Editorial: The NFL must find a better way to deal with older players like Terry Glenn

Editorial: The NFL must find a better way to deal with older players like Terry Glenn

Editorial: The NFL must find a better way to deal with older players like Terry Glenn

The quality of play in the NFL has deteriorated over the last several years because good older players are being replaced by younger players that are more prone to mistakes.  The average length of service in the NFL has gone down as the average player salary has increased.  Why not keep really productive older players?  The dreadful 4 disadvantages cause the older player to be cut.

By Bill Smith

Four Disadvantages

    Older players like Terry Glenn carry 4 disadvantages for any NFL team.  To understand the pressures upon which decisions about these players are made, it is essential that these disadvantages be understood.

  1. Older players are almost always more expensive than younger players.  The last collective bargaining agreement attempted to ease the pressure on NFL teams by excluding a portion of the older player's base pay from the salary cap.  That helps but it the team still has to pay the entire amount.  The players are usually being paid not for what they are capable of doing now but for their previous performance.  Players deserve to get paid what they are worth now but teams generally won't tear up a low contract that is clearly less than what a player is worth.  The next contract is where the team tries to keep a player happy by paying for the extra productivity of the player over the last few years.


  1. The older player is likely to be a step slower than he was in his first couple of years.  The hope is that as the speed and physical ability slips, the player's awareness and knowledge of the game makes up some of the difference.  In some positions that works but in others it does not.  Each position has a critical tipping point past which the likelihood that a player will produce like he used to is very low.  An NFL running back is usually done by 30 due to too many hits and the injury history of the position.  Other positions have similar tipping points.  Generally the second contract the player signs takes him past the tipping point.  That puts both the player and the team at risk if the dreaded “diminished skills” issue comes up.  Those of us old enough to remember, never forgave the Browns for cutting Bernie Kosar for “diminished skills.”


  1. The older player is much more likely to be injured and the injuries tend to be more serious.  In addition, it takes a lot longer to recover from an injury at 30 than it did at 22.  That means more games missed.  Due to the higher salary of the older player, those lost games tend to cost much more than with a younger cheaper player.  The older player is by definition a starter which means not only more opportunities to be hurt but a bigger hole to fill with a backup when an injury does occur.  With no guaranteed contracts in the NFL, if a guy can no longer start, he is cut.  Older players are seldom part of special teams.


  1. It is very hard to teach an older player new tricks.  NFL means Not For Long for coaches that don't win early in their contract.  That not only applies to the head coach but just as much to the offensive and defensive coordinators.  Changes in the coaching staff often means a new scheme, terminology, and methodology.  A coaching candidate that comes to an owner and says “I'm going to do exactly what the guy you just fired did” won't get the job.  An owner changes coaches to shake things up and change the fortunes of the team.  Old players often do not fit the new system.  New GMs have to prove that their choices are better than those by their predecessors.  That need to prove “my guy is better than the former starter” has been the biggest issue in the Favre vs Packers case.  Besides, the new administration has very little credibility invested in the guys that were there when they were hired.  In addition the new staff has to overcome the leaders of the team.  Team leaders have already earned the loyalty and respect of their team mates.  The new coaches often have trouble winning over the leaders and must compete with them for the loyalty of the team.  “When you try to lead and no one follows you, you're not a leader.  You're just out for a long walk by yourself.”           

Terry Glenn’s Case

    Which of those apply in the Terry Glenn case?  All of the above.  Glenn is a leader that was brought in by Parcells and Jerry Jones wants the team to know HE is the boss.  Glenn is a leader.  The team depended on him because there is no other leadership on the offense.  There are so many young players on the Cowboys offense, leadership is a problem.  Don't expect Terrell Ownes to provide it.  The young QB is too busy keeping an eye on his girlfriend up in the stands.  And of course there is the issue of injury.  Glenn did miss all but the last 2 games last year.  If however there had not been a power struggle involved, a reasonable compromise would have been reached.


    There are some things that the NFL and NFLPA can do to help keep older players in the league.  The teams must be more willing to tear up contracts when a 6th round player shows he is a quality starter.  By granting those that produce more than they cost, the team can keep the player longer for less total money than if they sign him after his contract expires.  By extending the contract and giving some up front money a player will usually take around half of the “current market price” because he will be paid more for the remaining years of the old contract.           

    Players with new agents all want a new contract.  That is because the old agent is still getting a percentage of the player's pay for having done the old deal.  Most of those player don't deserve new deals and their cries should be ignored.

    The NFLPA and the NFL should agree to require a smaller percentage of the player's salary apply to the salary cap based on years of service.  The longer you have served, the smaller percent of your pay is included in the cap. 

    And finally, the rookie salary cap must be included in the new agreement.  The NFL has the ability to limit salaries of rookies outside of the collective bargaining agreement.  The NFLPA can not sue the NFL over a rookie salary cap because those that are harmed by the lower salaries are by definition not members of the NFLPA until they sign.  The NFLPA has no legal standing in such a case. 

    Another approach is to allocate a “compensatory draft choice” under the rules of the current agreement for a drafted rookie that does not sign a contract.  The NFL should define these players as “unsigned free agents” and thus give the team that helps to hold down salaries a draft choice the following year equal to the one they lost by not being able to sign someone.

    That is what I think.  Do you agree or not?  Let us know by adding a comment below.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams and has scouted talent.  He is a senior writer for http://BrutusReport.com.  He has also published several novels on http://ebooks-library.com/index.cfm and edits http://fryingpanpolitics.blog.com

Tags: Buckeyes Football NFL Ohio State

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