Feature Article
Madden 15: Making Free Agency Better

The following suggestions are my own, following a pretty strong brainstorming session and watching the first couple of days of real-life NFL free agency happen in early March 2015.

Here are my top ideas, in no particular order.

1) After the season, have an NFL Network style “Free Agency Preview” show that highlights the top 3-4 players at every major position with rumors about where these players may end up. It should be done in the form of a 3-4 minute show (maybe similar to College Hoops 2K8's NCAA selection show) with player specific audio and either CGI faces like Madden NFL 15's Nantz and Simms or real faces like Fran Charles from Madden NFL 11.

Either way, this should really set the table for the free agent market to come. Leverage ESPN here. Use Adam Schefter, Chris Mortenson, John Clayton, and other network personalities, even if it's just audio recordings. The NFL Live Crew with Trey Wingo would be fine, just something to spice up the pedestrian off-season.

2) On the bottom of the screen during free agency, have a ticker with “Breaking News” and the ESPN alert sound to show when a big name signs a FA contract. The NFL is a 24/7, 365 league now and Madden needs to go a long ways to begin to somewhat reflect that. The off-season is as major a part of Connected Franchise mode as the season games themselves are for some gamers. Similarly, the NFL Draft needs it's own pre-show with mock drafts from McShay and Kiper Jr., but I'll save that for another article. For now, the offseason free agency period in Madden 16 needs to feel important. It needs to extend beyond menus, text boxes, and sliders for salaries. It needs an injection of personality and urgency.

3) It would also be nice to see some tangible feedback if you land or lose a superstar free agent. Maybe an email that season ticket sales have risen, or that fans have began to call into local sports talk radio and criticize the franchise. Any of these little things will go a long way towards immersing the player in their Madden world.

4) Free agent boom/bust system – Similar to the draft, some free agents should either thrive with their new team (think Drew Brees in New Orleans) or struggle (Albert Haynesworth anyone?) and under-produce. This would also add a sense of urgency to signing the right free agents and not just the highest rated players available. Scheme fit is a great step but we can go further. Is the player considered a team player or more self-centered? Is he coming off of a contract year where he's performed well above any prior season? Does the player have potential off the field issues? Is he a locker room leader or a locker room cancer? Give the player GMs more context and more variables to think about and deal with. Make it more interesting, basically.

5) Allow us to split the contracts up into guaranteed money vs overall money and allow us put performance incentives in the contracts (pro bowls, MVP awards, statistical milestones, etc). This too would more closely mirror the actual NFL landscape and allow the gamer to play yet another mini-game of risk/reward. Do you offer that can't miss stud WR with off the field concerns more guaranteed money to lure him away from his old team? These kind of decisions would be FUN above all else!

These are my top ideas OS. Please share some of yours in the comments below!

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Member Comments
# 1 speedtrucker @ 03/17/15 01:52 PM
I'll also add:

6. fix the logic on free agent signings and the "stories" released. for example, the Cowboys owner in our CCM let Barry Church test the FA market because in his renegotiations he wanted 30 mil over 4 years. in the first week of FA signings, Church has 0 offers, in week 2 the Cowboys owner offers him 20 mil over 4 years and Barry Church re-signs with the Cowboys. the news story on our front page is "the Cowboys have upgraded at FS and is this the missing piece?" really?!? they didn't upgrade, they just let their own player test the waters and find out that he isn't worth 7.5 mil a year.
# 2 pjburrage @ 03/17/15 01:57 PM
4 would be a fantastic addition, but unlikely to get the NFLPA to allow their members to be deemed a locker-room cancer

Would love to see them approach the offseason as a whole in a more calendar based system like Football Manager or Out of the Park Baseball does. anyone who has played Football Manager this year or last year will have seen the added feature where there are more steps on the day the Transfer Window ends, that could be replicated in the opening day of Free Agency - better recreating the feel of how zany that day can be sometime.

