This year’s free agency period in the NFL has been characterized by extremely stingy spending — to the extent that some who cover the NFL have begun to suggest that teams might be colluding to drive player salaries down.
If collusion is happening, everyone forgot to tell the Tennessee Titans.
Never known for being big spenders in free agency, the Titans came out of the gates this year with money flying out of their pockets. Within two days of the official start of the signing period, the team had locked up offensive guard Andy Levitre (six years, $46.8 million), tight end Delanie Walker (four years, $17.5 million), running back Shonn Greene (three years, $10 million) and defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (three years, $11.4 million).
The Titans also kicked the tires on big-name wide receivers Danny Amendola (who ultimately signed with the New England Patriots) and Wes Welker (Denver Broncos), even reportedly offering several million more than other teams were offering.
To put all of this in perspective, there are still some teams waiting to sign their first free agent.
Why are the Titans spending like madmen? It all comes down to their aging owner.
Bud Adams just turned 90 years old and he’s keenly aware that his time on the earth could come to an end at any time — even if he just told a reporter he “made it 90, so I might as well go to 100.”
Adams has owned the Titans, formerly the Houston Texans, since the birth of the franchise. He’s never won a championship and, in recent years especially, even playoff wins have been hard to come by. He knows that he can’t take his wealth with him to the afterlife and he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to win games now.
It’s easy to love the free-wheeling, aim-for-the-fences approach, but it’s also really easy to criticize it. No team has ever spent its way to a Super Bowl win in the salary cap era of the NFL — and the most aggressive teams in free agency have often found themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. Team chemistry matters and evidence suggests that the best way to win is to draft well and build from within.
Will the Titans blow apart that thinking and compete for a Super Bowl in 2013? That remains to be seen. One thing we can all agree on is that it will be a shame if Adams isn’t around to find out what happens with the rest of us.