The current free-agency market already has been called the worst ever by multiple NFL agents. Though the warning signs were there, with plenty of teams having cap trouble and few having a major spending surplus, players and agents believed that the money would flow in the early days, like it always does.
But only a small handful of players got paid once the market opened. Sure, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco became the highest-paid player of all time, but that happened only because the Ravens opted not to choose between an exclusive franchise tender that would have cost them more than $19 million in 2013 cap room and a non-exclusive level that would have invited other teams to load up an offer sheet and happily give up a pair of first-round picks. Beyond Flacco, no player has set a new high-water mark at his position.
As a result, many have gotten, and eventually will get, far less than they wanted. Including receiver Greg Jennings.
According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jennings at one point during the 2012 season wanted $15 million per year. And so he rejected $11 million per year from the Packers, ultimately getting only $9 million annually from the Vikings.
Along the way, Jennings rejected (per McGinn) a reduced offer of $8 million per year from the Packers, and a $6 million annual flier from the Patriots.
Few saw the crash of the free-agency market coming, and plenty of agents already are whispering about collusion. It’s not suspected in the sense of broad spending restrictions, but with respect to quiet coordination among teams in an effort to set the market at certain positions.
The irony is that, for players and agents, coordination and collusion are permitted — but they don’t seem to be doing much of it. As a result, the teams have managed to land big-name players at bargain-basement costs, and the prices keep dropping at the NFL’s thrift shop.