The main free agency period happened two months ago, and the NFL Draft has come and gone (finally), but teams aren’t quite done with major transactions.
The draft is an exciting time for teams, fans, and the draftees, but a dreaded time of year for veterans, even some household names. After years of loyal service, the veterans see their teams draft their eventual replacements.
In some cases, the replacing will happen before the start of this regular season. For others, the writing is on the wall that this year will be their last, and the team is grooming their heir.
Let’s take a look at the veteran players who were most affected by the draft and are likely to be displaced, either this training camp or next offseason:
Titans left tackle Michael Roos — Roos is a three-time All-Pro in nine seasons but might not be long for the Titans. They signed Michael Oher in free agency and drafted Taylor Lewan in the first round, and Roos has a $6.625 million salary cap number with no dead money.
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and cornerback Terence Newman — The Law Firm might not be long for the Bengals, who drafted Gio Bernard last year and Jeremy Hill in the second round this year. Green-Ellis costs $2.3 million against the cap, and the Bengals can save all but $500,000 of it. Newman, a former Cowboy, has no dead money on his $1.9 million cap number, and the Bengals drafted Darqueze Dennard in the first round.
Cardinals tight end Rob Housler — Only has one touchdown catch in three seasons since being drafted in the third round, and the Cardinals just drafted Troy Niklas in the second round. They can save more than $1.4 million by cutting Housler.
Bears running back Matt Forte — Has a lot of wear on his tires, rushing the ball 1,551 times and missing only five games in six NFL seasons. He’s probably safe this year, with $2 million in dead money, but he might be expendable before 2015 with an $8.8 million cap number and fourth-round pick Ka’Deem Carey on board.
Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin — He just signed a one-year deal to start alongside Riley Cooper, but the writing is on the wall that he’s not long for the Eagles. They gave Cooper, not Maclin, the long-term deal, and just drafted Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in the second and third rounds.
Patriots guard Dan Connolly — The Patriots’ interior offensive line struggled last year, and Connolly looks like he’s in trouble. The Patriots can save $3 million of his $4.1 million cap number, and drafted two interior linemen — fourth-rounder Bryan Stork and sixth-rounder Jon Halapio.
Bills right tackle Chris Hairston — The fourth-year tackle is entering the final year of his contract, and it doesn’t look like he’s in the team’s plans after it drafted Cyrus Kouandijo in the second round. Hairston would only cost $103,977 against the cap if cut, and could save the Bills $645,000.
Eagles linebacker Trent Cole — Durable pass rusher has played 140 games over nine years, but the Eagles just drafted pass rusher Marcus Smith in the first round, and Cole’s price tag is high. He’s likely safe this year with $4.8 million in dead money, but there’s no way the Eagles keep him at $10 million next year.
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy — Hardy is safe for this year after signing his franchise tag worth $13.116 million. But the Panthers must think long and hard about his future past this year given his current legal situation (arrested in a domestic dispute last week), and the Panthers drafted pass rusher Kony Ealy in the second round.
Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali — Eight-year pass rusher is probably safe this year, but he’s not long for the Chiefs, who just drafted Dee Ford in the first round. Hali’s contract runs out after 2015 and has a cap number of almost $12 million next year.
Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford — Hasn’t made much of an impact in two seasons in St. Louis, has a high cap number ($6 million), only $2 million in dead money, and the Rams just drafted AaronDonald in the first round.
Chargers guard Jeromey Clary — Sixth-round pick in 2006 has started 93 games but might be reaching the end of the line. The Chargers drafted Chris Watt in the third round, while Clary has a high cap number ($6.25 million) and not a huge amount of dead money ($1.7 million).
Falcons defensive end Jonathan Babineaux — The Falcons probably regret giving him a contract extension last year, and he’s probably safe for 2014 with $4 million in dead money. But this will almost certainly be his 10th and final season in Atlanta. He’s out of position as a 3-4 defensive end, and the Falcons just drafted Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round to take his spot.
Colts guard Donald Thomas — The former Patriot only started two games last year before getting hurt, and it doesn’t look like he’s in the Colts’ plans. He has a cap number of $3.75 million with only $750,000 in dead money, and they just drafted Jack Mewhort in the second round.
COME ONE, COME ALL
Rookie holdouts turn into a thing of the past
The days of rookie holdouts are almost extinct, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement from 2011 that slotted each draft pick’s signing bonus and left very little room for negotiation.
Whereas players used to not sign until right before training camp in July — and several first-rounders held out in the early weeks of the preseason — dozens of players are now signing soon after the draft and getting their contracts out of the way. The Bears got a gold star for signing their entire draft class last week, and as of Saturday morning, the Patriots had signed four of their mid- to late-round picks.
It makes sense, too. Since contracts are predetermined, players might as well sign right away and get their money as they begin practicing and risk injury. The only players who may have lengthy negotiations are first-round picks, who have squabbled with teams about offset money for the last two years, and third-rounders, where there is a little wiggle room in Year 3 and Year 4 compensation.
The Patriots’ top draft picks — first-round defensive tackle Dominique Easley and second-round quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — still haven’t signed, but it’s not hard figuring out their contracts. The NFL Players Association informed agents that signing bonuses will remain the same for the fourth straight year, meaning that rookies have only gotten minute increases in contract value since the new CBA took effect.
Easley will have the same signing bonus as the last three 29th overall picks, Gabe Carimi, Harrison Smith, and Cordarrelle Patterson — $3,631,672. Garoppolo will have the same signing bonus as the last three players slotted in his draft position, Daniel Thomas, LaMichael James, and Robert Alford — $853,744. The only difference is that rookie salaries increase by $15,000 each year, and first-year players will make $420,000 this year.
