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NFL Free Agency vs. Betting

How NFL Free Agency Affects Your Betting

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

As any conscientious bettor will do, we look for changes on different teams to forecast an upswing or downturn. Being at the head of the pack is key, as we need to know the up-and-coming teams before everyone else does, while also taking note of teams that may be headed for a downturn. In free agency, there can be a lot of hints. There can also be a lot of misconceptions.

We have to recognize the gap between public perception and reality when reviewing all the free agent signings. From a very general point-of-view, big-name signings usually have the importance overstated. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of lower-key signings that are more under-the-radar that could potentially have greater impact. Then we need to determine how bad it is for the teams that lost free agents and how the replacements will fare in their new roles. It’s a lot to take in, but forming our own opinions is key. We can’t depend on Sportscenter to tell us how important a signing is.

Big-Name Players: Make no mistake, there are big-name acquisitions that can really help turn a team around and render the team who lost that player a diminished force. But it generally doesn’t play out that way all the time. For a player to even get to a point where he is considered a top free-agent means that player already has a pretty significant body of work. Not that he’s old, but he probably isn’t young, either.

A lot of these players have name value that has more legs than their actual merit as forces on the field. In other words, by the time a guy is in a position to command a big contract and everything that goes along with it, they may be ready to start heading downhill. Again, it depends on the player and system he joins. How many running backs can you remember who had great runs with multiple teams? How many gigantic signings of 29-year old cornerbacks have gone well compared to those that did not?

Teams sometimes commit huge chunks of money on the marquee guy, the sexy free-agent signings. Other areas of the team then receive less attention as a result, with there being less money to go around. And unless that player truly makes a huge impact, there’s a chance that the opposite will happen than what was predicted. Rather than a team going on an upswing due to the new signing, they can actually deteriorate as an overall team.

The team that loses the big-name guy doesn’t automatically fall apart, either. A secondary can still be good after it loses its top corner. A linebacking corps can maybe throw a guy in there who is almost as good or even better than the player they lost. Losing a big-name left tackle can hurt, but not if the player they put in there is equally effective or darned close to it. It depends on the situation entirely.

Smaller-Name Signings: The media will naturally cover the signings that will give way to better ratings. So you end up barely hearing about a team getting a really good player of less repute, in lieu of the more headline-friendly signings. But this can be where the real nuggets of information can lie. A team may have bolstered its offensive line considerably with the acquisition of a few players who are really good, though are denied a lot of press coverage. Maybe a lesser-known guy is moving to a system that better suits his style. The examples are numerous, but the point is that not everything is what it seems on paper.

Again, we have to move away from the mentality that the only things that matters are quarterbacks and other skill guys. Sure, that plays a big role. But teams have gotten better while that cast remained the same. What changed was the action in the trenches, where a few well-placed offensive lineman with names you never heard of made a ton of difference. Or some defensive tackle whose name was never mentioned on the highlights makes a team exponentially better against the run. The key is that we delve into the nitty-gritty of all the different offseason player moves and not just accept everything at face value.

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