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NFL Recruitment Focus – Who has it right?

Ndamakong Suh, Jamie Collins, Haha Clinton-Dix, Lawrence Timmons, Brandin Cooks, Quinton Rollins – Just some of the names that the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers have recruited over the last few years. All 3 teams have an obvious primary focus when recruiting, be it big name free agents, bargain trades or to trust in the draft. Each team will dabble in the other too but the focus on each is clear. Who is doing it the best?

While considering this I posed the question to 3 fans as to how they feel about their teams recruitment policy – fellow NFLGirlUK writer Kadeem Simmonds who supports the Dolphins, Packers fan Junaid Hussain and despite his Patriots fandom, good friend Ollie Thomason.

Miami Dolphins

Some might say that in recent history the Dolphins have mismanaged their cap, spending too much on high profile free agents and not getting good value for money in their quest back to the playoffs. They returned to the post season in 2016 backed up free agent signings Suh, Jermon Bushrod, and Mario Williams. This free agency the team has dipped back in for Lawrence Timmons and Ted Larsen.

I asked Kadeem how he feels about Miami’s recruitment policy.

“I think it’s been good. We have picked up experienced players that have added much needed depth. They can also produce this year, hopefully. Means our rookies aren’t rushed into starting and can develop properly, again hopefully”

Something seems different about their targets this year though am I right?

(Adam) Gase and (Bobby) Grier spoke at the combine about rewarding our own and pushing on from last season. Seems splashing money on expensive free agents is a thing of the past.

So more of a hunt for value this year?

Yeah, I think the injuries in the build up to the play offs killed us. Now we have talented depth, add some impressive rookies and there’s no reason why we can’t make a play off push.

Kadeem is certainly right, something did click for the better last season, with new coaches come new outlooks and it could be a bright future for the Dolphins.

New England Patriots

It seems everything Bill Belichick touches turns to gold, these last few seasons have seen star home grown players move on such as Jamie Collins and Chandler seemingly because the Patriots did not feel they wanted to pay them star money. The players left in trades and that has been the focus of New England Free agency this year, doing business with the Saints, Panthers and Colts to bring in Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen.

So why the focus on established players this season? I tried to learn from Ollie.

Why do you think the team has given so much to bring in established players in trades this year?

It certainly is interesting what the Patriots are doing this off season! Quite a different approach and that is classic Bill Belichick. I think this season he is aware of the possibility of complacency and is opting to freshen things up by splashing the cash! It’s not the normal plan of action but as only time will tell it could certainly lead to another successful season.

Of course now the Patriots won’t draft until the 3rd round in what is perceived as a really strong draft class.

I feel that Bill is always trying to mix things up and do what people don’t expect. It is a strong draft class, they’ve just won the Super Bowl, so logic would say be quiet, do minimal and win again next year. But Bill feels clearly that a different approach is required.

Perhaps it is because Brady can’t realistically have many years left in him and they want to capitalise?

The fact Brady is getting on in years and realistically (probably) will only have maybe 2 or 3 seasons left tooling up with talent must be a factor. The joint practices that The Patriots have recently done have played a factor this year. He (Belichick) got to see Brandin Cooks up close and he’s clearly a player that Bill fancied very much. Giving up the 01st and 03rd round draft pick is quite a big deal. As it stands they have no draft picks until late on day 2 of the draft.

I really can’t argue with any of that, as strong as the upcoming draft class is looking there is no denying any draft pick could be a Hall of Famer or huge bust at this stage, as we are constantly reminded even Tom Brady was a 6th round pick. In Cooks, Ealy and Allen, Belichick knows exactly what he is getting, and so there is much less risk involved.

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers are an extremely well run organisation. Owned by the fans, Ted Thompson does a good job in managing the team. He has been famous for not making a big splash in free agency, preferring to draft young players and not be drawn into bidding wars and overpaying talent who perhaps only play to their full talents when chasing the next deal.

This season the Packers decided that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs so help and signed free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. I went to Junaid to find out what has changed in Green Bay.

How do you feel about the way Green Bay recruits players through the draft but rarely signing a free agent?

I’m always a bit pessimistic about it all. Always focusing on the draft and not FA. Especially how last few seasons have gone. With injuries and how poorly rookies have performed -especially last season. I would always like to spend some more money but understand why they don’t.

It’s not that bad though right — Play offs every year? They are lacking in certain positions though for sure

Yes that’s the main issue, we don’t address needs in FA. You can’t always rely on the Draft. Especially with Rodgers making only one SB appearance in his career so far.

So is this where New England have the edge? Trading for established players whereas Green Bay need to develop?

Ted Thompson is obsessed with draft picks, but using late picks in exchange for vets might work a bit better. Thompson doesn’t want to do that, he likes to stay young and manage the roster. That way when you need to pay guys you’ve got the cap for it.

Some frustration there from Junaid, I must admit I hadn’t thought about the fact that a player as great as Aaron Rodgers has only been in one Superbowl. An excellent point about having cap room when it’s required though, this is an advantage over the likes of the Seattle Seahawks who are fighting cap space every year having paid so many players a lot of money.

Which team does it best? It’s clear that the Patriots have had the most success with 2 Superbowl trophies in the last 3 years, Green Bay are competitive in the Play Offs every year whereas Miami have usually only been competitive within their own division, but it’s tough to make the post season with Tom Brady in your way for so long. Each method has its merits, the trick is to find a way of managing the cap, keeping your best players helps but as the Patriots have shown not always essential. Good management is key to it all, maybe even more so than coaching.

It’s going to be an interesting 2017 for all 3 teams. Who has it right? Let me know your opinions.

 

Huge thanks to Kadeem, Ollie and Junaid for your feedback and wisdom.

 

Article written by:

Duncan covers the NFC West, as unbiased as possible for a Seahawks fan, promising “I just like good football”. He has been writing online for around four years for various publications enjoying Football, Cricket, Rugby League and anything else he can find on TV that weekend. Priding himself in being a realist when it comes to opinions on sport, you won’t catch him jumping on any pre-season bandwagons. Also a big fan of Fantasy sports, ask nicely and he will show you his 3 seasons in a row collection of winners medals. You can follow Duncan on Twitter at @DuncanJTerry.

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