The beginning of NFL free agency is one of the most exciting parts of the offseason. With legal tampering now in place, there is always a frenzy of activity as soon as the whistle blows.
The Ravens and their fans were in an unfamiliar place this offseason heading into the new league year– no playoffs in 2013, and an ample amount of cap space.
The ample cap space, while not the norm, was exciting. Ozzie and the front office finally had enough money at their disposal to find a playmaker, and retain some of their own key guys.
As far as top tier receivers were concerned, there were none. Sure they could have gone after Eric Decker and overpaid him the way the Jets did, but they knew better.
Instead they found a proven guy who has consistently shown he can be a difference maker. Steve Smith was the right player at the right price.
As far as their own free agents go, they did about as good a job as they could. They identified their priorities and kept most of them.
Now that the dust has settled and the frenzy has calmed, they’ve emerged looking pretty smart. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. But with the less exciting wave of free agency now underway, this is when Ozzie does his best work.
The first two weeks of free agency are like the first two rounds of a fantasy draft. They are the most exciting and the fastest. The big names come off the board first, some too soon and at a higher price than they should.
Talk to anyone who has won a fantasy league championship or two though, and they’ll tell you that winning teams are built in the middle and later rounds. When some guys at the draft start to lose focus or have a few too many beers, that’s where championships are built.
Finding high value guys in the later rounds is what makes or breaks your fantasy season.
While it may not be the most exciting, NFL teams are now entering what’s comparable to the middle rounds of a fantasy draft. The big names are gone, but there are still plenty of quality players who need a home.
Looking at the past few off seasons, some of the biggest additions have come in the later stages of free agency for the Ravens.
In 2012 Corey Graham was signed in late March after sitting on the market for a couple of weeks. His deal was for 2 years at just over $4 million. This turned out to be great value for a player who made key contributions and played a big role in the Ravens Super Bowl run.
A couple of weeks later they came to terms with Jacoby Jones. His deal was for two years $7 million. His game changing plays have been the difference in several key wins, including Super Bowl XLVII.
Last year the Ravens found Daryl Smith still on the market in June. Smith was signed to a one-year deal for just over $1 million. He may be the best example of how well Ozzie can identify these types of players. You could argue he was the best defensive player on the field for the Ravens last year.
While the first couple weeks of free agency are important and exciting, the later phases are just as important for the future and long-term success of teams.
Luckily for Ravens fans, Ozzie and the front office are well known for being able to identify the best of the rest.