Frustration has set in throughout the land of Falcons fans.
After a post-season press conference that promised changes and a free agent market with some top-tier options solidified, we were all in the mood for some aggressive moves. The fact that we've rolled through two days without anything more thrilling than a Harry Douglas re-signing has tested the patience of many fans and caused a few to go completely and utterly berserk. Others have championed waiting, and not without cause.
So what do the Falcons win and lose by not charging headfirst into the market waving cash and yelling at any big-name free agent within 100 miles of them? As I see it, there are definite advantages and disadvantages.
What They Gain
- The single biggest advantage to waiting is that the market clarifies. Carl Nicks gets his huge sums of money, John Abraham and Curtis Lofton learn more about their value and Mario Williams get a preposterous contract from a desperate team. The Falcons can then free up cap space and pursue players for what one would hope would be less money, and with less competition thanks to teams chewing up their cap space.
- Teams are releasing guys left and right. At the beginning of free agency, Todd McClure had a lot more leverage than he does now, thanks to Scott Wells exploring free agency and Jamaal Jackson being cut by the Eagles. That expands the free agent pool and gives the team more options.
- While it's not a huge advantage, it keeps other teams guessing. The Falcons have barely been publicly linked to anyone, but we know they're not going to roll through free agency without signing any players at all.
What They Lose
- The top-tier free agents. Whether they could actually afford Mario Williams is anyone's guess, and clearly Carl Nicks was way out or their range. But by letting the market develop, you inevitably lose a few guys who were considered the cream of the crop. No high-profile, big-bang solutions to be had.
- Other teams get in visits and make their pitches. The Falcons may well be in on a rotational pass rusher like Mark Anderson or a tackle like Demetrius Bell, but the Patriots are currently wooing Anderson and Bell's already visiting with the Arizona Cardinals. Given the team's silence this off-season it's impossible to know if they've had conversations with these guys and been rebuffed or are just on the list for later, but it winds up looking pretty curious.
- Potentially, the fans. I'm a pragmatist at heart, and I don't believe it's time to panic when there's a lot of quality free agents and barely two days gone by. There are a fair number of folks who share that belief.
For others, though, this is all deeply disappointing. I understand why. The Falcons talked a great game at the end of the off-season and tapped into fan frustration with a team that hasn't won a playoff game in four years under the current regime. A lot of deeply skeptical people got amped for the possibility of a Mario Williams or Carl Nicks because it seemed like the kind of game-changing move the team would make, and the rumors flew that they might be in on both. Instead, the Falcons haven't signed a single free agent from outside its current free agent pool since the market opened for business. It feels like the status quo, and for many fans, that's just not going to cut it.
Winning solves everything, of course, and if the Falcons return most of the 2011 team and do great things this season it won't matter at all how free agency went. Right now, though, for a lot of people it matters a lot.