Throughout the years, teams have headlined by making "splash" signings. Some pan out—others, not so much. This year, the Rams entered the offseason with many, many needs. Basically, the Rams wouldn’t have been questioned if they added a player at any position except possibly running back or punter, where the team looks pretty set.
So, with so many holes, it only makes sense to patch some with huge, multi-year, mega-millions deals, right? After all, the Rams were rolling in cap room at one point this offseason. Had they wanted to, I’m sure they could have pulled off at least one deal. But… would it have been worth it?
Let’s take a look at some recent and some well-noted cases of "splash" free agency.
Moves That Worked
Peyton Manning: 5 years, 96 million dollars. (IND --> DEN)
Manning brought the Broncos to two Super Bowls and won one during his time. Though he wasn’t as effective in the title game he won, he brought the Broncos to the next level while he was there. This signing was certainly worth it for Denver.
Aqib Talib: 6 years, 57 million dollars. (NE --> DEN)
Talib was one of the two lockdown corners for the Broncos that really helped their defense dominate. Give the Broncos the choice to take Talib again, and they certainly would.
Drew Brees: 6 years, 60 million dollars. (SD --> NO)
For a time, Brees elevated the Saints to a Super Bowl-caliber team. However, Brees’ deal in 2006 is notable because it cost the Saints a fraction of what his later deal would, which would prove their downfall… which leads us into the next category…
Moves That Failed
Nnamdi Asomugha: 5 years, 60 milion dollars. (OAK --> PHI)
Asomugha was an elite corner for the Oakland Raiders, having qualified for 1st Team All-Pro honors multiple times. However, upon arrival to the Eagles on a whopping contract, he was never the same player and lasted merely 2 of his 5 contract seasons, a huge waste of money.
Byron Maxwell: 6 years, 63 million dollars (SEA --> PHI)
Byron Maxwell was slated to be the Eagles’ number one corner this season given his huge contract, but he never turned out to be worthy of that honor. He played a big role in holding the Eagles back this season, and the Eagles were eager to part ways with him.
Demarco Murray: 5 years, 42 million dollars (DAL --> PHI)
A man that succeeded in one system struggled to translate that success to a new system, leaving the Eagles with nothing to show for the 8 million they handed him last season.
Andre Johnson/Frank Gore: (HOU --> IND & SF --> IND)
The Colts were slotted into the Super Bowl by some after grabbing these two aging veterans; however, the team flopped. These acquisitions did not put them over the top as many had wrongly assumed.
Albert Haynesworth: 7 years, 100 million dollars (TEN --> WASH)
In one of the more notorious cases of bad free agent signing, Haynesworth grabbed millions from the Redskins and returned zilch on their investment.
Jairus Byrd: 6 years, 54 million dollars (BUF --> NO)
Byrd seemed to represent a huge upswing for the Saints’ porous defense, but he never translated the hype to results. Instead, he grabbed 9 million per season and the Saints remained terrible.
In all, or almost all cases, these teams making huge "splash" signings were teams on or near the brink of success. Hoping to put their team over the top, the GMs decided one "wow" player would do the job. And that just didn’t work out for any of these teams.
Huge contracts are very risky--too risky. Tying up a huge investment to one player is almost guaranteed to fail unless you’re the Broncos because, for some reason, they find success with that strategy.
Either way, it’s much more important to find role players and low-cost guys who have the potential to play above their cap number. Last year, two key examples I can think of are Chris Johnson and Tyrod Taylor. Johnson made peanuts and, if not for his injury, would have been a top five rusher in the league. Taylor brought the Bills’ offense to respectability and, barring some injuries, perhaps could have landed them in the playoffs.
So, while the Rams haven’t made a "huge" signing, I don’t think that’s a big deal. I like the Coples signing, and the team retained the guys they needed to. While the roster seems a little bare, the answer is not to throw money at the issue. That rarely works.
Perhaps an impact player gives fans hope, but that hope doesn't match reality. It's much, much more important for a team to find solid players at low prices than to find great players at excessive costs.