On March 10, the proverbial bell was rung on the new NFL season. With the start of a new league year, free agency opened and a frantic race to acquire talent began across 32 captivated cities.
Free agency is glitz and glamour, with billionaires wining and dining millionaires. It is also fool's gold. Getting really excited and buying all the new jerseys from the team store is a terrible idea, and will probably just remind you what a disaster your high-spending, in-it-to-win-it team became for throwing money around like a drunken bachelor.
This year, we cast our cautionary glances at the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills shelled out for Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy (acquired via trade and then given a massive extension), and brought in Richie Incognito and Percy Harvin. The New York Jets certainly got better in the short-term by signing Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and David Harris, but the money may have been excessive for aging players. Then there are the Miami Dolphins, who gave Ndamukong Suh an unprecedented contract for a defensive player.
All of these deals give fans reason to be excited. However, the last six years are full of teams that "won" the offseason then floundered:
2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers decided to go all-in for the 2014 season, bringing Lovie Smith in at head coach to replace Greg Schiano. Tampa Bay did not wait around to make moves when the free agency period opened, signing a pair of former Cincinnati Bengals in left tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson. The Buccaneers also acquired corner Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown. All told, Tampa Bay committed $109.5 million to those four players.
The Buccaneers watched as the season became a 2-14 nightmare. They have already cut McCown after his quarterback rating fell nearly 40 points off his breakout season in Chicago, and now own the first pick in the draft. Things could not have been much worse for a team expected to compete in the woeful NFC South.
2013 Miami Dolphins
Remember when signing Mike Wallace was a great idea for Miami? The Dolphins were trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and inked Wallace to a five-year deal worth $60 million. Miami was far from done however, signing inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to a five-year, $35 million deal.
So how did things work out? Wallace was a bust. He never topped 1,000 yards receiving in a season, averaged fewer than 13 yards per reception -- despite his big-play reputation -- and is now in Minnesota. Ellerbe had 101 tackles in 2013 before playing in one game last year. He was sent to the Saints in this offseason. During their two years with Miami, the team went 8-8 twice and failed to reach the playoffs.
2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay, again, was feeling frisky. Under Raheem Morris, the Buccaneers had dropped from 10-6 to 4-12 in 2011, leading to his dismissal. General manager Mark Dominik brought in Greg Schiano to become head coach, and then went on a spending spree which included Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks, Dan Orlovsky and Eric Wright. All told, the quartet took up $34.75 million of cap space.
The Buccaneers went 7-9, a three-game improvement but still a massive disappointment. Many believed Tampa Bay would make a postseason run, only to drop five consecutive games in November and December. Jackson has proven to be a good signing, but the rest were disasters. The franchise doubled down in 2013 by trading for Darrelle Revis and shelling out for Dashon Goldson to improve the defense ... only to dip to 4-12 and finish 21st in points allowed per game.
2011 Philadelphia Eagles
Going into 2011, the Eagles were fresh off a 10-6 season and an NFC East title. Andy Reid wanted to make another Super Bowl run, and went into overdrive with the trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the signings of Ryan Harris, Nnamdi Asomugha, Vince Young, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith and Jason Babin.
Talk was rampant of a potential juggernaut. Instead, Philadelphia was a total mess. The Eagles finished 8-8, including a four-game win streak to end the year. Outside of Babin, none of those players worked out well for Philadelphia, eventually costing Reid his job the next year.
Remember this quote moving forward, Eagles fans. Howie Roseman, from March 2013, speaking about the "Dream Team," per PhillyMag.com:
"For us to not look back and see what happened at that time and why it happened ... we've spent a lot of time doing that since coach (Chip Kelly) has gotten here -- about where we were in our program," said Roseman. "And it's very different than where we're at now."
2010 Miami Dolphins
Miami believed it was fairly close to becoming consistently competitive with the New England Patriots after winning the AFC East during the Tom Brady-less 2008 season. But after a down 2009 in which they went 7-9, the Dolphins decided to reload behind general manager Jeff Ireland, signing Karlos Dansby to a five-year, $43 million deal. Ireland also brought in Richie Incognito and re-signed Chad Pennington, who was coming off a season-ending shoulder injury.
After the litany of moves, the Dolphins repeated their previous 7-9 mark. Pennington played in just one game, and it proved to be the last of his career. Dansby put up solid tackling stats but never lived up to the hype. He ended up cut after three seasons, none of which included the Dolphins making the playoffs. Of course, we all know the Incognito signing finished with Ted Wells investigating a bullying scandal, giving us one of the sorriest episodes in recent sports history.
Washington decided to go all-in in 2009, signing the biggest fish on the market in defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a seven-year, $100 million deal. Owner Dan Snyder also signed corner DeAngelo Hall for $54 million and guard Derrick Dockery for $26.5 million over five years.
In typical Washington fashion, the team went from 8-8 to 4-12. Haynesworth became one of the biggest busts of free agency all-time, starting just 12 games in two seasons with Washington, and Hall will be remembered as an average defensive back at best (though an all-time great kick returner). Washington is still looking for its first postseason win since 2005.