Earlier this week the NFL announced a new addition to the offseason. The league has decided to add a combine that will evaluate veteran players who are free agents looking for a new team. The veteran combine would mirror that of the rookie one held for prospects entering the NFL draft. As far as I am aware, this was something the NFL had just decided to do on its own; there was not any outside pressure involved or fans calling for this to happen. I sincerely think this is an excellent idea that the NFL has proposed and I am looking forward to seeing how the whole process plays out.
This combine only makes too much sense. This gives the perfect opportunity for players aging player to show that they’ve still got it, injured stars to show that they have recovered or for younger, unheralded guys to demonstrate their new skill acquisition. For teams, it gives them some concrete numbers to work with, allowing them to make much better informed decisions. It is also a new negotiating tool for teams to look at when determining a player’s value. The NFL wins as well because not only is it giving its players a brand new opportunity, which should help with relations to the NFLPA. This will also become a largely commercial event where various companies will vie for the right to sponsor it and boost the popularity of the NFL Network, which is likely where this event will air on television. I see this being a great decision all the way around where it seems like everyone gets something out of it.
The structure of the event is not how you might expect it to be. The combine will not start until a week after free agency begins meaning that plenty of the top players will have already signed new contracts. That means the target group for this combine is the mid-level and low-level free agents who aren’t garnering tons of media attention. There are no invites to the combine either. Unlike, the rookie combine, you can simply sign up for the veteran one, for a $400 fee, but still anyone can theoretically sign up. This levels the playing field for a lot of unheard of free agents who might not be in line to receive an invite. It does not guarantee any of these players a contract but it could at least put them on teams’ radars. They could easily be cut only weeks later in favor of some young blood in the draft but at least they will have a chance to impress and stick. For some of these players, that is all they need.
I think this is a great innovation for the NFL. For crazed football fans, very much like myself, if becomes another event we can track and obsess over while we wait for football to return in August. It shows that the NFL is aware that it still has room to improve every aspect of the league. It does not solely focus on the gameplay. I am interested to see what players show up, dazzle the league on a new stage, and make a name for himself with blazing speed, unparalleled strength or freakish athleticism. All of those will be on display when the league brings together a collection of players who are being given another chance to prove themselves. These guys will not get too many chances after this one so be sure that they are going to everything they can to make this count. Now, we as the fans just get to sit back and wait for the sparks to fly and the fun to begin.