Who won the first day of free agency?

GMs who try to fix their teams through free agency do so out of desperation and/or wishful thinking.  It’s not a coincidence Tuesday’s biggest spenders were teams who finished under .500 in 2012.  Likewise, it’s unsurprising we didn’t hear of any splashy signings by the Giants, Packers, Patriots, Steelers or Ravens (aka – the 21st century’s most common post-season participants).

The Ravens and Steelers, however, were just reminded of the rub: typically stable, successful franchises will sometimes have to take a step back and accept the departure of key players to the league’s bottom feeders who’ll overpay in attempt to catch lightning in a bottle.  Both teams have now lost multiple big names.  No matter what happens between now and September, it’s highly likely neither will be as good as they were last season.

The young & talented Cincinnati Bengals, meantime, entered free agency with the most cap room in the league… but opted against throwing giant heaps of loot at guys like Mike Wallace (who was overpaid by the Dolphins on Tuesday) in favor of trying to re-sign their current players.  It’s a formula that’s worked more often than not for division rivals Baltimore & Pittsburgh, and – like I’ve been saying since December – will result in the 2013 AFC North crown for Mike Brown & Co.

Here’s one little nagging irony to mull over, though: the biggest short-term question for the Bengals is QB Andy Dalton, a solid but unspectacular game manager.  Is it possible the one piece that could keep them from a deep playoff run is Carson Palmer?

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