It's almost always a dangerous business, and there are too many cautionary tales out there to mention them all. Suffice to say, it's an inexact science and, particularly in football, is a costly and risky way of doing business. This year, with no OTAs, minicamps, etc, it will be even more difficult to bring pricey new players into the fold and get results from them right away in such a physical sport, and one that demands so much interplay and cohesiveness between teammates.
At this point, due to free agency rules, we still don't know precisely who will hit the market. But here's a look at a few potential signings who could end up looking more like the misguided Haynesworth deal than one that produces a title.
Braylon Edwards, WR: He is looking for the kind of big money that goes to top starting receivers. In what could be a very shallow market, chances are he will get it. The Jets won't fight that hard to keep him -- that tells you more than enough. New York is in the middle of a huge effort to re-sign and retain its core youngsters. Edwards can be petulant, is inconsistent and has made poor decisions off the field. He will wow you with one moment of splendor then fall back into a bone-headed funk. I'd expect his worst traits to be exacerbated once he has that big contract. I wouldn't go there.
Potential free agents
Cedric Benson, RB: He will look very attractive to someone, especially if it ends up taking six years of service to become an unrestricted free agent. There isn't much else out there at running back if that's the case.
While Benson found life with the Bengals, the years have started mounting some. Running backs are a particular risk in free agency, and the next big thing at this position can sometimes be found on the undrafted-free-agent market, before the big names on the market. Benson brings some baggage, too, though, again, has blossomed some in Cincy on field and off. There still would be enough to scare me away.
Randy Moss, WR: He got very old very fast but still thinks like one of the best receivers in the world. Could he handle, for 16 games, truly being a third or fourth option in the passing game? How long before he pops off? Will he be fully vested in the offense and run more than just go routes? For any team other than, say, New England, I see major red flags.
Him coming back to the Patriots on the cheap, and on bended knee, is one thing. But anything else could bring more trouble than it's worth.
Ike Taylor, CB: The corner is aging some himself, and this is a young man's position to say the least. There might not be a more astute team in the NFL at self scouting than the Steelers. When they are willing to let a key player go -- especially when he plays a position of need like defensive back is with them right now -- I'd be a little wary about getting full rewards from the kind of contract it will take to land him. His skill set might end up translating as more scheme specific and, given the possible limitations of the marketplace, it's going to take some big money to land him.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB: The injuries have mounted and the production has dropped, but he's also not all that far removed from his Pro Bowl form. That can be seductive. Hasselbeck also has given no indications to this point that he will come cheaply; if anything, it seems he wants to continue to make a strong starting salary.
You won't find someone with better intangibles and he's a born leader. Still, he's pretty far along. Just look at the failed Donovan McNabb experiment in Washington as evidence for how these kinds of moves can go. Can Hasselbeck make it through one season unscathed, much less more than one? He's not as athletic as he used to be. I'd be looking to go younger and cheaper at this spot if possible.