You could then extrapolate that out, into booking pro-day visits and private workouts (ala Head Coach).
# 3 pjburrage @ 03/17/15 02:08 PM
Another thing I'd love to see them do is to only show stats and key measurables (SPD, STR, JUM etc) of the players in free agency, but have those key measurables in a non-numeric rating (I'd personally hide numeric ratings for all players not on your roster - or even not having been on your roster for X years). That might at least replicate some of the boom/bust element - as a player may have produced great stats on one team, but you're not entirely sure how he'd fit into your team.

Maybe this could be added to later on, with much like deciding on whether to focus on XP or Confidence, the Scouting could be set to either focus on Scouting the Draft Class, or paying more attention to the players already in the League (or a split across the two areas). The accuracy of whichever you choose is determined on the scouts ability (something that doesn't appear to matter much at present).
# 4 cmehustle @ 03/17/15 05:37 PM
How about players really wanting big money contracts? Everyone in Madden can be signed for way below market value, so there's never really a decision to make choosing between your free agents. You can simply resign them all for mostly at a discount. But if someone else at a position signs a big deal, that should correspond around the league and raise up the price for a player at that position, thereby causing a trickle down effect that causing the gm to make a choice on whether you can really afford that kind of money. That causes a lot more turnover then there currently is especially in ccms where there are 30 players.
# 5 splff3000 @ 03/17/15 06:15 PM
I like alot of those suggestions and have one big one of my own. I always thought FA should have an element similar to recruiting in the old NCAA football franchise. You should be graded on different categories and be able to "pitch" those strengths to free agents. You lost in the AFC Championship game last season? Well pitch that to the free agent prospect to separate your team from the 2-14 team that is making the same offer as yours. Your city has nice weather all year round? Pitch that to the free agent to separate your team from the Buffalo team that has the same offer as you. Just upgraded your team facilities and got a new stadium? Pitch that to separate your team from the Raiders team that's making the same offer. I could go on and on with this. I assumed when the NCAA series was canceled that something like this would be coming to Madden, but it's been years and we've not seen anything like this.
# 6 Throne_Taker93 @ 03/17/15 06:27 PM
I just want their stats and stuff to be displayed again...
# 7 CM Hooe @ 03/17/15 07:00 PM
Three ideas -

1 - Supplemental draft picks. The NFL's exact formula for awarding these picks is secret, but there's no reason EA couldn't approximate the system, which gives teams extra draft picks for the following year's draft based on the amount of money given to players the team acquired and lost during the current offseason's free agency period.

2 - AI GM personalities. Leveraging the supplemental draft pick concept, Madden should be able to differentiate between GMs like Ted Thompson and Ozzie Newsome - who will let players walk if the contract terms don't line up how they want and rarely spend big money in free agency in order to get the supplemental draft picks and keep their salary cap situation under control - and the big spenders - most recently Stephen Ross of the Dolphins has signed guys like Mike Wallace and Ndamukong Suh to huge contracts recently.

3 - Some sort of game mechanic which forces the user to split resources between allocating points between scouting and offseason free agency. For example, instead of scouting players for a segment of the offseason, a team could instead spend all of its time and effort attempting to recruit free agents during the "legal tampering" window in order to sway free agents to sign with their team at the start of the free agency period. Conversely, a user could also ignore the recruiting period and opt instead to keep a larger-than-normal allotment of scouting points to get a big leg up in the draft, or split the difference between the two ends. This would be especially interesting in an online CFM watching how different users choose to build their teams.
# 8 ggsimmonds @ 03/17/15 08:14 PM

As CM said we need GM personalities to mirror the different philosophies of each team.

