Often the hype around rookie players at this time of year is such that wide-eyed owners forget about the value of veteran players. As we know, the NFL is a business and as such the goal is to maximize productivity at the lowest feasible cost. On the football field, this translates to a glut of young, hungry players competing with and sometimes supplanting their elder counterparts.
With the Draft in the rearview mirror and minicamps getting started around the league, now is a good opportunity to step back and assess the landscape of veteran defensive players.
Which have fallen by the wayside, and which have seen their long-term prospects improve by their franchise’s decisions?
LB Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati
The Bengals have shown surprising levels of patience with the oft-troubled but immensely talented Burfict, whose NFL career is littered with fines and suspensions. The start of the 2018 season will see the linebacker miss four games after he was suspended for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.
With the white-hot glare of Roger Goodell’s disciplinarian spotlight fixed on Burfict, and with the Bengals drafting promising weak side player Malik Jefferson, the pressure is on for the veteran to stay on the straight and narrow. Burfict was only signed to an extension by the tolerant Bengals front office last September, but contracts are tricky and it wouldn’t be surprising if Mike Brown opts to part ways.
The Jefferson pick is unmistakably a shot across the bough to Burfict: shape up or you could be shipped out.
Risk level: Medium