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Free Agency: The Annual Festival Of Hyperbole

10:47 AM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
Matt Cassel watches play from the sidelines(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
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WUSA 9 Sports anchor Dave Owens writes a column each week on a sports related topic. 

It's fascinating really. Each year football fans and media members around the country sit with bated breath, poised in anticipation of March. Our anxiousness resembles that of former New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott who when asked about an upcoming game, once told a reporter, "Can't wait!" Like Scott, we can't wait either! In fact, when it comes to NFL free agency, we're like kids at Christmas Eve-nerves racking, can't sleep, we can't wait to see what's going to be under the tree. When that day in March finally does come a-calling' and NFL teams can sign free agents. Weeeeee! 

More often than not it's an overblown story in my book and the amount of coverage it receives is often excessive. I get it: football is king by far in the world of United States sports coverage. Of the top 50 watched sporting events in 2012, football accounted for 34 of them. The London Olympics made up the other 15. Quick math that equals 49 right? Good eye or brain. The only non-NFL, non-London Olympics event to make the list was the Alabama vs. LSU BCS National Championship game. By the way, Washington's season finale against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football came in at 18th.

There is nothing wrong with a country's thirst for a sport. I love the NFL, and when I don't have to cover a game, I'm watching one. But each year as free agency arrives I sometimes find myself thinking: "man this is a lot of reporting on NFL free agency."

Timing has a lot to do with it. The first week or so in March is somewhat of a dead zone -- March Madness isn't quite full bore, the NBA is still 3,000 games away from the playoffs (I'm joking of course), MLB is still playing fake games and hockey is well, hockey. But only in this football crazed society during a relatively slow sports period, is the signing (make that re-signing) of wide receiver Brian Hartline back to the mediocre Dolphins newsworthy. Since when did he become a big deal or any kind of a deal?

But wait there's more: Matt Cassel goes to Minnesota. Translation: quarterback falls into a great situation in New England, parlays it into a big contract with Kansas City who soon realizes he was really a backup the whole time and cuts him. Now he's in Minnesota to compete with Christian Ponder or as I like to call it, bad quarterback will compete with bad quarterback.

Atlanta releases Michael Turner and signs Steven Jackson. Translated: running back that's lost tread on the tires gets released in exchange for running back that's lost tread on the tires. No one will ever dispute the talent or toughness of S-Jax, but his dominating days are done. Go back and watch the tape, he rushed for 100 yards twice last year in 16 games. Twice! He also only scored four touchdowns.

Reggie Bush is all of a sudden the answer in Detroit? His signing puts them in the upper echelon of the NFC North? No, unless Bush can play linebacker or safety, the Lions still haven't addressed their issues.

But NFL free agency isn't a time for analysis of this type, just like Christmas isn't time to discuss whether you really need that third television, or that dog. It's Christmas baby and that's all that matters!

As I said before, it's all fascinating to watch unfold. Part of the equation is perceived connectivity to players. I say "perceived" on purpose because very rarely do we really know them but that's a discussion for another time. What is relevant is this perceived connection sometimes causes an emotional response that borders overreaction. Take for example the case of Washington backup linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. He is a great example of a player ingratiating himself with the community in which he resides. His various charity events and appearances have made him a fan favorite. Rightfully so. But when it came time for the team to make tough salary cap decision and let him walk, it became clear it was tough for some to separate good guy from necessary player. My bet is Alexander will be fine wherever he goes (Arizona and beyond). On the surface he appears to be an intelligent family-oriented man who is balancing sport and life. But the reality is he's a backup linebacker, and while there's nothing wrong with that, sometimes you have to let those guys go.

It's that perceived connection to players, coupled with the massive power of the league itself, coupled with great marketing, coupled with timing that brings this whole overblown story together. That's a lot of coupling!

Again, I get it, fans feen for it and we give it to them. And at times there are some big free agent stories. Some. But I just can't help but wonder how many truly important stories we miss during this time because we're busy telling you some team resigned their punter.

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