It’s a point we’ve made from time to time in recent months, and it becomes relevant again in the aftermath of the annulled marriage between the Saints and running back Adrian Peterson. Should the NFL draft precede free agency?
The Bears, for example, wouldn’t have offered quarterback Mike Glennon a three-year, $45 million contract if they’d already drafted Mitch Trubisky. And the Saints surely wouldn’t have signed running back Adrian Peterson if they’d already drafted Alvin Kamara.
“[I]n our league you have free agency and then you have the NFL draft unlike basketball, where it is the other way around,” Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters on Wednesday. “We drafted [Kamara] and ended up finding a good, young prospect who has played well.”
It’s possible that the Saints would have still signed Peterson after the draft, as a hedge against Kamara not becoming the guy that he has become. Still, Payton seems to be interested in at least considering a possible shift in the order of free agency and the draft.
“I think it makes sense because you’re always trying to draft value,” Payton said. “To be able to do that and then finish the process possibly and sign. It’s just flipped around. . . . I’m sure there’s a lot more that goes into it than me just talking about it with you guys on a conference call. It’s not been something that I’ve been looking to bring up, raise issue with or any of those things. I’m sure that it’s fairly complex.”
It is, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be raised. Some would say that it would result in veterans getting less in free agency, since needs would be filled via the draft. But teams only have seven draft picks; for needs not filled in the draft, the price tag in free agency could increase. Likewise, players due to become free agents could squeeze their current teams for more money if they didn’t draft a rookie who can step in and replace them.
Regardless of the details, the current system often results in teams filling a need twice, and then having a problem. Flipping the order could prevent that, which likely will be good for everyone, regardless of how the dollars and cents eventually work out in a salary-capped/minimum-spend environment.