A Fan’s Take – Modern Day Free Agency Not as Good

Pat’s Points on the NFL Today

I’m usually not one of those old school NFL fans that boasts “the game was so much better way back when…”

This isn’t a column about how defensive players are flagged if quarterbacks are breathed on too heavily or what constitutes a defenseless receiver. This isn’t an opportunity to knock free agents as being greedy or to bash the Washington Redskins for countless foolish (if not idiotic) signings during free agent frenzies of the past.

There’s never been greater coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine and Draft then there is today. The Super Bowl is a worldwide event that culminates after two weeks of speculations, armchair quarterback predictions, and first class entertainment.

Keep playing Roger and we'll keep watching.

Keep playing Roger and we’ll keep watching.

I love the past, present and future of the NFL. If Roger Goodell decided regular season games needed to be played in China or Brazil I’d look for flights and most certainly tune in. If DIRECTV jacked up the price of my Sunday Ticket I would register a formal complaint, but also cough up the necessary cash to enjoy every game from the comfort of my couch.

While around the clock coverage has made the NFL America’s favorite sport and social media puts a mountain of knowledge and information constantly at our fingertips, much of the intrigue is missing from the offseason’s first marquee event–free agency.

Last night on the @TodaysPigskin Podcast, our good friend @ScottPoppen echoed these sentiments to begin the program. Free Agency was supposed to start today, but on Sunday afternoon the dominoes were already starting to fall.

Frank Gore was as a lock to replace LeSean McCoy with the Eagles and Ndamukong Suh to Miami was being reported as cold, hard facts by everyone from ESPN to the albeit clever @AdarnShefter, who if you’re looking for some NFL-Twitter comedy makes a good follow.

The age of rapid reaction and blatant misrepresentation is upon us. Gone are the days when football fans had only a handful of reliable, accurate sources. And while this isn’t a bad turn of events or as some all-too-gullible fans express as the coming of the sports apocolypse, it forces the American public to use their heads a little bit more.

Suh is nearly a lock to sign with the Dolphins, but even the great Adam Schefter didn’t have an exact grasp on the inner-workings of Frank Gore’s thought process. Gore reversed course and met with the Indianapolis Colts today, proving that nothing is in fact official until the ink meets paper.

My favorite memory of free agency was the Free Agent Frenzy before there was social media, in the days that nobody knew what a hashtag was–it was a pound sign. I was a freshman in college during the spring of 1993 and about to enter the combination to open my dorm room when a fellow Bigelow Hall-mate came running through the hallways shouting, “We got Reggie!”

I couldn’t believe it and it didn’t register right away. Was he talking about the best defensive player in the NFL, the Minister of Defense?

“Holy shit! Reggie White signed with the Packers, turn on ESPN,” my new best friend exclaimed. We went into my room since my TV was a mammoth 24-inches. We did what any true Packer-backer would have done on the day that changed free agency and our favorite professional franchise forever–we blew off our afternoon classes and started celebrating with PBRs and ice cold Miller Lites.

Today started out as expected; media outlets were recapping previously reported deals and nothing short of Darrelle Revis signing with the Packers was going to surprise me. But once the clock struck midnight on the 2014 NFL season, the new year began with a bang. Jimmy Graham became a Seahawk, the Rams finally found a suitor for the fragile (if not unlucky) Sam Bradford, and defensive tackle was Ngata problem for the Lions.

Those moves salvaged an otherwise downer of a day that was supposed to be electric. The only real action left to unfold is where DeMarco Murray will play in 2015. More dominoes, like Ryan Mathews and CJ Spiller signing somewhere, will fall shortly after the 2014 NFL’s leading rusher finds a new home or re-ups with the Cowboys.

Before Brees hit the free agent market he was connecting with another great TE, Antonio Gates.

Before Brees hit the free agent market he was connecting with another great TE, Antonio Gates.

Big name QBs aren’t on the open market and fans have to be sick of hearing about Darrelle Revis every single offseason heading to a new team. The NFL is bigger and more complicated than ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s better.

As much as I hate seeing drives kept alive by soft fouls that penalize defenders for actually playing defense, the game is what it is today. Pass interference penalties aren’t reviewable yet, but hopefully someday soon they will be. Quarterbacks are the game’s biggest stars and can barely be touched, which means no signal caller will approach the legendary toughness or consecutive games-started mark of Brett Favre. Football is supposed to be a physical game: hit before you get hit, be the hammer and not the nail and don’t show weakness.

Give me the William Munny approach to defending yourself–I will continue to argue there is no such thing as a defenseless receiver and that every DB should attempt to hit and break up the pass intended for leaping WR instead of waiting for them to catch it before making contact.

I can live with the rule changes that generate more offense and promote player safety across the board. I’ll continue to be as plugged in as possible to all the happenings no matter the time or location in which they take place.

Call me old school, but I just don’t think any NFL news or free agent signings will match the excitement of that afternoon 22 years ago–and that’s probably a great thing.


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