NFL Free-Agency: The Ups And Downs Of The Free Agency Life

Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson both sign huge contracts! Ah, the joys of NFL free-agency.

These are some exciting days for NFL franchises and fans. If you happen to follow a particular team, it is difficult not to get swept up in what has taken place. NFL free-agency is where it is at right now. With as much celebration that has happened, the downsides to the NFL free-agency period serves as a true counterpart, a definitive adversary that forces you to think twice before celebrating that big signing made by your favorite team.

The amount of spending that is being done by teams during the first couple of days cannot go ignored, unnoticed, or be dismissed — not without asking if a few NFL general managers have lost their sanity somewhere between the initial conversation to discuss their interest in a player and when a contract offer gets made. What is interesting is how quickly a deal can get consummated between a team and a player. Many rash decisions happen during the NFL free-agency period. This includes players and their families, who have to find new homes after their team decides to go back on an agreement.

Take a look at the hefty contract defensive end Malik Jackson, who confirmed the night before agreements could be made official, that he was signing (courtesy of ESPN) with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The six-year deal, worth over $90 million, is somewhat of a head-scratcher. That is a lot of money for any football player who does not play the quarterback position.

No one will convince me that Malik Jackson is a bad player. It was Jackson on the Denver Broncos defensive line, who opened up space for Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to roam free and wreak havoc. Jackson will do the same for the Jaguars, but with a salary that will have a yearly average of nearly $15 million, he will have to produce more than just space.

In order for the Jaguars to see a true return on their investment, Malik Jackson will have to produce sacks. Jackson’s career-high in sacks is six, which came in his second year. Untrained eyes of NFL fans will not notice how Jackson frees up the Jacksonville linebackers. What they will see is the fact that he is not a threat to sack the quarterback, at least not yet. He could develop into that player.

Malik Jackson, a former fifth round pick, got paid. The Jacksonville Jaguars had money than any other team in free-agency with over $76 million in cap space, so they had to spend big. Again, there are highs and lows in NFL free-agency. It is unlikely that Malik Jackson will see this contract come to its full fruition.

It would be surprising if, even after Malik Jackson has a few solid seasons with the Jaguars, he will be asked to take a pay cut, or even worse, he will get released from the team.

Other outrageous movements this NFL free-agency period has produced is the $72 million contract the Houston Texans gave to QB Brock Osweiler.

This is not a knock on Osweiler. He could turn out to become a really good quarterback when it is all said and done, but eight meaningful appearances in a four-year NFL career should never translate into $72 million. After taking a back seat to Peyton Manning for a while, Osweiler’s pending free-agency put him into the driver’s seat in his career.

The Texans did not have to bid for his services by offering more money than the Denver Broncos. All they had to do was show him some love. It is the lack of love that Yahoo Sports reported was the deciding factor in Brock Osweiler bolting to the Houston Texans. As long as he proves to be a clear upgrade over incumbent starter Brian Hoyer, Osweiler will see the end of his contract.

Getting let go by a team is the worst part of the NFL free-agency period.

Players sign their contracts. Those contracts are not guaranteed by more than just 50 percent, usually. It is custom that NFL teams change their minds in the middle of a contract. For them, the fact that many NFL contracts are only partially guaranteed allows them to save themselves from the “go all in” approach, which they take in NFL free-agency.

As a professional football player, you understand that at any time your career can be over with one vicious hit. Also, a team that can change their mind on an agreement weighs on a player’s mind. That does not mean that a player wants to uproot their family after being entrenched in a community for a couple of years.

The case of Brent Grimes comes to mind.

After three strong seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Grimes, who was an undrafted free agent in 2006, was cut by the team. He was halfway into a four-year, $32 million contract, with $16 million in guaranteed money. Him getting released came on the heels of a Pro Bowl season. Some will point to several comments made by his wife, radio personality Miko Grimes, as the reason he was let go. Among those comments was a criticism of the underwhelming QB, Ryan Tannehill.

Miko Grimes is regarded as a polarizing figure these days for her strong opinions that were spoken on Twitter. She has since deleted her Twitter account, but her words should be given more than just a chuckle. She paints a picture that can be viewed between the lines regarding a need for more guarantees in the contracts handed out in NFL free-agency.

Her latest frustration is how the Miami Dolphins handled her husband’s contract. As his wife, she is directly affected by anything that happens to him. It is well within her right to be upset about her husband being released. Most people will suggest that she should have kvetched in private. That would mean being silent about the problems that hurts NFL free-agency, the fact that these eye-catching contracts are not guaranteed but for a percentage, which is usually less than half.

Many will be quick in pointing out that Brent and Miko Grimes should understand that is the way a football player’s life can go. Football is a business first and NFL free-agency can bring out the worst side of the business.

The Grimes’ want what many of us want: stability. The fact that Brent Grimes was an undrafted free agent means he has not had that his entire career, until he signed the four-year Dolphins’ deal. Stability was finally coming true, but then Grimes found himself looking for work.

Was it really Miko Grimes’ fault that Brent Grimes was cut, or was it the fact that the Dolphins would have owed him millions of dollars? Miami could get out of their responsibilities by ripping up the deal as NFL free-agency beckons in order to heap more money elsewhere.

What is sad about this is that most teams do this. The cut cost to compensate for the overspending that they do during NFL free-agency. And they do it to make a splash. These teams do it to remain in the minds of their fans. If a struggling team as the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dolphins were wanting to sell the idea of hope to their fan base, what they do is go out and spend big the moment NFL free-agency opens up. When they want to maximize their cap room, teams take the business approach by cutting players, many of them are productive.

What about their stability?

The NFL is a business first. They think about the families last. Otherwise, the majority of the huge contracts being bandied about would offer more guarantees. In a sport so dangerous, guarantees are a premium.

Ah, the joys of NFL free-agency.

[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]