[caption id="attachment_25943" align="aligncenter" width="455"] Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports[/caption] Veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney is obviously frustrated that it took him so long to find a team. The 33-year-old eventually signed a $8.75 million contract with the San Diego Chargers in May, much less than he'd hoped his last contract in the NFL to be. The big, multi-year deal he was expecting -- and, perhaps justifiably -- wasn't on the cards, and indeed San Diego was only looking for a pass rusher after the injury to their own Melvin Ingram. Freeney made his displeasure known to CBSSports.com and Mike Freeman. "I basically think the owners got together and decided not to spend the cash on free agents," he said. "I think the owners made a pact. There's only 32 of them and non of them broke ranks. I think they all decided not to spend money." What Freeney is essentially accusing the owners of, is collusion, and if it were true it would be a serious deal. Putting aside the bias Freeney might hold as a veteran forced to take a smaller deal, and putting aside the improbability of a secret meeting of owners to suppress veteran player salaries (picture: a round table, dark, moody lighting, thunder crackling from outside and old, white guys tapping their fingers against each other rhythmically), you can almost understand his point. Fact this, this free agency period has been completely underwhelming when it comes to big-money contracts. With the exception of Mike Wallace who got a nice $60 million deal with the Dolphins and, of course, the new quarterback contracts small, cheap deals have certainly been the norm this offseason. Cliff Avril, arguably the hottest pass rusher of free agency, only got a two-year deal with the Seahawks, worth $13 million. Safety Bernard Pollard only got a one-year deal with the Titans. Wes Welker got far less money for fewer years than he wanted in his move to Denver (he wasn't getting it with Patriots). How about Charles Woodson only getting a one-year deal worth $1.8 million, or Antoine Winfield and his own one-year $2 million? Even the younger players are not getting as much as they might previously. Safety Dashon Goldson's new $41 million deal is cheap over five years. Neither Paul Kruger nor Dannell Ellerby found the big money we thought they would when they left the Ravens for free agency. John Abraham is still looking for a team, as is outstanding OT Eric Winston and OG Brandon Moore. Nobody wants to pay them what they want. It's not speculation either, we know that, in general teams have spent less this free agency. Bleacher Report and Pro Football Talk report that on average teams spent almost six million less per free agent signing than they did in 2012. That's a big number. So there's no doubt that spending on veteran free agents is down. But there are some logical (read: not as fun) explanations for this shift. Firstly, rookie contracts are cheap thanks to the new -- can we still call it 'new'? -- collective bargaining agreement. This means more teams are willing to draft and develop, rather than plug holes with big-name free agents. Andrew Brant makes this point in his SI column, and goes even further, suggesting it's both the financial benefits and philosophical change that has teams drafting more and signing less. "Teams appear to be getting younger for philosophical reasons as well as financial ones. My old team, the Packers, holds fast to the mantra of "draft and develop": trusting scouts to uncover young talent, avoiding quick free-agent fixes and being unafraid to put younger players on the field." Because of this it's the aged veterans most likely to miss out. Brant offers another reason for the low spending, "the Moneyball approach is gaining traction in the NFL. In Green Bay, I had a second "war room" that focused on financial and analytical data rather than combine numbers; crunching that data often showed that a "maturing" player (typically younger and cheaper) provided a similar overall return to that of a "mature" (established, more expensive) player. Many such operations now exist throughout the league." Teams are making use of analytics to gauge cost and production more effectively, and this leaves plenty of older players in the cold. Now, we don't know if all the owners are now adopting these policies, or whether they're actually just being stingy with their money. But the fact that the NFLPA is not actively investigating this year's free agency and are instead asking for players to provide proof of collusion if they have it suggests that this will be the accepted norm for years to come. Dwight Freeney is right, veterans are not getting the money they were, even a year ago, but there's no real proof of some wonderful grand conspiracy on the part of the owners. Only proof that this new financial and team philosophy works, and that current rookie contracts leads to more teams investing in younger players, not old. Dominic is USSDU's beleaguered Head Editor. You can read his work here. Follow Dominic on Twitter @AussieAudible.