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Julius Thomas trade demonstrates that free agency is a gamble

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars are trading tight end Julius Thomas to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for was-to-be-released tackle Branden Albert. per Ian Rapoport, demonstrating once again that big-name free agents are a massive gamble. According to Albert Breer, some seventh-round swapping will be involved as well.

Thomas, you’ll recall, was one of the Jaguars’ many very expensive signings two years ago, and has produced less than Cameron Brate in that time. That’s one impressive failure to live up to a five-year, $46 million contract.

Of course, that’s not new to Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Back when Mark Dominik was in charge, the Bucs signed a whole lot of expensive free agents, and only Vincent Jackson really panned out.

Among the busts at the time, for various reasons: Carl Nicks (five years, $47.5 million) and cornerback Eric Wright (five years, $37.5 million).

The post-Dominik haul has been slightly better, especially with last year’s signings of Robert Ayers and Brent Grimes, but Jason Licht’s approach of signing second-tier free agents with some question also led to massive busts like Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins. Again: oops.

Which is all a good reminder of one simple fact: free agency is a gamble. We’ll get very excited about some signings this offseason, because the Bucs are going to sign players, but we won’t know if those signings actually succeed until they take the field for a prolonged period of time.

So don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched, or however that saying goes. It’ll be a while.