Should the draft precede free agency?

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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.

21 responses to “Should the draft precede free agency?

  1. I’d think the NFLPA protecting veteran players – players who are current union members as opposed to future/prospective members – would be against the draft preceding free agency. Not a bad idea though.

  2. Chicken and the egg. If you switch it around, it will likely impact contract opportunities for vets. I agree, the NFLPA will put a stop to this.

    Additionally, can you imagine how many teams would draft a specific position in the draft and then NOT get a player they thought they were going to get in FA? Wouldn’t this create more tampering than already happens with teams trying to lock up guys by committing to not draft their successors?

    If it ain’t necessarily broken… the only ones that suffered in this ordeal were the teams. Paying Glennon and Peterson negatively effected the teams. Peterson had the opportunity to beat out Ingram and Kamara and didn’t. Glennon had the chance to start and failed. I would say they are both better off with a contract that was paid before the smoke cleared.

    Now, you could say both had to play while looking over their shoulder, but it’s an indictment on them for folding under pressure.

  3. From a team standpoint, it’d make sense for the draft to be first so that you can fill your needs there and then go after free agents to fill the gaps you have. From a player standpoint I could see both sides. Yes, you could leverage your existing team for more money after the draft. And you also have the possibility that a team that wants a certain position (like QB) ends up empty and is then willing to pay more for free agents. But odds are guys like Glennon and Peterson don’t get signed if all the teams who were looking at them got rookies in those spots. If they do get signed, their value is greatly diminished because they have another option. Glennon probably makes closer to Keenum money as a stop-gap/eventual backup than as a incoming starter. So, it would be tough to argue to the NFLPA that it would help veteran players as fewer would get signed and those who did would make less money. The biggest issue that seems to arise from the current CBA is that it hurts veterans as teams look for younger, cheaper talent, so I would see the NFLPA wanting to keep the current order in place.

  4. The MLB draft is completely different, are you kidding me? Most of the kids drafted into MLB don’t see the show for four or more seasons, if ever.

  5. Actually free agency occurs before, during and after the draft. In fact, free agents are still being signed today. There are probably just as many cases of free agents brought in after the draft that turn out to be bad fits.

  6. Chicken and the egg
    A chicken like creature laid a mutated egg that hatched and became even more chicken like than it’s predecessor. This happened over and over for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years until a man like creature came along and domesticated the chicken like creature into what we now know as a chicken. (Which tastes a bit like frog legs.)

  7. They should alternate every year. They should switch the season to February to August as well every other year, with a full year hiatus and back to back seasons. Or just keep everything the same. Does not matter to me.

  8. I think this same argument could be made the other way. If they do the draft first and miss out on a pick because somebody else grabbed it before them, then they might find themselves stuck paying ever MORE for the free agent they could have otherwise had cheaper, if they signed him before the draft.

    At least with the draft, teams have a good idea as to how much players are going to cost ahead of time (thanks to the “rookie wage” system) – free agents, on the other hand, are value-based propositions and will cost more depending on the need. It’s easier to tell a free agent, “If you don’t take this, so-and-so will get drafted and your value will go down…”

  9. Like some of the comments above I don’t think that the NFLPA would be ok with it as they want to protect the current interests of the current players before those of the new players. This is what drives up the contracts of the current players. If they draft the rookies first, the current players contracts and signing bonuses go down because the market has been flooded with new cheap talent. So while I think the teams would like it, the players would hate it.

  10. The draft, under the objective of building a team for the longer term future should occur first. Veteran free agents should be a shorter term stop gap measure to fill out a roster or make up for injuries.

  11. Flip it and in a year….
    “we wouldn’t have drafted X if we knew we could sign Y in free agency.
    Remember, you don’t know what you have in a draft pick until camp. Sometimes not even until the second camp. KC didn’t know what they appear to have in Hunt until Ware went down.
    And really, New O didn’t know they could find a RB to draft in the third round before they signed AP. Like quality 3rd Round (and later) RB’s are rare.

  12. But is it the veterans’ fault teams overpay and reach for unproven and/or past their prime talent? Is it the veterans fault that some teams sign a player based on “name recognition? In the end, it’s a chance that both free agents and teams take hoping to find the perfect match one way or another. Draft choices are the same 50-50 shot as a veteran free agent, there are as many misses as there are hits with a draft choice who sometimes doesn’t even make it through the rookie contract.

  13. Yes. The draft should be first 6-8 weeks after the Superbowl, free agency one week later.

    It will never happen…Unions are not in the business of doing whats best for the company their workers represent of men that are not members. They are in existence to do what is best for their dues paying members.

    With a straight face can you honestly tell me a public school union cares about the student…

  14. While it SHOULD happen, it never will. Players love getting their FA money as soon as possible and will pitch a fit if they have to wait another 2 months to get paid.

    There is a salary floor so the money will still get spent, just shuffles around to whom and when.

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