The “free agent feeding frenzy” that is about to take place in the NFL has fans and media alike drooling with anticipation. Some believe that there will be a two week process with maddening results. Minute by minute “tweets” that so and so signed here, and so and so signed there. It would be like the hour after mid-night on a normal free agency period that is a free for all open season…that lasts days.
While the free agent period is surely going to be fun to watch for any fan it seems that there is one issue that has been pushed off to the side of that plate. What’s going to happen to some of the veterans currently under contract with their teams? Well, more than a few may find themselves out of a job when the season starts.
Consider a normal season. Free agency starts, teams make moves, add players, drop players, prep for the draft, draft players, sign undrafted players, practice, mini-camps, practice, prep for training camp, cut roster down, cut roster down, cut roster down, sign practice squad players, start the season. Pretty simple huh?
It’s where the “cut roster” comes in that may be of interest this year. There is talk that each team may be allowed to carry two or three extra players this year. That would be beneficial to some of those veterans who are on the bubble. Traditionally, a veteran who is cut for salary cap reasons during the free agent period, have a lot of time to make the rounds in free agency. That won’t be the case this year. Those veterans who lose their jobs to younger players in camp, traditionally have a shot at landing on another team because those teams have had all off-season to evaluate their rosters and know if that new guy will fit in.
Not this year.
This year it’s different. Once free agency starts, teams will scramble to fill in holes and upgrade areas that are of concern. They will add undrafted rookies who likely won’t make the team as usual…it will be very difficult for an undrafted free agent to make a roster this year with ZERO practice time in the off-season. As camps move on, veterans will be cut who normally would have been cut back in March or early April. Now, those players will be seeking jobs with other teams who are scrambling themselves to evaluate their own rosters.
I’m not talking about big names here, but instead those players who contribute on game-day out of the highlight reels. Guys like Ikaika Alama-Francis, Tim Dobbins, and Roberto Wallace. Players who normally would be viewed as positive additions mid-training camp or upgrades to rosters at depth positions. I’m only using their names as examples of their depth status on the Dolphins and nothing more.
These players will find it increasingly more difficult to find jobs on other teams this year because there is a very narrow window from the start of the league new year until the start of the regular season. My prediction is that as the first month rolls around of the NFL season, there will be plenty of qualified veterans on the free agent market to join clubs as they lose players to injury. And my guess is some of those players may very well be talented youngsters with a lot to offer in front of them.
You would think that it would be a safer bet to keep the veteran and lose the younger guy, especially with a 90% salary cap spending floor. That may not be the case as teams will still need to get younger and free agency will replace veterans with veterans.
So while free agency may be a blast for the fans, it’s going to be an ongoing nightmare for some of the younger veterans and some of the older veterans as well. It’s something worth keeping an eye on.