FRISCO, Texas –So let's see, we celebrate The Ides of March on Thursday and St. Patrick's Day on Saturday.
But today, Wednesday, March 14, 2018, we celebrate the NFL New Year.
Happy Free Agency, the 25th anniversary of NFL Free Agency, and when the clock struck 3 p.m. the NFL says there were officially 525 players becoming free agents of one sort or another, available for 32 clubs to sign.
Yep, I was there for the birth of free agency, back in the spring of 1994, when the NFL and its owners thought combining free agency with a hard salary cap would discourage overzealous owners with money to spend (i.e. Jerry Jones at the time) from offering huge signing bonuses and guaranteed money that would come back to bite them in their salary cap-pocketbook behinds if those deals didn't work out.
Thus, the Cowboys didn't even try to re-sign most valuable linebacker Ken Norton Jr. when the San Francisco 49ers pulled out their salary cap credit card. They signed Norton to a five-year, $8 million deal, giving him a $2 million signing bonus that could be spread over the life of the contract.
The Niners then signed Deion Sanders to a one-year, $1.3 million deal, but loaded the backend with playing incentives that would not kick in until the following season.
The Niners then beat the Cowboys in the NFC title game after losing the title in consecutive seasons and won the Super Bowl.
And with that, the wraps came off NFL free agency. Yep, all bets were off, and top players started cashing in. Even the Cowboys jumped in, Jones then signing Sanders to a seven-year, $35 million deal, including a $12.999 million signing bonus to be prorated over the life of the deal.
And now, 25 years of free agency later, a $35 million deal is basically the guaranteed part of contracts being signed Wednesday in the first wave of 2018 free agency. I mean, we've come to the point where quarterback Kirk Cousins is expected to sign with Minnesota for as much as $86 million over three years. Guaranteed!
Happy Birthday NFL players. Good thing you weren't born 25 years ago. Or, in fact, maybe like five years ago, before the explosion of guaranteed money.
Still insist buyer beware, and also caution to look inside these contracts' fine print to see what they are actually worth.
But, gosh almighty, these teams are really taking some expensive Shots.
- Big Spenders? Yeah, yeah, I know. No one likes the fact the Cowboys are, as Jones likes to say, keeping their "powder dry." So far, they have signed the best defensive end in free agency for $17.143 million (DeMarcus Lawrence) and have placed a restricted tender of $2.91 million on defensive lineman David Irving that would return them a second-round draft choice this year if they decided not to match an offer sheet Irving might sign with another team. Oh, and they also have retained four-time Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin for $9.3 million. Saw where someone called Jones "cheap." Hmmm. That's $29.353 million for three players in one year. Guess our definitions of cheap differ.
- Ouch:This one hurts the Cowboys bad, but congrats to Anthony Hitchens for signing that five-year, as-much-as (with incentives) $49.25 million deal with Kansas City. The guarantees give Hitch $21.29 million over two years. Not bad change for a guy who made about $4 million over his first four years in the league. Thing is, the Chiefs can get out of the deal after two years and save $5 million from what they would owe him in 2020.
- Money Badger: So made the guys laugh here when we found out safety Tyrann Mathieu was released by the Cardinals, mostly because the Cardinals did not want to guarantee him $18.75 million over the final three years of his $62.5 million deal if on the roster March 16. By not doing so, the Cards will eat $9.3 million in dead money. That tells you they really did not want to commit that much money to the former Honey Badger. Then saw where in 2017 Mathieu had 74 tackles and two picks, and pointed out that Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, the guy endlessly picked on by fans, had 81 tackles and three picks. And that for a cap hit of $1.9 million. Come on, just sayin'.
- Make Believe: Never ever believed the Miami Dolphins would pay Ndamukong Suh $114.4 million dollars over six years. Releasing him Wednesday means they ended up paying him $60 million over three years, and to get out of guarantees coming up, they will eat $22 million in dead money over the next two years.
- Pricey Business: Thought this might be a target at wide receiver for the Cowboys to bolster their depth, possibly making a run at the Seahawks' speedy Paul Richardson. He had 44 catches this past season for 703 yards (16.0 avg.) and six touchdowns after finally healthy. Couldn't cost much, right? Well, reports had the Redskins agreeing to a five-year, $40 million contract with Richardson, meaning $8 million a year if there isn't a bunch of funny money in the deal. So much for that thought.
- Draft Party Hearty: So, learned some details about what will take place April 26-28 during the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Not only are their plans for as many as 40,000 people a day to sit inside the stadium to actually watch the draft take place, there will be all these other interactive activities taking place on the stadium's outdoor plazas, including fans being able to take their shot at running a 40-yard dash … alongside an LED board to the left that will have an NFL player running his 40 next to you. How many seconds might you be behind a guy turning in say a 4.4 time in the 40?
Hey, no problem, put your ego aside and take your Shot. Won't cost you a dime. Unlike the rising cost of free agency.