Running back Steven Jackson signs with the Atlanta Falcons. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is headed to Minnesota. The Cleveland Browns add outside linebacker Paul Kruger. Wes Welker is now a member of the Denver Broncos.
Welcome to the third decade of NFL free agency.
Sure, all the player movement has an air of fun to it as fans get to talk NFL all year round. But has it been an overall positive to the game and the league in general?
Well, it has certainly opened up the opportunity for more teams to get to the Super Bowl, although it has been pointed out that the same old franchises win the whole ball of wax.
Over the past 20 seasons, while a dozen teams have won at least one NFL championship, more than half of the teams in the league (17) have lost at least one Super Bowl. In fact, the only clubs to lose more than once in the Big Game over that span are the New England Patriots (3) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (2). It's safe to say both of those franchises have also had their share of championship success since '93, the Patriots (3) and Steelers (2) combining for five titles.
During the free agency era, there have been 10 teams that have not played in a Super Bowl. The Bengals, Chiefs, Dolphins, Vikings, Jets and Redskins have all made previous appearances in the Big Game pre-free agency era. Meanwhile, the Browns, Lions, Texans and Jaguars have never made a Super Bowl appearance.
How does that compare to the pre-free agency era? Of the 19 teams to play in the Super Bowl over that span, 12 different teams hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and eight of the clubs won at least a pair of titles, led by the Steelers (4), 49ers (4), Cowboys (3), Raiders (3) and Redskins (3).
These days, it's much harder to develop long-term depth because good players have the opportunity to move onto other franchises and become starters. In a game of continuity, it's very hard to keep a team together for a substantial length of time.
Still, as we have seen in recent seasons, a title means you need to just get into the playoffs and let the chips fall where they may. Who can explain why we have seen three straight Super Bowl champions with 10 wins or less in the regular season?
More opportunities for players have meant more opportunities for teams to win a title. And while you may need a yearly scorecard when it comes to some clubs, that player movement has most fans excited all year around in regards to their teams.
Free agency has been anything but free. But it has freed up players to go where they want when eligible. And in terms of winning a championship, it's more competitive than ever.
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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