(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Andrew Brandt interview log on to the following attachment: Ep 36: Free Agency Talk With Andrew Brandt | Spreaker)
There are few persons who know more about the business side of the NFL than Andrew Brandt, a professor and executive director for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University and a columnist for Sports Illustrated and The Athletic.
And there are few who are more popular. Brandt has nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 more on his weekly podcast.
But full disclosure: Andrew Brandt has plenty of experience within the NFL, working 10 years as vice president for the Green Bay Packers and later as a consultant and negotiator for the Philadelphia Eagles. So he understands how the league and its 32 teams – and their players — operate when it comes to free agency.
Which is why we caught up with him on the latest “Eye Test for Two” podcast to see who and what got his attention amid the flurry of free-agent activity this week. And while the team he identified was no surprise, his explanation was.
“I guess it would have to be the Patriots’ signing two top-of-market tight ends,” he said, “because it’s not a traditionally high-paying position … except for one team and one team only. And that’s the Patriots.
“As I remarked on Twitter the last couple of days: They don’t pay running backs, they don’t pay wide receivers, they barely pay quarterbacks since (Tom) Brady – and then you can argue they hardly paid Brady what he was actually worth. Yet they pay tight ends.
“And this is not new. The deal they did for the late Aaron Hernandez. The deals they did for Rob Gronkowski. And now these two deals. It’s just a strange way to go about spending your money. I would estimate that 20 … at least … of the 32 teams were like, ‘We’re going to kinda go cheap at tight end.’ So that caught my attention.”
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But that’s not all. So did the Dolphins’ release of linebacker Kyle Van Noy. A year ago, they jumped at the chance to sign him to a four-year, $51-million contract. One year later, they showed him the door.
“It just shows you these deals aren’t worth the paper they’re written on,” he said.
Finally, he mentioned linebacker Shaq Barrett returning to Tampa Bay. In and of itself, that doesn’t bother him. What does, he said, is that Barrett jumped at the opportunity to return without testing the market – or, as he put it, “not even testing Door No. 2.” Maybe, just maybe, he could’ve gotten more from a competitive bidder. But he didn’t. He took the Bucs’ offer to stay.
“You just wonder,” he said, “if he went out there, and then came back to the Bucs, and said, ‘I can get ‘X’, maybe he could’ve gotten more money.”
We’ll never know.
And maybe that’s good. Because teams that chase high-profile free agents out of the gate with megabuck deals historically gain little returns on their investments. Granted, there are exceptions – with Brady the latest – but highly-paid free agents, with Van Noy an example, often don’t wash out. Which is why Brandt remains suspicious of chasing big names with big money.