Overall, Easley will sign a four-year deal worth $7,303,552 with a fifth-year option. He will have approximate salary cap numbers of $1.32 million, $1.66 million, $1.99 million, and $2.32 million.
Garoppolo, meanwhile, won’t be expensive at all to develop. He’ll sign a four-year deal worth $3.84 million, with approximate salary cap numbers of $633,000, $792,000, $951,000, and $1.11 million.
No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney of the Texans will sign a four-year deal worth $22,272,998 fully guaranteed, with a signing bonus of $14,518,544 and a fifth-year option.
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel will sign a four-year deal worth $8,248,596 fully guaranteed, with a signing bonus of $4,318,980 and a fifth-year option.
Rams defensive end Michael Sam, the 34th pick of the seventh round (249th overall), will get a signing bonus of $45,896 but no other guarantees.
In reality, Sam show wasn’t the right move
It was a smart move by Michael Sam and the Oprah Winfrey Network on Friday to quickly pull the plug on the reality show it had planned around Sam’s journey as the NFL’s first openly gay player. The project had called into question the authenticity of each of Sam’s previous steps in his journey since coming out in February.
Sam was an easy guy to root for, and it was fascinating to see many media, Rams fans, and NFL fans in general turn against him when Sam and OWN announced the reality show last week.
But the fact that Sam wanted to participate in a behind-the-scenes show — which he did not tell the Rams or the NFL about before he was drafted, and did not have any special permission for from the league — seems to have squandered a lot of the good will he had generated.
The player who said he simply wants to “own his story” and “focus on football” looks like someone who cares more about cashing in on his fame than being a football player who just happens to be gay. And a lot of the events involving Sam over the last few months now feel disingenuous — the carefully orchestrated announcement with ESPN and the New York Times, the selling of “Stand With Sam” T-shirts, and the kissing, cake-eating, and tears with his boyfriend on national TV after being drafted.
The best way for Sam to set an example to sports fans gay and straight, though, would be to act just like every other seventh-round pick — go to work and focus on nothing more than making the football team and being himself.
Policy on marijuana needs to be reformed
The news during last weekend’s draft that Browns star receiver Josh Gordon potentially is facing a suspension of up to one year for repeated marijuana violations brought to mind two thoughts:
Gordon is an idiot for not being able to lay off the stuff, and the NFL is hurting itself with its marijuana policy.
The fact of the matter is that the NFL is on the verge of losing one of its more talented young players, all because of a Draconian policy for a drug that few would argue is a performance enhancer.
Attitudes about marijuana in the United States are rapidly changing. The substance is now legal in two states that have NFL teams and medical marijuana is now legal in 21 states, plus Washington, D.C.
Suspensions for marijuana are lighter than they are for other drugs, but what is the point of taking Gordon away for a year? The NBA doesn’t even bother testing for marijuana, and no one seems to mind.
As the NFL and the players’ union negotiate to change the drug policy to include HGH testing, it’s in the best interest of both sides to reduce the penalties for marijuana, or stop testing for it altogether.
Several readers asked about the financial implications of Aaron Hernandez being indicted for double murder last week, in addition to the murder charge he is already facing.
According to former agent Joel Corry, Hernandez’s contract had a clause where he states that there weren’t any existing circumstances when he signed his deal that would prevent his continuing availability throughout the contract. Given that he allegedly committed the double murder in July 2012, a month before he signed his contract, the Patriots will likely be entitled to recoup the $9.25 million in signing bonus they have already paid him, win the grievance that he filed to receive his final $3.25 million payment, and the NFL may ultimately grant the Patriots cap relief for the $7.5 million cap hit they are taking for Hernandez this year.
However, the cap relief may not happen until 2015 or even 2016, while the Kraft family will be hard-pressed to actually recover much money from Hernandez given his skyrocketing legal bills.
Since the Patriots already have made most of their moves for the 2014 season, it might not be the worst thing in the world for them to get cap relief in a future year.
Andre Johnson can complain all he wants about not having a quarterback and wanting out of Houston, but he’s probably stuck there for at least one more year. The Texans will still take an $11.9 million cap hit if they trade him this year, although that would be split into $4.6 million this year and $7.3 million next year if they trade him after June 1. But why would the Texans willingly give up a No. 1 receiver if they’re still going to take a huge cap hit?
This is probably the last quote we’ll see from Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains for awhile:
“We’re sitting there, and they keep showing Johnny [Manziel] on TV. And Johnny and I are texting, and he shoots me a text and he says, ‘I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together,’ ” Loggains told ESPN Arkansas last week.
“When I got that text, I forwarded it to the owner and to the head coach. I’m like, ‘This guy wants to be here. He wants to be part of it.’ As soon as that happened, Mr. Haslam said, ‘Pull the trigger. We’re trading up to go get this guy.’ ’’
The Browns are sensitive about the notion that owner Jimmy Haslam, not the football staff, decided to trade up to draft Manziel.
Asked an agent friend last week what he’s going to do with his time now that the draft is over.
“Start recruiting next year’s kids,” he said. The NCAA has strict rules preventing agents from offering anything to college players — they can’t even offer them a ride to class in the rain or buy them a hamburger — but no rules preventing agents from having conversations with players at any time during their college careers.
Realistically, agents start recruiting seniors and top underclassmen during the summer workouts when the athletes have more free time, and the recruiting continues through the fall.
Just another example of the not-so-glamorous life of an NFL agent.Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.