DeMarco Murray (left) and Dez Bryant are expected to sign big free-agent contracts this offseason. But offseason spending does not always lead to regular-season success.
With NFL free agency beginning March 10, ESPN Stats & Information will examine some of the biggest stories surrounding the 2015 free-agent class.
What impact does “winning the offseason” have on win-loss records in the NFL?
Six of the 12 teams that have ranked in the top three in free-agent spending since 2011 did not improve their win total, including all three of last year’s top spending teams. The below information comes from spotrac.com.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($147 million), Denver Broncos ($128M) and New York Giants ($111M) spent the most in terms of cash value during the offseason, but the trio averaged a two-win drop-off compared to 2013 (including playoffs). The Patriots, who won Super Bowl XLIX, ranked 16th in free-agent spending last offseason.
The Miami Dolphins ($160M), Indianapolis Colts ($129M) and Tennessee Titans ($133M) each added one win compared to their 2012 totals. The Colts were the only team to make it to the postseason. The Seattle Seahawks, winners of Super Bowl XLVIII, ranked 24th in total cash value spent that offseason.
The Buccaneers ($162M) were big spenders in 2012 and added three wins to their 2011 total of four. Peyton Manning’s move to Denver helped the Broncos ($151M) improve from eight to 13 wins. The Bills ($129M) made headlines by signing defensive end Mario Williams but finished with another 6-10 season. The Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens ranked sixth in free-agent spending that year.
The Carolina Panthers ($198M) spent big the year they drafted Cam Newton, which was after a two-win 2010 season. They won six games in 2011. The win totals of both the Seahawks ($134M) and Falcons ($125M) decreased from 2010 to 2011. The Giants ranked 17th in total cash value that offseason before winning Super Bowl XLVI.
How are champions built?
The spending habits of the past four Super Bowl champions varied, but there was one common thread -- none of the major free-agent acquisitions underperformed on teams that won the Super Bowl. All signings at least met or exceeded the cap value of their contracts.
The below information comes from the Roster Management System.
The Patriots spent heavily in the 2014 free-agent market, signing three of the team’s top four defensive backs in snaps played from outside the organization (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Patrick Chung). Brandon LaFell and LeGarrette Blount played important roles in New England’s Super Bowl run as well.
Both the 2012 Ravens and 2011 Giants spent heavily on internal free agents. Baltimore found some bargains with external free agents that cost less than $2 million each, but spent a combined $7.4 million of their 2012 cap to bring back defensive contributors Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Brendon Ayanbadejo. The Giants took a similar approach, committing $9.1 million on Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boothe, Mathias Kiwanuka and Deon Grant.