The question was posed during Thursday night’s NBA draft in the form of a Twitter poll, and NFL fans who are typically reluctant to change embraced the idea by a 12-point margin: Hold the NFL draft before NFL free agency.
Basketball and hockey both do it. Perhaps the NFL should, too.
For veteran players, the knee-jerk reaction would be that they don’t want their looming paydays to be usurped by younger and cheaper draft picks, as teams fill needs by adding rookies in lieu of paying veterans. But what about the teams that don’t get what they want or need in the draft? At that point, a premium could be paid to add a talented veteran free agent because there’s no “screw it we’ll just draft someone” fallback.
One practical impediment to what would be a dramatic change to the offseason calendar comes from the intense time and effort devoted to the draft from the moment football season ends. With the Scouting Combine and Pro Days and team visits and private workouts, the draft couldn’t be moved up by very much if at all, thereby delaying free agency into April, and perhaps May. With offseason programs opening in April, that’s hardly ideal.
So while it’s fun to think about teams first drafting players and then signing veterans, the NFL isn’t likely to change its approach any time soon. Unless the NFL decides that there’s plenty of money to be made by turning the offseason on its head.