DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer, Ryan Alton
It’s April. That means baseball, rain, and more importantly (to us at least), the NFL Draft. The excitement of Free Agency went from frenzy to fizzle in surprisingly short order as big names signed early and lesser-knowns took one year deals largely due to the buyer’s market that was so prevalent this year.
Clearly, many players and agents didn’t like the offers they were seeing from teams as they window shopped around the league. As a result, they decided that taking a one-year deal would afford them the opportunity to try for the big money again next year. This practice made for an unprecedented player signing period where it became little more than an interesting game of musical chairs.
The one-year deal phenomenon is definitely a risk vs. reward strategy because players typically want long term security and there’s no guarantee they’ll stay healthy this year. It’s like the NFL version of Russian roulette and the exact reason so many players hate being given the franchise tag. But, of course, players are confident in their abilities. Choosing to gamble on themselves rather than sign a long term deal for much less than they feel they’re worth speaks to the discrepancy between perceived vs. actual value that is becoming such a problem in the NFL.
On the flip side of this are the teams, of course. Some seem more than willing to sign guys for a year at a time, while others clearly prefer a more sustainable model of team-building. There’s no right or wrong approach right now. Only time will tell which teams took the smarter path. Its important to recognize that every team in the league has the same goal but they are each embarking upon different stages of achieving that goal. One recent signing illustrates this fact quite well.
On Saturday, the Browns “lost out” on former Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who took a one year deal to sign with the Miami Dolphins. It has been reported that the Browns offered Grimes a multi-year deal, which makes sense if you’re building a team long-term instead of trying to patch holes in your roster with quick fixes or feel like you’re on the brink of contention.
Grimes probably would’ve been signed a lot earlier, likely by the Falcons, had he not ruptured his Achilles in Week One of the 2012 season. According to ProFootballFocus, he was a a top flight corner heading into last season and was undoubtedly in line for a huge payday. Then the injury happened and Grimes missed the rest of the season. His value plummeted. And therein lies the risk of the one-year deal.
But in Grimes’ case, unlike other free agents, he’s already had the injury. Now he’s trying to come back and convince teams he still the player he was before. For him, it makes sense to turn down the Browns multi-year offer and prove to the league he can play at a high level for Miami in 2013. Then, if all goes to plan, he can hit the open market again and cash in on a multi-year deal next year.
For the Dolphins, they get a guy coming off a major injury for a one-year rental. If he’s a shell of his former self, they’re not tied up for multiple years. They can always re-sign him next year if he plays well but they better be willing to shell out the big money to do so. They also better be willing to let him walk if he gets a better offer from someone else. And they must be. Otherwise, it would’ve been better for them to offer him a longer deal now like the Browns reportedly did.
For the Browns, a one-year deal for Grimes was never in the cards. It doesn’t make sense. First of all, when is he going to be 100% healthy? Achilles are typically 11-12 month injuries. Grimes got hurt in September. So why sign a player for one year and risk not even get him on the field until August? Also, if I’m Joe Banner and I’m trying to build a team that will be sustainable for a number of years, I’m not signing a guy for one year only to lose him next off-season. Then I just threw cap money out the window and I have the same void to fill next year that I have right now. It’s akin to sticking bubblegum over a leak instead of filling the crack with concrete. Apparently, the Miami Dolphins are content with that. The Browns, at this point in their development, are not.
One other notable issue with Grimes was the fact that Joe Haden is up for a new contract in 2015. If you sign Grimes to a one-year deal, you either have to re-sign him next year for big money or sign someone else while you’re also trying to re-sign Haden. Having to pay both of your starting corners in the same year is a situation the Browns likely don’t want to find themselves in. It would be much better to fill the position opposite Haden for the long-term this year than having to worry about the inevitable of paying both guys next year or possibly losing Haden to free agency in 2015. Again, there’s a method to the madness here.
Now, I can go on all day long about the draft implications of not netting a starting caliber corner opposite Haden in free agency but I’ll get into that later. Just know that there are more options than just Dee Milliner with the #6 pick. You likely won’t find a mock draft or someone from the mainstream media recognize such a possibility but I promise to explore it as we get closer to the end of the month. This is DraftBrowns.com after all. For now, rest assured… Though it may be April, the Browns are not being run by fools.