The Intangibles: Value found in resigning free agents goes beyond the obvious

Photo of DE Shaq Lawson from

The intrinsic value of resigning free agents by the Buffalo Bills isn’t something often discussed by the analytically inclined. While the experts ponder the ‘measurables’, I’ll focus my attention on the intangible aspects of bringing back players whose contracts are expiring on ‘prove it’ deals,

The value of providing continuity to any team seems obvious. Team chemistry is tricky stuff though, especially when a head coach like Sean McDermott has a very specific prototype of player from a behavioral perspective. One bad apple can spoil the bunch as they say.

An example of this is what happened to the Raiders when Antonio Brown’s behavior first became a problem for their organization. Of course Brown’s acting out in Pittsburgh led to his trade to the Raiders in the first place but they thoughts they could “fix the problem”, and have themselves a mighty fine wide receiver.

Then the Patriots thought they could overlook the intangible problems created by a signing a free agent like Antonio Brown and it blew up on them as well. Apparently the team felt all the questions about Brown’s character didn’t matter, or how he may or may not fit in with their team culture. So it’s basically “buyer beware” on the open market in NFL free agency world.

It’s also pretty clear resigning free agents on ‘prove it’ deals is accretive when it comes to familiarity with the play book. What may be less obvious is how much more information there is about things you can’t accurately assess in one or two a face-to-face interviews.

Photo of DE Shaq Lawson from

For example, Shaq Lawson’s journey with the Bills has been a very interesting one. That he lasted through the massive roster turnover when McDermott and Beane were hired speaks loudly about his character.

It wasn’t a secret McBeane laid down a specific plan for Lawson to maximize his potential in the defensive scheme the Bills use. The fact that Lawson took on that plan and made the most of it provides supporting evidence of his strong mental fortitude and determination to succeed.

There’s immeasurable benefit in rewarding a player who is an example of what hard work and humility can do in terms of creating value for an organization like the Bills. However, there’s also a limitation at some point in terms of how much the Bills can afford to reward Lawson with a huge contract.

There’s little doubt an NFL team would likely overpay for Shaq Lawson’s services on their roster, so there’s a fair chance Lawson could be playing in a different uniform next season anyway. It’s the reality of the NFL, and at some point the value of the player doesn’t match a formula for managing the cap in a sustainable manner.

I don’t pretend to know what the magic formula is in terms of cost-benefit analysis in resigning Shaq Lawson, but I trust Beane and McDermott do so I’m happy to leave that decision in their capable hands.

The bottom line is that each impending free agent has their own value assigned to their position and past performance. Players like Tre’Davious White might command a much greater percentage of the salary cap than the next guy. The right fit matters a lot in creating an environment that brings out the best performance by each player.

Thankfully, what I do know is that rewarding impending free agents with a hefty contract is something McBeane do not take lightly. We don’t have to look any further than the Buffalo Sabres to see what cap hell looks like, regardless of sport.

As they say, the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don’t. However, the proper value assigned to bringing back impending free agents is tricky business because there are many intangible values that go along with calculating their overall value to a team.

Editor’s babble: Hope the Bills and Shaq Lawson find a way to make it work. Same for Quinton Spain and Kevin Johnson. Thanks for reading and supporting our blog :)

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.