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Money Ball: Will NFL Teams Approach Free Agency Differently Now?

Money Ball 2.0

Thursday’s NFL free agency frenzy marked the beginning of another calendar year for pro football. As cash-laden teams clamored for what’s essential, another team’s unwanted trash. Two teams were finalizing a deal, that would change free agency forever.

Going into the day the Cleveland Browns were expected to be at the forefront of activity, due to the $102m cap space at their disposal. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans found themselves with an ailing quarterback (who they’d signed to a 4-year $72m [$38m guaranteed] contact) and limited maneuverability within this year’s free agency window.



Game Changer

What unfolded next, left the Twitterverse dumbfounded, and awash with keyboard warriors salivating at the prospect of yet more misery for the hapless Browns. The Texans had not only acquired a fourth round draft selection (2017) for Brock Osweiler but also created an extra $10m in cap space. The price? The Texans sent their 2018 second round draft selection to the Browns.

Essentially, the Browns paid $16m for a second round draft selection. With the ink barely dry on the deal. Reports surfaced that the Browns were shopping Osweiler, with a willingness to eat $8m of the contract. The deal was basically an NBA-style salary dump.

As the dust settled on the transaction, it became evident that the deal was perfect for either side. The cynics will argue that $16m for a second round draft selection is a hefty price to pay. But they’d be wise to remember, that the Browns, like the other 31 teams in the NFL are required to spend a minimum 89% of the allocated salary cap.





Texans Part Overlooked

While the accolades have been thrusted upon the Browns brain trust for their analytical prowess. We should look towards the Texans and their ability not only, to own up to a mistake. But also their willingness to dump a salary for a second round draft pick.

Going forward will we see more teams burdened by the salary cap, offloading highly paid yet underperforming players? If so, the Browns/Osweiler trade will live on. As will their Moneyball 2.0 approach, which looks set to have a lasting legacy within the NFL. But ask yourself this, Who changed the way teams will conduct themselves in free agency going forward? Was it the Browns, or the Texans? Or perhaps it was just fate. As two teams inadvertently stumbled upon a solution?

However, we remember the 2017 free agency period. One thing certain, outside of the bleachers at the NRG Stadium. The Texans role will be as memorable as the 2016 playoffs. I get the sense this suits the Texans diehards.

As we all know, the NFL is a copycat business. So who’ll be the next high-profile player to be effective ‘Osweilered’?

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