Free Agency Yields Fool's Gold

If you think Ted Thompson is a cheapskate — or you're tired of listening to your friend who thinks Thompson is a cheapskate — then read on. Winning and losing in free agency has almost no correlation to winning on Sundays — as the class of 2009 demonstrates.

Almost a week into free agency, and it's so quiet that you could hear a pin drop in Green Bay.

You know, like usual.

So, it's time for Packer Report's yearly reminder: Winning and losing in free agency rarely corresponds to winning and losing when the NFL's regular season kicks off.

For the latest proof, let's turn back the clocks about 12 months.

The seven five-star free agents to change hands in free agency were Albert Haynesworth to Washington (seven years, $100 million), Matt Cassel to Kansas City (six years, $63 million), T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Seattle (five years, $40 million), Matt Birk to Baltimore (three years, $12 million), Jason Brown to St. Louis (five years, $37.5 million), Bart Scott to New York Jets (five years, $40 million) and Brian Dawkins to Denver (five years, $17 million).

Yeah, those moves worked out real well.

The Redskins (from 8-8 to 4-12), Chiefs (from 2-14 to 4-12), Seahawks (from 4-12 to 5-11) and Rams (from 2-14 to 1-15) still stink and will pick in the top six in April's draft. Denver tanked after a fast start and finished 8-8 for the second consecutive season. The Ravens went from 11 wins to nine but made it back to the playoffs by replacing Brown with Birk. The Jets recorded matching 9-7 records but this time made the playoffs and reached the AFC title game.

For a grand total of $309.5 million in contracts, those seven teams posted the exact same cumulative record.

Last year, the Giants, Redskins and Jets were hailed as among the big free agent winners. Yours truly saw the Giants sign Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Michael Boley and figured those three defenders would set up another Giants-Packers matchup for the NFC championship. Instead, the Giants went from 12-4 to 8-8, and their defense allowed an additional 133 points.

Not that free agency is a useless tool, as Ted Thompson knows every time Charles Woodson makes a game-turning play. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, and free-agent pickups Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer played big roles.

But history has proven — again and again and again — that free agency is not a cure-all.

Just look at the NFL's marquee team, the Indianapolis Colts. In the last six years of free agency, the Colts have signed only one noteworthy player: kicker Adam Vinatieri. That's it.

When Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XLIII, they didn't sign a noteworthy free agent. When the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, they didn't sign a noteworthy free agent. When the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, they didn't sign a noteworthy free agent. When the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, they signed only safety Ryan Clark. When the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX, they didn't sign a noteworthy free agent.

So, moan and groan all you want about Thompson somehow sitting on the Packers' checkbook as if it's his own. In the worst free agent class ever, is it any wonder why he's decided to sit out the first round? For crying out loud, Antrel Rolle is now the highest-paid safety in NFL history. Antrel Rolle! The same Antrel Rolle who was absolutely demolished by the Packers in the playoff game was given $37 million over five seasons by the Giants.

That's free agency. Mediocre players getting outlandish amounts of money. It's fun to live in the land of make-believe and fantasize about this player or that. But the money is very much real, and so is the long history of teams getting too little bang for too many bucks.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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