The competition for who wins the offseason gets underway Tuesday, when the frenzy of NFL free agency kicks off and teams can begin talking contracts with unrestricted free agents.
Free agency is an essential method for improvement for most teams, but activity and dollars spent certainly are not accurate indicators of success. As teams begin to write some big checks the next few weeks, NFL Nation reporters break down how active their teams have been in free agency the past three years, along with the hits and misses and how all of it has translated into success on the field.
Based on our rankings of total contract value during the free-agency period the past three seasons, the big spenders in the offseason are not exactly the big winners during the season. The combined win percentage of the top-10 spenders the past three years is .418. Compare that to .586 by the bottom 10, a group that includes the Patriots, Cowboys, Seahawks, Packers and Steelers.
Check out the rankings below, and click the links for each team to view the full posts.
Contract value: $488,413,000 | Signings: 28 | W-L: 11-37
Nearly all of the Jaguars’ high-profile signings failed to work out. The team got little return on investment when it came to winning games. Read more.
Contract value: $414,186,176 | Signings: 34 | W-L: 22-26
Phase 1 of Oakland’s return to relevance was a two-year deconstruction, which included getting rid of “out of whack” contracts. Phase 2 was the reconstruction, which included smart drafting and free-agent signings. Read more.
Contract value: $384,517,532 | Signings: 45 | W-L: 23-25
The Giants have seemingly taken a different approach to free agency every year. Overall, they’ve done pretty well in restocking the roster after several years of barren drafting. Read more.
Contract value: $312,886,060 | Signings: 33 | W-L: 19-29
The Jets have relied on free agency because their drafting from 2008 to 2012 was horrendous. They’ve done a better job in free agency than in the draft, but we’re not talking gold-star-worthy. Read more.
Contract value: $301,681,765 | Signings: 55 | W-L: 14-34
The Bears’ record (14-34) over three years speaks for itself. Chicago has endured more misses than hits in free agency, though the 2016 free-agent class is promising. Read more.
Contract value: $282,625,000 | Signings: 32 | W-L: 24-24
The Dolphins had to break the bank for Ndamukong Suh in 2015, to the tune of $114.375 million. He was one of the safest bets in free agency the past decade. Read more.
Contract value: $276,890,000 | Signings: 28 | W-L: 24-24
Chip Kelly took a big swing and inked DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $40 million contract in 2015, but the running back lasted just one season with the Eagles. Read more.
Contract value: $270, 320,866 | Signings: 40 | W-L: 25-23
The Falcons are coming off a solid free-agent class. Such building blocks helped turn the Falcons into the NFC South champion and put them one step away from the Super Bowl title. Read more.
Contract value: $259,911,763 | Signings: 31 | W-L: 21-26-1
The Redskins haven’t hit on enough free agents the past three seasons, which has contributed to their subpar defense. Overall, spending money has not led to great results. Read more.
Contract value: $259,897,536 | Signings: 32 | W-L: 17-31
In Jason Licht’s three seasons as GM, the Bucs have had far more success with drafting young players. This is why they’ve given out fewer multiyear deals to outside free agents. Read more.
Contract value: $252,225,000 | Signings: 31 | W-L: 14-34
Cornerback Perrish Cox jumped from San Francisco to Tennessee in 2015, and things were OK for a while. But he dropped off late in his first season. Read more.
Contract value: $236,687,236 | Signings: 27 | W-L: 33-15
John Elway consistently talks about getting “value” in free agency, which means he’s willing to spend big for big return. The team has not been as active most years as it was in 2014. Read more.
Contract value: $216,080,705 | Signings: 31 | W-L: 27-21
There is no doubt that the Texans’ biggest free-agent miss the past three years was quarterback Brock Osweiler, who struggled from the start. Read more.
Contract value: $205,801,882 | Signings: 42 | W-L: 21-27
It’s hard to imagine that many teams have fumbled more in free agency than the Saints have the past three seasons. Several big-money misses have led to three straight 7-9 seasons. Read more.
