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Does Spending Big in Free Agency Translate to Success?

As free agency starts heating up, many fans are calling for Ballard’s head for not spending the big bucks, but actually that is not the correct way of team building.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Biggest Spenders

2015 Money Spent Change in Wins Playoffs
2015 Money Spent Change in Wins Playoffs
Jets $182M 6+ No
Jaguars $176M 2+ No
Dolphins $155M -2 No
Raiders $150M 4+ No
Titans $134M 1+ No
Chiefs $95M 2+ Yes
Colts $80M -3 No
Jaguars $230M -2 No
Giants $213M 5+ Yes
Broncos $193M -3 No
Raiders $156M 5+ Yes
Jets $149M -5 No
Texans $139M 0 Yes
Colts $24M 0 No
Jaguars $178M 7+ Yes
Ravens $163M 1+ No
49ers $148M 4+ No
Bears $133M 2+ No
Saints $126M 4+ Yes
Patriots $126M -1 Yes
Colts $93M -4 No
Bears $233M 7+ Yes
Jets $202M -1 No
Jaguars $147M -5 No
Titans $146M 0 No
Saints $142M 2+ Yes
Browns $135M 7+ No
Colts $49M 6+ Yes

The raw data shows that just 37% (9/24) of the 6 biggest spenders in Free-Agency made the Playoffs the following year. As the success of a football team depends on a lot of different factors other than free-agency spending, take the data with a grain of salt. Injuries happen, and a player a franchise considered a sure-bet ends up failing.

These numbers indicate that Colts fans should not buy into the narrative that throwing piles of money at the big-name free agents results in a better team. Just look at how the past Super Bowl champions built their teams. The only teams that appear on the list that are consistently great are the Patriots and the Saints. Many other teams try to solve their roster issues in free agency, which often results in the player failing to live up to expectations due to injuries, poor scheme fits, or simply adjusting to a new environment. These players end up costing the teams that signed them a lot of cap space, which frequently results in the team being unable to afford to resign homegrown talent.

Truly sustainable NFL teams know that the draft is where seasons are won or lost, and that resigning your own talent pays much higher dividends than signing free agents. The Colts have one of the best young GMs in the NFL, and his approach and talent evaluation has been excellent so far, so just stay quiet and trust in Ballard.