This year’s free agency period saw a very soft market across the board with players generally struggling to find the big-money deals that had been common in prior seasons.
The defensive end and cornerback markets especially saw a lack of big commitments from teams. Cliff Avril – PFT’s top ranked defensive free agent – signed just a two-year, $15 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks a year after being the Detroit Lions franchise player. Elvis Dumervil received just $12 million guaranteed from the Baltimore Ravens after compiling 63.5 sacks in six season with Denver. John Abraham remains unsigned and Dwight Freeney had to wait until after the draft before electing to sign with the San Diego Chargers.
Freeney believes there is a reason for that. According to Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, Freeney believes the owners deliberately tried to lower the bar for free agents across the board. It’s an outright accusation of collusion by Freeney.
“I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents,” Freeney said. “I definitely think that’s part of it. I think the owners made a pact. There’s only 32 of them and none of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money.”
Freeney expressed confusion at how the free agent process played out. He wasn’t the only one. Freeman also quoted an anonymous agent stating how unusual the process was this year.
“I’ve been in this business for several decades and there was never an offseason like this. Never,” the agent said.
Whether the owners were indeed colluding to keep the market low may be difficult – if not impossible – to ever prove. The league has denied it and trying to get a person in-the-know to admit it if it was occurring seems to be highly unlikely. However, it is still a bold statement for Freeney to accuse the owners directly.