Why small market NFL teams shouldn't fear the end of the Salary Cap

The salary cap is dead, and barring something totally unexpected, it will never come back to the NFL. In it's wake, many are expecting the NFC East to put a stranglehold on the NFL like how the AL East (more specifically, the Yankees and Red Sox) has doen with MLB.

The logic behind that statement would seem sound. Those 4 teams are consistently among the NFL's most popular, play in some of the largest media markets, play in lavish stadiums with plenty of premium revenue outlets, and would have the ability to sign most of the game's best free agents year in and year out.

The first two parts are certainly true. Dallas opened their new stadium last year that has been refered to as the "Eight Wonder of the World", among a host of other things. The Giants will be moving into their own palace this year. With millions of fans all over the world buying merchandise, not to mention tickets, and the money advertisers pay these teams are also flush with cash.

Now, beyond the darkess, why is there light at the end of the tunnel for small market teams to compete?

 

Simple, the NFL is all about the draft. The building blocks of every single dynasty in the NFL have been laid through the draft. Whether we're talking about the Patriots, 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers, almost all of their amazing talent was constructed via the draft.

In an age where ESPN hypes up every major free agent signing like it managed to switch the rotation of the Earth, how many really did anything?  I remember Drew Brees' signing had comparatively little attention compared to Albert Haynesworth's mammoth deal with Washington.

Free agency in football and baseball are two very different markets. 30 is when most NFL players are considered to be "old." 30 is when many baseball players are in the primes of their career. Think about how many of baseball's best are still consistently among their best with they're in their 30s. Now, how often does that happen in the NFL at most positions?

In an age with increasing savy NFL GMs, most free agents fall into one of two categories. 1. Guys who are role players who want difference maker money. 2.Guys who were difference makers and got old/hurt/etc. Because of the age factor, baseball free agency also has a third category. Guys who are in their prime and only  the same 4 or 5 teams can even begin to make an offer sheet.

What I am trying to get at is, it's alot harder to bust out the check book and buy a Super Bowl than a World Series. The free agency market in the NFL it littered with far more landmines than successes, and even in an uncapped league, it would still be true.

With an uncapped league likely resulting in players needing to be five or six year veterans in order to become unrestricted free agents, the importance of quality drafting only becomes more important.

Dan Synder can trade away draft picks for old players like Donovan McNabb all he wants to, but those picks will go to make someone better. Draft and develop is still the name of the game, and as long as it doesn't change, it will always be the great equalizer for small market teams.

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