Average NFL team is getting younger (i.e. cheaper)

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The NFL is getting younger. And not just because of all the coaches who know Sean McVay.

According to research by the Associated Press, the average NFL roster is getting younger, which means older players (who earn more money) are having a harder time finding and keeping jobs.

The study showed that the average experience of a player on an NFL opening-day rosters was 4.6 years in 2005, and was 4.3 this year.

In 2005, there were 784 players with three years of experience or less and 714 with five or more years. This season, there were 852 of the younger ones and 644 of the older ones.

Effectively, that points to the shrinking middle class in the NFL, as teams increasingly choose to pay a few stars, and fill in the roster with cheaper alternatives than guys who have been around.

“You don’t really have a lot of middle-class older guys. It’s actually kind of sad,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.

Players are also vested for the league’s pension plan after three years and three games, so if it’s harder to get to the end of a fourth season, fewer are qualifying.

During the 2006 collective bargaining agreement negotiations, the “minimum salary benefit” was added, which allows teams to sign veteran players to a one-year deal at the league minimum, and for that deal to count less against the cap. Along with the new rookie salary scale implemented in 2011, it was supposed to funnel more money to older players. That hasn’t been the case, however, as older players are being squeezed out.

19 responses to “Average NFL team is getting younger (i.e. cheaper)

  1. Says a guy who was overrated and then took the highest possible paycheck to go to a crappy team.

    Why can’t players understand they have a choice: You play to be on a winner and then cash in, or you cash in and play to lose?

    Who would openly choose a team that didn’t draft well and overspends on a Safety?

    We’re not feeling sorry for you.

  2. It is a younger person’s game. However, the article should have taken it a step further to show that because they are using a higher percentage of younger players, the percentage the salary cap is getting concentrated in fewer and fewer players, (high priced quarterbacks, linemen etc.) So it’s not really saving money as they have a salary cap it is concentrating the wealth in specific positions.

  3. This happened in the NHL a while back too.

    The difference there is that most players start their career at 18 years old, not 22.

  4. This doesn’t take into consideration that the number of underclassmen entering the draft is also going up.

    In 2019, there’ll be 135 early entrants with only 3 years college. Just 5 years ago, the 98 guys entering 2014 was the all-time high, beating the record of 73 in 2013.

  5. NFLPA’s fault. With less OTAs, training camps and in-season practice time, veterans aren’t getting that much better than the college kids coming into the league.

    Coaches moan about the lack of time to work with players and it’s showing. By learning more through teaching and practice, a veteran player would have a distinct advantage and valuable skills that a newbie wouldn’t.

  6. Christopher Donald says: “the percentage the salary cap is getting concentrated in fewer and fewer players, (high priced quarterbacks, linemen etc.) So it’s not really saving money as they have a salary cap it is concentrating the wealth in specific positions.”

    Not true. Peter King at SI looked at 1997 QB salaries vs 2017 QB salaries and they were IDENTICAL in terms of percentages.

    In 1997: Favre ($6.5m, 15.7% cap), Aikman ($6.3m, 15.2%), Bledsoe ($6.0m, 14.5%)
    In 2017: Stafford (25.3m, 15.1%), Carr ($25m, 15.0%), Luck ($24.6m 14.7%)

    Same with DE. In 1994, Reggie White got 4yrs/$17m, which was 12.3% of salary cap. Last year, Khalil Mack $20m/yr is about 11.3% of cap.

  7. It also doesn’t take into account players with career ending injuries, or significant injury history.

    I don’t know if those have gone up, but certainly the focus on multiple concussions has over the past several years. Go back a decade or so and a team wouldn’t flinch at signing a 5 year vet that had had 3 or 4 concussions. Now, that player is damaged goods.

  8. This is because the top few players are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of the salary cap. Everyone can’t get paid. So, inevitably, the cheapest and best solution are players out of college to fill the rest of the roster. It defies logic to have a salary cap for teams, but not a cap for each position. This is something the players union should actually demand, because it allows the team to spread the wealth. Again, otherwise you’ve got a quarterback making 15-20% of the entire team cap, leaving peanuts to the 52 others on the active roster.

  9. ibillwt says:
    January 28, 2019 at 10:51 am

    how can it be cheaper overall when each team has to pay out the salary cap?




    It’s not that complicated. It’s only taken 8 years for dopey franchises to figure it out, but with the Rookie Cap, the more guys you have under the Rookie Cap on your team, the more you can build a base at a far lower cost.

    Do you pay attention to how BB does it at all?

    Why this has taken so long for teams to understand this, as opposed to opening the checkbook for guys 29-30 and older, is beyond me.

    The Rookie Cap and how you draft and develop or TRADE for guys under a rookie cap like BB has done (Van Noy, Dorsett, Shelton, etc), is how you can get cap era advantages.

    Or, you can copy the Jets model. Your choice.

  10. Couldn’t be happier. I work at a union shop where the oldest, laziest guys get the easiest jobs and barely get that done right. Somehow they feel that hanging around wasting time for 20 years entitles them to less work & more pay.

  11. Isn’t this just an microcosm of the real world , note that the NFL has a strong union so that is a variable that is put into the calculation. . So might this gap in wages really be a natural thing that occurs. Are the top paid players in the league evil? Are they greedy? Do they take advantage of other players to make their money?. those are the comments I hear when people talk about CEO’s and even NFL owners. So are the highest prices players the same, if not why are they any different?

  12. Well duh. There are obvious advantages to younger players but it is also a year to year game and the system is slanted against the vets.

    Teams have learned cap space is everything, so why would you build a team around vets?

    They need to expand on the one year minimum for the vets to get signed. There’s nothing wrong with veteran backup except it costs a whole lot more.

  13. It’s not getting cheaper. Young players are cheap and that extra money goes to the established stars. Teams spend what they are going to spend, no matter how it is allocated.

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