For the Madden Franchise player, it has the same level of importance.
A lot of players like to build through the draft, but Free Agency is also massively important for putting finishing touches to the team.
This is a high profile year for the game. With 2K creeping into contention with an official NFL deal, along with it being the year of the next-gen consoles. Obviously, the game will be released on the current consoles first, but it will be interesting to see what the powerful PS5 and Xbox Series X can offer the game.
So what do we want to see change about Free Agency in Madden 21?
Free Agent Work-outs
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Currently, teams all bid for a player and then based on some behind the scenes logic, the player weighs up these offers and then does or doesn't sign with each passing week.
It would be great to make it so that a player you offer can be invited to come to the team for a workout. You could play some drills with the player to see their skills in action. Followed by them asking you questions about your plans for the team.
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This would be a straightforward addition to the current process and would add a level of immersion that even NBA 2K20 would envy. Depending on your team, you might try to sell different things to the players.
The Patriots might be able to push recent success, the Dolphins can sell the beaches. With each question answer, it could change the level of desire the player is showing to joining.
It's not always about money.
If it is about money, then updating how this is handled would go some way to improving Free Agency.
Previous Madden titles have had more depth to the contracts, with the ability to front or backload the deals. This is pretty common in sports titles. However, a few years ago the model was simplified for the more casual fan to ensure they don't get into cap trouble.
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Having both options in a settings toggle would be a good move. This year saw the addition of a 5th-year option as a mid-year update which was a good step. But players have all sorts of clauses, multiple types of tag and various amounts of guaranteed and non-guaranteed money. This should all be in the game.
Team & Player relationships
Another hugely influencing factor in Free Agency is player, coach and teams relationships. Players often take less money to sign for a team they want to play for and want to win with, based on relationships formed at previous teams.
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This is wider than just Free Agency and should be a part of the game more generally, with coaching teams being made up of individuals you sign with scheme preferences. But specifically in Free Agency, this should be part of persuading top talent to join your organisation and this should be the consequence of who you choose to put in those positions at the start of the season.
Scheme Fit & Other Commitments
Players want to play to the best of their ability and one of the reasons they like certain coaches, is they know their schemes. It's unclear if scheme fit is part of the logic for Free Agency players choosing which team to go to, but it should be clear.
This should be another conversation in the Work out meeting where you could make commitments to players to change the schemes to fit them. If you are trying to woo Tom Brady, you can make the commitment that you will become a pass-heavy offense. You should be able to say you will go and sign a top tier WR for him to throw to.
All of these elements are plausible and actionable but will add layers of depth to a game that needs it.