Arsenal14's point wasn't that free players are always better. It's that there are a lot of free players who are better than anything you can get for 1-2M.
5-6M will get you a Kaku or maybe even Josef level player. 1-2M might get you something good, or it might get you Jorgensen.
If all we're going to spend is 1-2M this window, I would have rather taken Cubo Torres on a free in a heartbeat.
And $17M can get you Pity Martinez to do nothing while Seamus Coleman cost Everton just $80K. You can find good and bad in pretty much any arbitrary category.