Meanwhile, the teams that seek the quicker path of free agency wind up on the outside looking in.
There's no prize for winning the offseason, after all.
But each year some teams break out the checkbook and spend heavily on proven veterans to augment, or in some cases build, their franchise around.
2012 stands to be one of the more exciting free-agency periods in recent history. The Indianapolis Colts flooded the market in the start of their rebuilding phase, including their keystone player Peyton Manning.
But Manning is just the shiniest bauble in a whole collection of free agents looking to land serious contracts.
This year, some of those teams might just be able to buy themselves into the playoffs. Most have already built a solid roster and need a couple players to put them over the top.
And some teams will buy up free agents because they have no other choice.