Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler are still unsigned and that may be good for the NFL.
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By Brien O’Donal
After reading reports today that Jay Cutler is auditioning for Fox to replace John Lynch on game day I started to think about whether or not he would play next year. I remembered that Colin Kaepernick is still unsigned and Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch took incentive heavy contracts. Even Adrian Peterson took a low ball offer to keep playing. Coming out of the draft I thought a majority of teams picked well enough to give them youthful talent that could develop over time into solid contributors and I felt confident that play would improve because of it. Now I am even more upbeat about the potential increase in parity that may exist in the 2017 season.
I’m a believer that when a team doesn’t over reach in the draft and keeps their salary cap healthy by not over spending in free agency they have a lot more flexibility to keep the talent they develop. The fact that the draft was weak on quarterbacks but established ones like Cutler and Kaepernick haven’t been signed tells me teams are more wary of hitching their wagon to a player who costs too much and won’t get them a championship. I’m not saying that those guys aren’t worth signing, I just think they should get contracts like Charles and Lynch received; minimum guaranteed and heavy on incentives. That way if they don’t play like top tier quarterbacks the team isn’t saddled with money they can’t spend on a replacement next year.
Running backs have become devalued in recent years, especially for injured or aging veterans who once commanded top dollar. To see teams patiently wait out Adrian Peterson until he took about $3 million in New Orleans was the first sign things might change. Now Charles and Lynch are getting $900,000 and $1.35 million guaranteed respectively with the rest made up in bonuses and incentives. With their age and history in mind these are safe contracts that protect the teams in the future. It would be great for them to perform like they have in previous years and their teams would be more than happy to pay them for it. It’s just better if there is enough cap room to have depth for protection against the alternative.
If it starts to become a trend year after year where teams are not fighting and overpaying aging veterans and instead re-sign developed youth then maybe the days of 1-15 seasons will go away too. No one likes seeing that. In my opinion it was the reason for the ratings decline more than anything. There were far too many games that had a nearly pre-determined outcome before the first snap and the way the NFL televises games forced them down our throats. If the Jaguars win 5 games I won’t be surprised, if they are competitive in 12 I will be more likely to watch. It’s not that teams are bad; it’s that they are so bad it’s nauseating to watch. Getting rid of bad contracts and drafting well are steps to make teams more exciting to watch, and that should increase ratings. If this offseason shows marked improvement in parity and more competitive games across the league then maybe next offseason will be more of the same. We will just have to watch and find out.