There's been a lot of discussion about free agency in the past couple of weeks and it seems to have divided people into two main camps, which I'm going to refer to as Value and Talent, and with the floodgates opening in a few short hours I thought it might be fun to discuss these further.
Those in the Talent camp are of the opinion that the Eagles should use their ample cap space to sign one or more top-level free agents because having more talented players is the best way to win football games. The Value camp, on the other hand, will point out that the best players usually command a salary disproportionate to their actual contribution and, therefore, smart teams should probably steer clear.
In the interests of full disclosure, I tend to identify more with the latter argument than the former. I think Jairus Byrd will get paid like the top safety in the league and I think you can probably find a safety that's "good enough" for less than half of that money. This did, however, get me to thinking why I should care who gets paid what and whether their contribution is ‘worth it'. It's not my money, after all, and I'm still going to watch the Eagles whether they have good players or mediocre ones - so why wouldn't I want them to put the best product on the field. For a more eloquent expression of that point, I would recommend Justin Bourne's article on a similar phenomenon in the NHL.
After a bit of deliberating, it started to occur to me that the only reason I lean toward the Value school of thought is the assumption that, by saving money now, the team will spend money later. I would rather see the team wait until a truly great player hits the market (of which I don't think there are any this season, although I might revise that opinion if Revis actually gets cut) rather than just spending money for the sake of it.
The biggest plus side to acquiring players in free agency rather than the draft is that you don't have to use your resources immediately if you don't want to. In the draft you need to consider ‘best player available' because when your team is on the clock you need to do something. Sure, you can try to engineer a trade for picks in a future draft, but, for the most part, you have to exchange your pick for one of the players on the board, whether there's talent available or not. In free agency, that's not the case. If you don't see a player you think is worth using your resources to acquire, you can put your wallet away and come back next year.
That's why I would prefer the Eagles to target mid-level players this year. I don't think Byrd or Ward are special enough that they're worth giving up on the chance of signing a better guy next year. Fill the gaps on the roster with guys that are "good enough" and wait until someone worth breaking the bank for comes up.