If you’re thinking about doing some massive rebuilding to your team through free agency, don’t. Over the last six seasons, only one team, the Chicago Bears in the uncapped season of 2010, has spent over $100 million on unrestricted free agency signings, and managed to make the postseason. The Miami Dolphins have high expectations this season, but it won’t be surprising to see them miss on a playoff berth for a fifth consecutive time.
In 2007, the San Francisco 49ers spent $129.37 million on free agents like Nate Clements (getting $80 million for 8 years) , Michael Lewis, Colby Bockwoldt, Tully Banta-Cain, Aubrayo Franklin, Ashley Lelie and Darrell Jackson. They ended up winning two games less than in the previous season, finishing with a 5-11 record.
The New York Jets were the NFL leaders in 2008, spending $109.62 million on Alan Faneca ($40 million, five years), Calvin Pace ($42 million, six years), Damien Woody ($25.5 million, five years), Tony Richardson, Andre Woolfolk, Ty Law, Bubba Franks and Jesse Chatman. They actually improved to a 9-7 record, five wins better than in the previous year, but still missed the playoffs.
In 2009, the Denver Broncos were the only team to spend over $100 million in free agency (108.5), which didn’t improve them, staying at 8-8 despite the arrivals of 14 new players through free agency, including Brian Dawkins, Jabar Gaffney, Correll Buckhalter, Darrell Reid, Renaldo Hill, André Goodman, LaMont Jordan and Chris Simms.
In 2010 the NFL had an uncapped year, which led to a lot of teams underspending or at least keeping their budget tight. Not the Chicago Bears did spend $111 million on contracts, and actually made the playoffs after an 11-5 season, but that was the abnormal.
Three teams spent over $100 million in 2011: The Philadelphia Eagles ($127.1 million), falling from 10-6 to 8-8. The Seattle Seahawks ($107.6 million), finishing with a 7-9 record and the Jacksonville Jaguars, spending $115.5 million but slipping from 8-8 to 5-11.
Last season, four teams spent over $100 million on free agency signings: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($147.38 million) improving to 7-9, Buffalo Bills ($118.98 million) staying on 6-10, New Orleans Saints ($114.55 million) falling to 7-9 and the St. Louis Rams ($106.2 million) improving to 7-8-1.