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Good time to be boring


The first weekend of free agency has passed without the Jaguars making so much as a ripple of news in an ocean of craziness. Good!

While the Washington Redskins were busy laying the foundation for another season of humiliation and the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans proved they, too, have no concept of the value of a dollar, the Jaguars did nothing. They didn't panic. They didn't worry that the best free agency had to offer was evaporating. The team that previously couldn't discipline its spending habits has, maybe, just maybe, learned its lesson.

And if it disappointed their fans that this new era in Jaguars football would seem to include thriftiness, it nonetheless announced to those who regard free agency as a trap for fools that the Jaguars are no longer to be included among the foolish.

There are no bargains in the first week of free agency. The teams that consistently manage the free-agent market best are the ones who most clearly understand that concept. Let the fools play themselves out. Allow teams such as the Redskins to cap-out their future by signing guards. Then, when all of the fools have spent all of the fools' gold, take a look at what's left.

What you'll usually find are bargain players who'll bring a chip on their shoulders with them to their new teams. You'll find players intent on proving they belonged among the crop of first-weekers.

Who did well in free agency a year ago? Obviously, the teams that spent the least and got the most.

Tampa Bay got a steal in defensive end Greg Spires from Cleveland, who made the mistake of spending big for Kenard Lang, Robert Griffith and Earl Holmes. And the Bucs made another smart free-agent acquisition in Joe Jurevicius.

Tennessee did well in signing Robert Holcombe and Pittsburgh got a lot of linebacker in James Farrior for less money than they would've had to spend to re-sign Holmes.

Shelling out for Az-Zahir Hakim was a monster mistake by the Lions, and the same could be said about the Redskins' signing of Jeremiah Trotter.

New England taught the league how to bargain shop in 2001, then spent big and got little from players such as Cam Cleeland and Donald Hayes in 2002.

How about Baltimore and the New York Giants? They were the only two teams in the league last season that didn't sign an unrestricted free agent, and the Giants made the playoffs and the Ravens were one of the league's surprise teams.

One hundred thirty unrestricted free agents switched teams last season and the sum of the process was that it had minimal impact on the league's outcome. In contrast, 75 unrestricted free agents re-signed with their "old" teams and the sum of that process was that it was far more productive for the players and the teams than the "grass is always greener" approach.

The bottom line is that this is a good time of the year to be boring.

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