Many Vikings fans have emailed and tweeted me in the last 14 hours clearly upset and frustrated with the lack of free agency news surrounding their favorite team. The basic complaint is something along the lines of “We were 3-13 last year! Why are we sitting on our hands and not trying to get better? When will we start signing players?“
I understand this emotion, but my message back to those passionate fans is simple and two-fold. First, keep in mind that as of this posting we’re only 16-some hours into free agency. There’s a long way to go here, and free agency often happens in multiple waves. The website ProFootballTalk.com rated its Top 100 free agents available, and only 15 of them have been signed.
Secondly, we shouldn’t be surprised at the Vikings inactivity to this point. At no point during the offseason have either GM Rick Spielman or Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated the Vikings would be major players in free agency. And to be honest, I think being relatively inactive in free agency is prudent for teams looking to build talented rosters that will be competitive for the long-term. Adding starters via free agency is not an economical approach to improving the talent level. Just think about some of the consistently top-performing teams in the NFL over the last 5-6 years – Baltimore, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, the NY Giants and Pittsburgh. None of those teams build their roster through free agency. And none of those teams are mentioned in free agency news right now. Yet they continue to win.
I can’t think of one example of a team that has won a Super Bowl in the last 5-6 years and could attribute that championship to a great free-agent signing. The closest example might be the New Orleans Saints, who acquired QB Drew Brees in free agency, but also keep in mind that the year they acquired Brees was also the year they drafted WR Marquis Colston, G Jahri Evans and CB Tracy Porter.
Remember last year’s big winner in free agency? It was the Philadelphia Eagles, who surprised everyone by signing CB Nnamdi Asomugha and then also added DL Cullen Jenkins and QB Vince Young. As it turns out, they started the season 1-4 and finished out of the playoffs with an 8-8 record. On the flip side, think of the San Francisco 49ers. In 2010 they were 6-10, and then in 2011 they turned it around by going 13-3 and hosting the NFC Championship Game. No one considered the 49ers winners in free agency last year. In fact, ESPN’s John Clayton listed San Francisco 1st on his list of “free agency losers” in this article from last August.
Long story longer, teams do not win Super Bowls, division titles or even games during free agency. The best way to build a talented roster that can compete for the long-term is through the draft. It’s a clichéd football saying, but it’s so true – you build your team through the draft and supplement it through free agency.
So don’t fret, Vikings fans. The team has a long way to go to improve, but being active in free agency is not an effective way to accomplish the task. More important than the feeling you have right now is to NOT have this feeling on the night of April 28, when the NFL draft has concluded. I’d much rather be considered winners of the draft than winners of free agency.
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