Jack Bechta is a NFL player agent and apparently a periodic contributor to the Nation Football Post. He's got an informative piece up that details what he sees as salary trends by position. Before I get into that I want to parlay the part that caused me to write on this. In his wrap up paragraph he seems to clearly summarize the Marty Hurney preferred method for building a winning roster:
I believe that teams with the highest turnover will lack the chemistry needed, which is the glue that makes a team special. The teams that draft well and develop young players will have a continuous nucleus, better chemistry and be less reliant on free agents and having to do risky deals that could lead to dead money.
He's pointing out the benefit to investing in your own players players versus signing free agents who might represent a more economical option...and that is the improved team chemistry is promotes. We want the Panthers to be a destination of choice for players and draft prospects.
Moving on the point of the post, Bechta identifies the positions where he sees salary growth versus those to remain flat or even decline. Though most of the positions fall were I would have expected with respect to salary growth, there were a few surprises which we will discuss ...after the jump...
Four Positions Seeing Salary Growth
Of the four positions seeing salary growth, three are no surprise: offensive linemen, cornerbacks and defensive ends. Part of what is driving the growth is position longevity. Each of these positions have a history of providing longer player lengths of service over other positions.
The one surprise of the four, for me anyway was punter:
A good punter can significantly dictate field position throughout a game and get his team out of trouble when backed against the opponent’s goal line. And of course, since they can’t tackle to save their own life, they have long careers. The five million dollar a year punter is just around the corner. The APY salary for punters is $2.7 million.
I'm sure Chris Kluwe agrees with the value of a good punter! Seriously, it's a very good argument about how much better a punter can make your defense if he's giving the coverage a couple extra seconds to get downfield or pinning the opposing offense inside their own 20.
Positions Predicted for Flat or Declining Salary Growth
I foresee the monies for TEs, RBs, LBs, centers, safeties, fullbacks and kickers being used to fatten the salaries of the positions I noted above. Now granted, great players regardless of position, will always be paid well but there will be fewer paid well than in the past.
I can definitely see RB salaries declining with the short career span and large supply of less-than-elite RBs on the free agent market right now. The other positions, outside of LB, seem to be positions were having an elite player at the position does not provide much more impact than simply an average player simply because the position has less opportunity to make an impact.
I see LB as an exception and question whether it should be on the list. Look at the Steelers who just resigned two of their starting LBs Timmons & Woodley for a huge amount each. Maybe LB salaries stay flat because they are already high but otherwise I see teams really looking for those play makers at LB and teams being willing to pay these guys. Obviously the Panthers see value in their having just re-signed all three of their starters, with all three getting raises.
Finally this piece speaks to the notion as to why the Panthers haven't seemed in a rush to shore up their depth at DT & CB:
The glut of free agents that hit the market place this year allowed teams to dictate contract terms with many players playing under one year deals. Thus, teams are currently renting players and if this trend continues there will be a larger number of free agents available for at least the next four years.
Some of these guys with one year deals won't make it through final cut down and will then be anxious to land a paycheck somewhere before the season starts. To fill those needs now almost insures the Panthers will overpay for a player where equal value will probably be available in another week at a more cap-friendly price.