One of the side stores of the draft that nobody will talk about is the importance of the first two days to veteran NFL players. The first 3 rounds are the parts of the draft where teams see a potential starter for the current league year, specifically the first two rounds. While that is exciting for fans of the team it can rapidly turn sour for current players in the NFL.
One of the unintended, at least on the unions side, consequences of the new rookie wage scale is that teams that in the past would have considered a veteran player due to the high cost of the first round pick are now more than happy to go with the upside of the low cost player rather than the high priced unknown rookie. There was a time where a team like the Dolphins would have much preferred to sink $20 million dollars into John Abraham or Dwight Freeney. Now there is no need for those players as a quick fix and it significantly limits their options. Most like players like that will now be contacted but at far lower prices than they ever imagined and are probably worth, even with a flat salary cap.
But beyond the name value free agents the decisions made over the last two days could impact multiple players in the NFL. If you are a “lunchpail” type player who is trying to hang onto a job or a starting position the decision made today impacts your financial future. If a draft choice is selected at your position you may be asked to take a paycut or be cut. If cut you are stuck trying to find a home on a team that has already begun its offseason program. Some players quickly go from starting to out of the League, unable to find a home at this point of the year with a system that suits the player.
It’s really tough for those players. Their careers are short lived to begin with and the lack of the dreaded “U word” makes them expendable, especially if there are cap and cash savings involved. They cant really even fight for a job. They are good enough to play but if the option is $1 million and decent play vs $405,000 and upside they cant really control that. Its a battle they will almost always lose. In the coming days expect to see a number of players hit the streets or take significant paycuts for a chance to make the team in September. I can guarantee you that as round 3 ended there were a number of players who were able to breathe a sigh of relief and a number who were on the phone with the agents trying to figure out what they do if they get cut in the next few days.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.