There is a saying that in life, you get what you pay for. This may be generally true in most areas, but it doesn't really hold much water in the NFL.
In other sports free agent signings are easier. In baseball when you sign a free agent, as long as he isn't approaching retirement, you usually know what you're going to get. Look at the guy's baseball card the last five years or so and plug in similar numbers for the next few years and barring injuries, you usually won't be too far off. Oh sure, there's a list of players that inexplicably implode the minute they sign their shiny new contracts, most of whom seem to get signed by the Mets, but in general, those guys are the exception, not the rule. Basketball is similar; look at the recent prior stats, and barring injury or rapid age related decline, you usually know what you're going to get. Not always, but more often than not.
Football is a different animal entirely. The sport is riddled with cases of big free agent signings that implode the minute the ink is dry on the new free agent deals. Because football is so much more of an interdependent, scheme related sport, transplanting other teams' good players into your team's system is always a risky business. You just never know what you're going to get. Which is one reason among many (the salary cap being chief among them) why it is so difficult to build a contender through free agency in football.
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan entered the 2015 free agency period with oodles of money to spend, thanks to his dearly departed predecessor's aversion to ever spending on free agents. It might be tempting to say Maccagnan's job of improving the team was almost foolproof, given the giant gobs of money he had at his disposal. However, in the NFL there are no sure things in free agency. Not even close. In the NFL you don't necessarily get what you pay for. Often you end up getting a nasty surprise that blows up in your face.
Maccagnan chose to spend the lion's share of his cap space on a shiny new secondary. It was the obvious choice. Between a new head coach who needed shut down cornerbacks to make his system go, and a team that started Darrin Walls, Kyle "Never Look Back, Something Might Be Gaining On You" Wilson, and a rotating cast of NFL tryout players at cornerback last year, something needed to be done. And boy did Maccagnan ever do something.
Darrelle Revis, 5 years, $70 million. Antonio Cromartie, 4 years, $32 million. Marcus Gilchrist, 4 years, $22 million. Buster Skrine, 4 years, $25 million. That's a $149 million secondary we're looking at, albeit some of that money will never be paid as guys eventually get cut. But still, $149 million! The Jets better hope that in this case they got what they paid for, because what they paid for is the most expensive secondary in NFL history.
How do the early results look? Very promising. So far the new Jets secondary has faced four quarterbacks. None have reached the mediocre passer rating of 80 against the Jets. None have thrown for over 250 yards. None have completed as much as 60% of their passes (if we consider Cleveland's two headed QB as one entity). Overall opposing quarterbacks are averaging less than 200 yards passing, a horrible 5.7 yards per pass attempt, and a league leading passer rating of a paltry 62.3 against the Jets. As a point of reference, there are only five NFL defenses that are currently allowing an average passer rating of less than 80 against them. The Jets have held every single quarterback they've faced below that number. And these aren't the league's dregs we're talking about. OK, in Cleveland's case, these are the league's dregs. But Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford aren't a bad trio of quarterbacks to shut down.
The season is still young, but thus far the return on the team's gargantuan investment in a new secondary has been extremely promising. In the NFL, you very often don't get what you pay for in free agency. Often you don't get anything close. Fortunately for the Jets, the giant gobs of money they spent on the secondary this offseason is so far looking like money well spent.