Contract value: $183,069,706 | Signings: 26 | W-L: 27-21
Bad free-agent signings have put new general manager Chris Ballard in the tough position of having to reshape the entire defensive unit. Read more.
Contract value: $182,974,999 | Signings: 23 | W-L: 32-16
The Chiefs were a playoff team the past two seasons more because of their good work in the draft and in retaining their own free agents than because of any help they received from the outside. Read more.
Contract value: $165,355,000 | Signings: 30 | W-L: 23-25
The Ravens’ overall record and track record in free agency mirror each other the past three seasons. Baltimore has had an equal amount of hits and misses when adding new players. Read more.
Contract value: $150,915,429 | Signings: 26 | W-L: 31-16-1
The Cardinals have had good luck with free agents in their 30s the past three years, but Larry Foote might have been their best “sneaky good” signing. Read more.
Contract value: $149,868,823 | Signings: 21 | W-L: 11-37
Judging free-agency moves for the Browns is summed up in this reality: They have lost 33 of the past 37 games they’ve played, and 2016 was the worst season in Browns history. Read more.
Contract value: $149,635,588 | Signings: 26 | W-L: 18-30
An organization that focuses on drafting, developing and retaining its core players, the Chargers avoided chasing high-dollar free agents the past three years. Read more.
Contract value: $148,365,000 | Signings: 32 | W-L: 24-24
The Bills’ exactly .500 record the past three seasons is appropriate because their decision-making in free agency in that time has been a mixed bag. Read more.
Contract value: $144,545,293 | Signings: 40 | W-L: 27-21
Detroit’s best free-agent signing the past three years is also one of its most notable. The Lions identified receiver Golden Tate as the player they most coveted. Read more.
Contract value: $131,712,181 | Signings: 22 | W-L: 17-31
The Rams built primarily through the draft, so it’s difficult to grade their free-agency activity the past three years. But they needed to hit on some value signings and didn’t do enough of that. Read more.
Contract value: $126,035,882 | Signings: 34 | W-L: 38-10
Focusing on quality volume has worked for the Patriots, who seem to have a knack for finding undervalued assets in the marketplace and bringing out the best in them. Read more.
Contract value: $118,395,000 | Signings: 25 | W-L: 26-22
The Vikings have largely used free agency to acquire upgrades for their defense, and their approach has worked. Read more.
Contract value: $116,363,600 | Signings: 28 | W-L: 29-19
The Cowboys have altered their philosophy in free agency the past few years, choosing to stay out of the high-priced end of the pool and instead fill holes. Read more.
Contract value: $110,965,000 | Signings: 27 | W-L: 32-15-1
Because the Seahawks were so successful in the 2010-2012 drafts, they haven’t had to rely much on free agency. They could benefit from a couple more hits, however, specifically on the O-line. Read more.
Contract value: $99,895,000 | Signings: 19 | W-L: 28-18-2
Although the philosophy of building through the draft instead of free agency has kept the Bengals from signing any epic busts, the team hasn’t gotten significantly better the past few years. Read more.
Contract value: $94,499,000 | Signings: 17 | W-L: 15-33
Of the unrestricted free agents the Niners have signed or re-signed the past three offseasons, only six have signed deals of longer than one year. Read more.
Contract value: $86,865,000 | Signings: 25 | W-L: 32-16
The Steelers are batting a high enough percentage to justify their free-agency plan, which is to supplement a draft-pick-heavy roster with outside signings. Read more.
Contract value: $68,068,125 | Signings: 12 | W-L: 32-16
The biggest surprise when it comes to spending was that the Packers weren’t last in the NFL the past three years. Instead, they rank 31st out of 32 teams in total money spent. Read more.
Contract value: $54,309,000 | Signings: 24 | W-L: 28-19-1
The Panthers have been one of the least active teams in free agency the past three years, ranking 26th in the NFL in total signings and last in total money spent. Read more.
Signings made during the free-agency period beginning in March. Win-loss records for the past three seasons.
Sources: Spotrac and ESPN Stats & Info
What free agency has meant to the success of every NFL team – ESPN