What represents value and what doesn't is often complicated in the NFL. That doesn't stop people from trying to quantify it, though. That's exactly what Andrew Healy over at Football Outsiders did for the latest free agency period. Healy looked at contract vales and age-adjusted performance for every free agent signing, and tried to sort the good from the bad deals.
That method is necessarily vague. We have no perfect way to evaluate past value, let alone adjust it for the future. But it's as good as any method we have, and it's another data point in the larger process of figuring out which team did the smart thing, and which team did not.
The interesting result is that the Buccaneers actually got very good value for their money -- despite spending fairly large amounts on mostly older players. The one young player the Bucs signed was J.R. Sweezy, and his contract is ranked as the eighth-best signing in the NFL this offseason. Brent Grimes is also one of the good deals, though not by a huge margin.
On the flip side, Healy's projections have Ayers as one of the worst signings this offseason. In fact, it's the fifth-worst move according to his model. That's most likely due to his past performance being average to below-average, even if his most recent season has been solid.
That is not a result I would have expected. Generally speaking, the Bucs' contracts look pretty expensive: $6.5 million for a guard who gets mixed reviews, nearly $7 million per year for a 33-year-old cornerback, and nearly $7 million per year for a 30-year-old defensive end who hasn't been good until two years ago. That sounds expensive, though the Bucs can easily afford these contracts.
It seems that at least one impartial view of these contracts suggests they're actually pretty good. That's what we saw in 2013 too -- of course, most of those free agents turned out to be busts. We'll have to wait and see whether that happens this year, too. But early analysis seems mostly positive.