Hello NN! It's been a while since I threw down a Fanpost, but this topic is of great interest to me. As the headline indicates, a story over on NFL.com reports that Dwight Freeny - the 7-time Pro-Bowl, ex-Indianapolis Colt DE - is accusing NFL owners of conspiring to not pay veteran free agents what they are worth.
I've been kicking this topic around in my mind for a while, since we've been debating the Crabtree injury and what NN fans think about bringing in a FA. The major question being asked is "is it worth it?" And that specific question highlights what I think is causing the pain for guys like Freeny: the new rookie salary schedule.
In years past, Free agency was a vital (overly so IMHO) part of team building, since free agents are generally known commodities AND getting a top draft pick would cost you just as much, if not more. In the new NFL, FA's are still known quantities, but the cost differential between a top-performing FA and a high rookie pick is IMMENSE.
Take, for example, Colin Kaepernick. His salary as a 2nd round pick slotted him in around $750k/year on a 4 year deal - less than the veteran minimum. Trying to sign a middle-of-the-road FA QB would have EASILY cost 5x that. And the selection sucked, to boot. The 49ers got a highly talented, young QB to build a franchise around for a TOTAL investment of about $5Million over a 4 year period (assuming they don't extend him early). That's the cost of a decent quality PLACE-HOLDER free agent for ONE SEASON. (See also: Kyle Orton... Carson Palmer...Kevin Kolb... etc...) Another great example is Aldon Smith... a pass rush specialist a la Freeny. I'm sure we could pile examples on for a long time... Granted, they'll have to pay these guys at some point, but would you - think like a GM/Coach/Owner now - rather bring in Freeny for $4M +/- per year or pay a guy like Smith who's been a solid part of your roster for 4 years? I think that's a pretty easy question to answer.
Economics, while not my strong suit, dictates that if a team has finite resources (aka Salary Cap, # of roster spots) and they have the choice between trading up to get a high quality rookie or a proven FA that costs 10X more, many teams are going to opt for the draft. Makes sense to me. Either decision is a roll of the dice in most cases (or the player wouldn't be a free agent in the first place!) and I'd rather take my $5Million and spread it out over 4 or 5 decent draft picks than stick it in 1 aging free agent who may or may not be good for my system/team/coach/locker room etc...
Reality bites, as they say. In this case, the NFLPA failed to realize that while drastically reducing the signing costs of top draft picks freed up money for veterans, the heaviest price would be paid by aging free agents. With a few years of this type of thing in the off season, my bet is on the next CBA to make adjustments to establish greater parity. Who knows?
NN - what are your thoughts?