Why Sign “X,” When You Could Draft “Y”?

This time each year, franchises celebrate the signing of new free agent players. It’s also the time of year where players are cut or traded too prematurely in their contracts, signifying a past misstep from the front office. I’m here today to point to some recent free agent additions where the player has been overpaid.

I should clarify that the player being offered this type of contract is a massive win for them and their families. Secure those bags, gentlemen. As an analyst of the NFL Draft, however, I see natural replacements for these players that will be available in just over one month.

Below is four examples of free agent signings where the position in question should’ve just been addressed in the NFL Draft, where a similar player could’ve come close to matching their production at a fraction of the cost.

Why sign John Brown, when you could draft Mecole Hardman or Andy Isabella?

To the Bills credit, they realized a weakness on their roster with their wide receiver corps, and worked to correct it. While John Brown has found success as an undersized downfield threat, I think they would’ve been better off finding one with more size.

Nonetheless, Buffalo committed 3 years and $27 million to Brown, with $11.7 million guaranteed. At 28 years old, there is a potential “out” worked in that could see Brown cut from the roster, at the penalty of just $3.2 million in “dead” cap space after the 2019 season. But if the plan is to cut Brown after just one year, why not look for the answer at that position in the NFL Draft.

With the 103rd pick, Buffalo could’ve been targeting Mecole Hardman or Andy Isabella. Another consideration for that spot could’ve been Terry McLaurin. Specifically Hardman and Isabella are similarly sized players to Brown, who both stretch the field with quickness. I’d argue that both of them have a potential ceiling higher than Brown, who is currently in his prime.

Buffalo would’ve been better off investing at that position in a rookie who could grow alongside of quarterback Josh Allen for the next 4 years.

Why sign Buster Skrine, when you could draft Julian Love or Hamp Cheevers?

Chicago was looking to strengthen their secondary with a primary nickel corner, and signed Buster Skrine away from the Jets for 3 years and $16.5 million, with $8.5 million guaranteed. Good news, right? The only holdup is that Buster Skrine allowed a passer rating of 124.2 last season, good for 112th out of 121 qualifying cornerbacks.

Not great, Bob!

At 29 years-old, it’s tough to imagine Skrine improves his game moving forward. It’s possible that he’ll fit in better to a new, competitive setting. It’s also possible that Chicago should’ve just looked towards the NFL Draft for their nickel corner.

Julian Love at pick 88 or Hamp Cheevers at pick 127 would’ve been legitimate starting options equal to Skrine. On top of that, their potential for growth as 21 year-olds would be far greater than Skrine’s in his ninth NFL season.

Why sign C.J. Mosley, when you could draft Devin White?

The first thing that needs to be addressed is that C.J. Mosley is a very good NFL linebacker. I would never argue that, but I would never pay him what the Jets are about to. New York committed 5 years and $85 million to Mosley, including a whopping $51 million in guarantees. While, like I said, Mosley is a good player, I don’t think linebackers effect the game that much to ever warrant a contract of that length and magnitude.

If the jets wanted a difference maker in the linebacker core, they could have simply looked at LSU’s Devin White with Pick 3 of the NFL Draft. White is younger, more physical and would come for a fraction of Mosley’s paycheck.

Why sign Rodger Saffold, when you could draft Dru Samia or Ben Powers?

The Titans dished out money to Rodger Saffold in order to strengthen their interior offensive line, a position of need. While Saffold has been a consistent performer over the years, I have issues with this contract.

They offered Saffold 4 years and $44 million, including $22.5 million in guarantees. There is basically no time where Tennessee could get out of the contract, either, as the dead cap hit would still be nearly $5 million in 2021. That’s quite the investment to make for a soon-to-be 31 year-old guard.

It’s a solid class of interior offensive lineman in the NFL Draft, which means future starters will be available on Day 2. Two of those are former teammates at Oklahoma, Dru Samia and Ben Powers. Either one of those bruisers on a rookie contract could be close to reaching Saffold’s production at a minor percentage of the cost.

Written By:

Brad Kelly

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Wide Receivers Coach at Salve Regina University. Salve Regina Football ‘15.

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