1. Overpaying for potential
One of John Elway’s best traits as a general manager in free agency is an unwillingness to overpay strictly based on potential.
This is where teams get burned in free agency, and it’s typically in the first wave.
Guys like Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith and Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams (pictured) are not going to be good values in free agency despite the fact that they have been underrated players to this point because they are going to get paid like established studs.
These are the moves that teams make and get excited about but don’t have the roster infrastructure to support, and end up cutting the guy two years later after things don’t work out.
Ironically, while Elway has consistently found good bargains in free agency, he has a habit of paying premium prices for some players who haven’t proven their worth in the NFL.
We mentioned Stephenson and Watson earlier, but what about last year’s $36 million in Case Keenum? That was based on less than a full season as the Vikings’ starter and a number of other years as a journeyman backup.
If the Broncos got involved in the first wave of free agency and tried to overpay for a player who has merely shown ‘flashes’ of brilliance, it would be significantly underwhelming.
Fill holes and pay at or near top dollar to proven guys, and take calculated risks on players whose production has not yet met their price tag.