This 2013 NFL season of free agency looks to be one of the most active on record. Today, the New York Jets released LB Bart Scott, LB Calvin Pace, DB Erik Smith, TE Josh Baker and OT Jason Smith in order to free up salary cap space.
Looking back on the newest iteration of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), which instituted the rookie salary cap, moves like this shouldn’t be surprising. We will probably see similarly active ’14 and ’15 free agency periods – but why?
The rookie wage scale financially induces “youth movements” in many organizations as they dump off higher-priced old veterans that have no “upside” remaining for those college kids that they hope do.
It makes perfect sense in that respect. Why hold onto a thirty-something player whom you know is good enough to play, perhaps even start, when you can get the same thing from a rookie 10 years younger and at half price?
Players like Pace and Scott have had their time in the spotlight. Football in particular is a young man’s game and a team in limbo, such as the New York Jets, faced some tough decisions on personnel. It appears that they’ve decided to undergo their own youth movement.
Also, don’t forget the tense situation between the team and their best player, CB Darrelle Revis, probably because of salary and his recent history of injury.
The overall point is that a team in trouble like the Jets needs the lower-priced younger players for two obvious reasons. One, the veterans aren’t going to get any better. Two, younger is cheaper.
It frees up cap room for the OTHER free agents in the market to get paid by a team that really could use help at a key position.
The seeming flood of quality free agents is in part a result of those salary considerations of the younger players. True, Scott and Pace are past their primes, but they can still play and still help someone – quite possibly one of the playoff teams last season looking for “a final piece” to get them further along.
Occasionally a young team will sign a veteran or two at certain positions if the price is right. Within the NFC South, for example, Tampa Bay might sign Pace or Scott to help their dynamic young OLBs grow and to provide depth or spot-starting duties. A tutor-for-hire, so to speak, or a sort of informal player-coach and good locker room presence to set an example.
Because of the rookie wage scale, teams are more willing to move toward youth, yes, but at some point these kids have to make a team. The end result means less money to more borderline veteran free agents simply because there are going to be more of them. There will be more good ones in the near future as the rookies work their way through to the end of their rookie contracts in another 2-3 years at which point the balance between veteran free agents and rookie free agents will find some equilibrium again, but for now it means more roster turnover for more teams.
For the fans, it means more of a chance that the jersey you bought last year or the year before will be out of date sooner.
For Panthers’ fans, it means don’t be horribly shocked to wake up one day to find out we no longer have Beason, Gamble, or Ron Edwards. Not saying it will happen but Panthers’ fans are probably going to be in for a shock along that front one of these days. The Panthers have one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL, the team disappointed last season, we have a new GM, and all three players I named spent much or all of the season injured. It is also by no means an exhaustive list.
Got your attention now?
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