Superstar Veteran Can Equal “No Work”

A recent signing that went a little under the radar, as reported by Paul Wexler of Raiderbeat.com, was that of LB Morlon Greenwood to the Oakland Raiders.

Who? What? Who cares?

It does not sound like much of a story until you realize that the Raiders signed Greenwood over 11-time Pro Bowl participant and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year LB Derrick Brooks.  A former NFL player, whom I recently spoke with, could not believe a player such a Brooks had not signed with a team by now. He was even insulted for Brooks that Brooks had to participate in a workout for the New Orleans Saints. One would think it would be a no-brainer to sign a guy like Brooks, who brings instant credibility and leadership to any team.  The problem is that most teams already have priced Brooks out of the game due to his age. It is not that Brooks can no longer play football at a competitive level; it is because there are other players who will not command as much money and are not as high of an injury risk as Brooks may be perceived.

Greenwood is an eight year veteran who last played with the Houston Texans (2005-2008) after being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2001. Brooks is a 14-year veteran playing his entire decorated career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The problem with older players, like Brooks, once they change teams, is that the new team is not as familiar with injury history and how to effectively treat the player. Not that the team doctors and trainers are incompetent. Rather, there is no long-term history with the player, and there is a genuine fear of taking on “damaged goods”.  That can result in signing a player such as Brooks to a high dollar contract that may end up costing the team a significant amount of money should a player like Brooks eventually suffer a serious injury that may land him on the Reserve/Injured list.

A similar situation is that of #4 (yes, that #4, Brett Favre). It is not that he cannot play and compete at a high level, but is it worth the risk for the team for what a veteran player going to cost to sign a veteran player who has played for over 15 years. Remember, the NFL minimum for a player who has played 10+ years is no less that $845,000. Do you really think #4, or Brooks is going to play for that amount of money at this stage of his career? In the illustrious words of actor David Spade, “Uh, no!”

The game of professional football is not like a normal 9:00 am – 5:00 pm job or career, where one can work on the same job or in the same career for years and years.  No one can play professional sports for 25-30 years. (OK, Morten Andersen played from 1982-2007, but did not play in 2005, so technically he only played 24 years.) In fact, the average career for an NFL player is three years. So when you take guys like #4, Brooks, even Marvin Harrison (12-year veteran with the Indianapolis Colts), who is currently unemployed in the NFL and is looking for a team, or anyone else who has been fortunate enough to participate as a professional athlete for over 10 years, he is on borrowed time anyway and should be looking for another career as life after football is staring him square in his face.

Brooks will most likely have an opportunity to play in the NFL this year, and may even have an opportunity to join a team after Week 3 of pre-season games, with roster cuts looming. Do not expect for him to make the final roster or be on a team for the simple fact, there is a little something called “termination pay” that applies to veteran players with more than four accrued seasons, which we will talk about and define at a later date.

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