 season? We went 7-9 and 8-8. You cannot live by free agency because the players come and go, your roster depth suffers, and your win and loss record will reflect that. If you build properly through the draft there is no reason to bring in all of these free agents.
Other Teams Successful Formulas
Look at what the Patriots and Colts have done for the past decade in the draft and look how consistent their win/loss records are year in and year out. The Patriots only jump on big name free agents when the money is right and they refuse to overpay like most teams. They would rather get their players from within their organization and when a star player is ready for a big payday they send him packing and let another team overpay for them. What was the last big name free agent the Colts signed? (I am honestly trying to think of one without looking it up but nothing comes to mind.) It took several years of proper drafting just to fix our secondary and I actually feel good about it now.(Although bombs flying over Jason David's head still gives me nightmares) It will probably take several more years to get our LB corps together through the draft. Martez Wilson was a good start and hopefully him and Casillas can step up and be great like I know they can be. I really don't want to see anymore mediocre journeymen free agent linebackers brought in.We need to accept the fact these free agent linebacker moves aren't working anymore (not counting Vilma) We got spoiled with the success of bringing in Fujita and Shanle and are trying to repeat that success. Spend our first pick (second round) on a linebacker next year. Give Vilma some help.
In closing, I know that free agents help our team but they are brought in to plug a hole until a draft pick or a UDFA steps up and takes their spot. Free agents lose their jobs to draft picks because they are less expensive and have more upside. I would rather sign several UDFA's than bring in one big name free agent. Draft picks give the coordinators the ability to put their creative stamp on a player and program their scheme into them from birth(being a rookie). I can't wait to see how things pan out for the Eagles this year. I imagine they will have a good year but I think all that spent FA money will haunt them in the long run and lets see what happens when one or two of those players go down with injury. Wonder how much money they have in their backups. Your thoughts?