The Atlanta Falcons have made a lot of people very angry by doing the most natural thing in the world to this particular organization, something that is anathema to us as fans.
They've been quiet, slow and haven't made any big moves.
Over the last three days and change, the collective fan mood has gone from hopeful to enraged to desolate. It's like the stages of grief in microcosm, and it's made my head spin a little to watch. Somehow, years of frustration and one hyperbolic post-season press conference have turned us all into rageaholics. Yes, we're addicted to rageahol!
Ultimately, even I'll admit to being frustrated. It feels like the Falcons front office is doing nothing, which is one of the worst sins a team that didn't just win the Super Bowl can commit. But I want to make the case that while they're far from perfect and they really must make a couple signings and improve this football team, the fact that we're 72 hours in and nothing's really happened isn't the end of the world.
Guess what? When it comes to the free agent market, patience is a virtue. Over the last several years, there are four teams that have consistently refused to bid on big-time free agents. These teams have achieved success by waiting for prices to fall and grabbed good fits for their squads, filling in holes with draft picks and nurturing a team build from within, not from without. Want to take a shot at which four teams I'm talking about?
If you guessed the Saints, the Packers, the Patriots, the Ravens and the Steelers....ding ding ding. The common thread for all those teams is that they've been enormously successful in recent years, consistently making the playoffs and winning three Super Bowls between them in the last five years. Now tell me how many big, splashy free agents those teams have signed over that span. Your number's going to be a lot closer to zero if you don't count Darren Sproles.
Now, reader dom made the fair point yesterday that most of those teams are better at drafting than the Falcons. The Patriots have hit and miss a lot in recent years and the Saints have whiffed on a lot of defensive draft picks, but the point is a valid one. It's also tough to build through the draft when you're missing picks, of course, and these teams are still out signing free agents. If the Falcons go into the season with the current roster minus Curtis Lofton and John Abraham and plus only their draft class, you have my permission to freak the floog out.
But ultimately, it's instructive to note that some of the best teams in the NFL have built through the draft and not being willing to go all in on one or two players, while some of the worst franchises have poured a ton of money into those kinds of free agents (the Redskins spring readily to mind). It's an approach that bears fruit if you're willing to commit to it and you have smart people running your franchise.
So I'm all for patience and judicious use of cap space, as long as the team does get better. The question is whether you trust the front office to implement it, and that's the question I'm asking you now.