by Paul Wanecski
When the NFL and the Players Association agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement, many items were highlighted as a success. Drafted players would get contracts based on what position in the draft order they were selected, ending the massive holdouts that we common prior to the new CBA. Structured pay scales would be installed for veteran players based on years of service, with a salary cap that would be altered year by year depending on the television revenue generated by the league. All of these were high priority items and the Players Associate thought they had won a major victory in pay and benefits for its current, former and future players.
But things are not always as they seem. The NFL recently held the first ever Veteran Combine, an opportunity for players with NFL service time to participate in a scouting event trying to show what they are physically capable of. While many of the drills we have come to know and love were not included (225 pound bench press, the 3-cone shuttle drill), this was still a chance never given to players who find themselves without a team.
As we know, the NFL is a business and a very lucrative one at that. When we take a look at what a player like former Redskin and Ram defensive lineman Adam Carriker, it is easy to see why he has had trouble landing on an active roster and it has nothing to do with his skill set. He can still set the edge, has immense power and would be a great addition to the Buffalo Bills or a team that could take a chance in a 3-4 front. But the reason he had to go to the veteran combine was because most teams saw his career over, from both a physical and financial sense.
Carriker has no practice squad eligibility, so he would have to make the 53 man roster. The league mandates that his base salary, based on his years of NFL service time, would be $870,000 for the 2015 season.According to the CBA, the veteran minimum is set to increase $15,000 per season (i.e.: if another player with equal service time were to be offered a veteran minimum contract in 2016, the offer would be for $895,000, this is not based off of projected salary cap increases). If he signs for the minimum on a one year deal, with bonus money below $65,000, the signing team gets a salary cap credit and his cap number is equal to that of a 2 year veteran, which would be $585,000. The problem is that even with a salary cap credit, this is still $150,000 more than what it would cost to sign an undrafted free agent. When you ask yourself where a player went or why teams are so hesitant to bring in a veteran player who lost several seasons to injury, look no further than the CBA. Money is money and when you have to pay $870,000 for a player who is only allowed on your 53 man roster as opposed to $435,000 for a player several years younger, who can be placed on the practice squad for development, it is not hard to see why veteran players do not get many offers. This is why the Bills will now be patient, as they should be. Once the draft is over, Buffalo, with the addition of Rex Ryan, will be among the top destinations for undrafted free agents. Once the Bills have snatched the best that market has to offer, that is when those veteran minimum contracts will surface.
Photo courtesy of Fox Sports