It would be inaccurate to say you can’t win a Super Bowl by banking heavily on free agency.
But it is rare.
John Clayton of the Washington Post points out that the Broncos’ generous spending helped them to a Super Bowl 50 title, otherwise the big winners in March seldom duplicate that success in January and February.
According to Clayton, of the 49 highest-paid players in 2016 free agency, only 14 remain on the teams that signed them. Only 22 of the top 60 highest-paid in 2017 are still with the teams that made those splashes. And last year’s unrestricted free agent class produced just two Pro Bowlers, neither of them starters (special teamers Andre Roberts and Michael Thomas, and Roberts has already changed teams again).
Last week served as a reminder that some of the biggest deals often unravel quickly, with the Panthers cutting left tackle Matt Kalil after two years of a five-year, $55 million deal, the Buccaneers trading DeSean Jackson, and two previous prime free agent signings being traded for each other (Olivier Vernon and Kevin Zeitler swapping their Browns and Giants addresses).
There are still plenty of teams doing big business in free agency, and it’s hard to argue that the Jets in particular haven’t improved with the addition of C.J. Mosley and Le'Veon Bell. But many teams are also overspending on players who are not among the best at their positions, because fewer great players are making their way to the open market at all.