We also need player personalities. No, not some limited marketability score either. Implement a personality and morale system. Like what was in Madden 10 years ago. Also think of the system in head coach where some guys could be signed for less due to their personality, and some guys scream show me the money.
# 9 stlgamer09 @ 03/17/15 08:36 PM
Free agent visits to sway a player to your side and sign that day...something like ncaa football had with recruit but better.
Cpu signings need better AI
# 10 PantherBeast_OS @ 03/18/15 01:26 AM
I'm going to be honest. I never liked the way Josh Looman redid the FA in the off season for Madden the past 4 years. It's likes you get into a bidding way with other teams for a certain guy. Which never really happens in real life. I like the old way FA use to work in Madden years ago. I wish Josh would go back to the old ways of doing FA. The player can choose from the top 3 teams he is interested in. Much better in my opinion. The bidding war is dumb to be honest.
# 11 rudeworld @ 03/18/15 03:24 AM
I think 2k5 had a spectacular off season in general. EA need to start incorporating the licenses they paid for better * cough* ESPN *cough*. Why haven't I seenbor heard Chris Berman? Adam Sheffler(sp), or any other ESPN NFL GUY?
The player seem like robot and have no personality... They'll just go to the highest bidder...
the game as it is now... Is extremely boring off the field and needs some spice.
# 12 SnakeEyez @ 03/18/15 10:37 AM
this won't be upgraded because it has nothing to do with MUT....
# 13 Gossennator @ 03/18/15 12:28 PM
Originally Posted by SnakeEyez
this won't be upgraded because it has nothing to do with MUT....
Ultimate Team is the worst thing to happen to sports games in a while, espcially if you're a franchise guy. I sterotypically see "college bros" playing MUT and using their parents money to pay for card packs.
# 14 TD3322 @ 03/18/15 02:16 PM
what about Restricted Free Agents... that was a really COOL addition a cpl yrs ago. I like the Supplemental draft picks idea too. I would REALLY like to see the addition of an 8 man practice squad, so u dont have to make a decision of who to cut, in order to replace an injured player. Permanent formation subs need to be brought back too. and the ability to name an Emergency QB, like Dennard Robinson incase of injury.....
# 15 CM Hooe @ 03/18/15 03:09 PM
Originally Posted by SnakeEyez
this won't be upgraded because it has nothing to do with MUT....
Just like EA ignored franchise mode in Madden 12 - but they added over 100 community-requested features.

Just like EA ignored franchise mode in Madden 13 - but they introduced a completely redesigned online-enabled version of the mode.

Just like EA ignored franchise mode in Madden 25 - but they brought back a rebuilt Owner mode.

Just like EA ignored franchise mode in Madden 15 - but they added brand new gameplay mechanics and retooled portions of the mode based on user feedback from the previous two years of player usage.

EA is not ignoring franchise mode and they are well-aware that franchise players are a significant portion of their player base. You may see some franchise achievements tied to rewards in MUT, but franchise mode itself is not going anywhere and is not getting passed over for exclusive attention to MUT.
# 16 oneamongthefence @ 03/18/15 04:18 PM
Since the NFL implemented a veteran combine this should be in. Pick those players that 're in and give them they're ratings based on combine scores. For all other stats have a letter grade and for non combine free agents all stats should be letters. Just hide all ratings after the super bowl. Also we should be able to work out free agents as well to unlock more ratings.
# 17 StefJoeHalt @ 03/18/15 10:48 PM
Originally Posted by TD3322
what about Restricted Free Agents... that was a really COOL addition a cpl yrs ago. I like the Supplemental draft picks idea too. I would REALLY like to see the addition of an 8 man practice squad, so u dont have to make a decision of who to cut, in order to replace an injured player. Permanent formation subs need to be brought back too. and the ability to name an Emergency QB, like Dennard Robinson incase of injury.....

Couple things on what u said..players on Practice Squad are released then signed to practice squad and at anytime can be signed by another team..and/or be resigned by original team to the 53 roster..if a player is hurt short term normally a backup or inactive player replaces them..so even though I too want practice squads they are little more then "show"..what needs to be done before that is have the normal 46 man active list/game day roster with u having to decide which 7 guys u deactivate

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# 18 JerzeyReign @ 03/19/15 12:42 AM
I like the ideas. Maybe regression happen after FA or before the next season. Maybe have regression happen throughout the year. That could really help the boom/bust system.

During the year I wish FA mulled offers at least until the next advance instead of signing immediately. May give a chance for teams to bid for the services - allowing playing time, money or scheme decide.
# 19 cusefan74 @ 03/19/15 05:52 PM
The first thing they need to do is let us see stats again, and their attributes. It's so dumb they took they stuff out.
# 20 Planned River @ 03/21/15 11:11 PM
Adding dialogue to the negotiations would be a great thing. So the player lets the gm know what they want and have more to do with their decision. Adding promises and roles to the incoming player would be neat as well. Good article.

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