Beware Betting On NFL Free Agency Big Spenders

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The New England Patriots have been getting a lot of attention for their uncharacteristic spending in the early days of NFL free agency this year, leading some to believe the Patriots could be a team worth betting on in 2021. But if history has shown us anything, it is that spending big in free agency rarely pays off.

No one has ever followed up winning the ‘offseason spending champ’ title with winning a Super Bowl. Dating back to 2012, only one team made it to their conference title game, and only two won their division.

More often than not, they remained bad teams—just bad teams with a more expensive roster and still in need of a rebuild.

SeasonTeamTotal Spent in Free AgencyPlayoffs?Division Finish
2012Tampa Bay Buccaneers$162.4 millionNo3rd
2013Miami Dolphins$159.9 millionNo3rd
2014Tampa Bay Buccaneers$152.4 millionNo4th
2015New York Jets$182.8 millionNo2nd
2016Jacksonville Jaguars$230.04 millionNo4th
2017Jacksonville Jaguars$178.8 millionYes-- Lost AFC Champ.1st
2018Chicago Bears$233.6 millionYes-- Lost WC1st
2019New York Jets$204.5 millionNo2nd
2020Miami Dolphins$239.2 millionNo2nd

NFL Free Agency Big Spenders in 2021

Free agency is often full of surprises, but this year’s surprise may have been one of the more shocking ones. The New England Patriots, a team that is usually quiet during free agency, did the opposite this year. But they did not just spend money—they spent a lot of money.

The Patriots had quite a few needs going into free agency and spent $282.3 million (including well over $100 million in guaranteed money) filling quite a few of them. In a distant second was the San Francisco 49ers, who spent $177 million on free agents, followed by the Jacksonville Jaguars (over $158 million).

But did it have an impact?

We cannot know the answer to that question until the season gets underway. However, it does appear as if the Patriots Super Bowl odds saw some significant movement:

2022 Super Bowl OddsOpening OddsBetMGMDraftKingsWilliam Hill
New England Patriots+4000+3000+2800+3000
San Francisco 49ers+1800+1400+1400+1400
Jacksonville Jaguars+5000+12500+7000+8000

The 49ers saw their Super Bowl odds improve a little. But there is probably more movement to come for them following the NFL Draft now that they have the No. 3 pick. As for the Jaguars, their roster is still full of holes.

Not only that, but their head coach has never coached at the NFL level and has been out of football for the last few years.

So, then how come the Patriots odds saw so much movement? Because if anyone can break the free agency ‘Big Spender Curse,’ it is Bill Belichick. He has worked wonders over the years with lesser talented rosters.

However, he has always had Tom Brady to help make up for any deficiencies (at least on the offensive side).

As for each team’s respective conference championship and division odds, only Jacksonville’s AFC title odds saw a significant change:

2021-22 Conference Championship OddsOpeningBetMGMDraftKingsWilliam Hill
New England Patriots (AFC)+1300+1400+1400+1500
San Francisco 49ers (NFC)+700+650+650+700
Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC)+4500+6600+3000+4000
2021-22 Division OddsOpeningBetMGMDraftKingsWilliam Hill
New England Patriots (AFC East)+450+450+350+375
San Francisco 49ers (NFC West)+200+200+180+200
Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South)+1300+1200+800+1200

Sports Betting Recommendations

Of the three, the New England Patriots are the only team you should even consider betting on. Jacksonville will probably be a better team, but it is not hard to improve from a 1-15 season. So, do not count on them to contend in their division, let alone the AFC.

They are certainly a long way away from joining the Super Bowl conversation.

As for the 49ers, they were already a good team with high expectations. Free agency has done nothing to change that. However, since expectations were already high, that means their odds were already relatively low.

Consequently, there is not enough value in betting on the 49ers to win their division, the NFC, or the Super Bowl.

That leaves the New England Patriots, a team that went 7-9 last season with a roster starving for talent and with a new starting quarterback for the first time in years. With the players they added in free agency, the team will be better in 2021.

But from a betting perspective, will they be so much better that they are worth betting on?

No.

New England’s free-agency spending spree will make them a better team and one that is more entertaining to watch. But it is hard to say they will be better than the Bills in the division or that they should even be in the conversation to win the AFC or Super Bowl.

However, if you are a big believer in Bill Belichick, then no one would fault you for skipping a latte or two and putting a little money down on them to win the division. As for the AFC and Super Bowl—enjoy your lattes instead.

About the Author

Travis Pulver

Travis Pulver is a lifelong football fan, something he says comes naturally having been born in the football-crazy state of Texas. Through the years, his love of sports has extended into baseball, basketball, golf, and rugby. Life currently finds him in Indiana with his wife and two kids.

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