BB: Free Agency A Reaction To Ticket Sales And A Look At Bengals Attendance Trends

Grant Halverson

An owners' motivation is always about ticket sales because success on the field translates. And success equates to having talent on the roster. So does free agency lead to advancing ticket sales? Not in Tampa Bay.

+ Jason Garrison appealed to those frustrated and anxious about Cincinnati's perceived inaction, writing that "it's always the players" that are drafted that make the biggest impact. "That's not just a Bengals thing. It's an NFL thing." My personal opinion sides with Jason's; that your build your team through the draft, filling gaps through free agency; much like the names Jason's presented during his Sunday posting.

Fans want the big-ticket items because it's believed that signing those players makes your team better; typically it does on paper, though translation to the field often establishes a congressional-sized partisan argument for both sides. However there's always the owner's motivation, which cynically concludes one desire above others. Attendance.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers only drew 396,300 in attendance in 2011. They revamped the coaching staff, starting with Greg Schiano, then signed wide receiver Vincent Jackson (5-year/55.5M), guard Carl Nicks (5-year/47.5M) and cornerback Eric Wright (5-year/$37.5M) within the first two days of free agency. They improved their attendance by 50,000 but six of eight games were still blacked out and the Buccaneers finished last in the NFC South.

The Miami Dolphins are reacting to last year's attendance woes, generating only 459,033 at the gates, perhaps the lowest since 1989. In response the Dolphins have "dropped over $100 million in total contracts" with players like Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler among others and they're heavily pursuing offensive tackle Jake Long. Many finding value in the argument of significant free agency signings will keep tabs on the Dolphins, like they did with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins before them.

Obviously you're going to have aberrations and with Mike Brown, those aberrations will stick around. Another aberration is 90-year old Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams, who has signed "five players to contracts totaling $88.5 million".

"We want the right players, that's the main thing. We have to get the players we know can perform and make us look like we're a tough team to play against again," Adams told the Tennessean. "(General Manager) Ruston (Webster) knows how I feel about this thing now. He is getting the job done. There are certain guys we may have to pay a little more than they should maybe be getting, but I want to win. We may have to pay some more money, but I'm in. I'm ready to go with it."

Though attendance isn't so much the motivator as is age and the lack of playoff absences over the last four seasons.

"I may have a heart attack if we don't (return to the postseason)," he said. "I just had my 90th birthday and somebody asked me, ‘Adams, how long are you going to stay at this thing?' I said ‘I've made it 90, so I might as well go to 100.' And I'd like to get in the playoffs and see some winning football over that stretch, too."

Not every team deals with attendance issues, therefore big-ticket items are usually in response to poor drafting practices or the sacrifice of picks for trades. Some teams have owners that desperately want a winner due to their advanced age. But it's a good bet that teams place far more value on draft picks than they do free agency dollars. Otherwise Victor Cruz would have at least one offer sheet, which costs a first-round selection if the New York Giants fail to match.

+ The Cincinnati Bengals posted a 24 percent increase in attendance from 2011 to 2012, easily the best in the NFL; go from last with less than 400,000, you're going to have significant gains. Yet the 489,504 in attendance during the 2012 season ranked No. 24 in the NFL. However the up-arrow is evident. For the first time since 2006, attendance at Paul Brown Stadium increased.

SEASON TOTAL AVG RANK
2012 489,504 61,188 24
2011 394,009 49,251 32
2010 482,917 60,364 27
2009 512,032 64,004 23
2008 516,663 64,582 22
2007 526,320 65,790 19 *
2006 527,870 65,983 21 *
2005 526,469 65,809 --
2004 524,248 65,531 --
* Not all teams reporting attendance

+ A quick mailbag/tweet we've received, mostly a recap of recent days.

Who are the Bengals top free agent targets?

As of right now, promoted by the team since losing to the Houston Texans in the postseason, the Bengals want to re-sign many of their own free agents. So far they've retained Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers on three-year deals and Michael Johnson, who was franchised on March 1 signed his one-year tender.

Cedric Peerman, Mike Nugent, Kevin Huber and Clark Harris have also signed, solidifying special teams questions. Safety Jeromy Miles, wide receiver Andrew Hawkins and Vincent Rey, more special teams aces, were tendered on March 7.

It's not sexy but credit the Bengals for sticking to their laurels. That being said, check out our free agency chart for players that Cincinnati has invited.

+ But Paul Daugherty disagrees.

The Bengals have a few obvious needs: A complementary wide receiver and running back, a safety, maybe a linebacker. They’ll fill those needs. Will they improve the roster doing it?

Or will they simply maintain?

+ At one point it was widely believed that while Jake Long is mulling over offers from the St. Louis Rams and the Miami Dolphins, his agent Ben Dogra, who also represents Andre Smith, may head to Phoenix for league meetings that begin Monday. Now that a deal is done with Long heading to St. Louis, we expect something to happen with Smith sooner rather than later.

+ Speaking of Dogra. He and his CAA Sports teammate Tom Condon are now representing Elvis Dumervil, who recently fired Marty Magid for the Friday's fax machine hilarity. Unfortunately the snafu may have just cost Magid his career. Is there no accounting and responsibility for Dumervil or a mysteriously broken Denver fax machine? Hell. Is there even a need for a fax machine today? Raise your hand if you're under 20 years old and have actually used one.

+ An interesting look at how recruitment is equally important during free agency. Jack Bechta talks about some of the NFL's best recruiters.

+ John Clayton on how free agency reacted a little different than what was expected; some agents are citing collusion based on managed deals being signed.

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