Posted February 12, 2014

Any Michael Sam draft drop will be because of money, like all else in the NFL

NFL draft 2014
Opinions vary wildly on Michael Sam's draft stock, with some projecting third round and others anticipating he goes completely undrafted. (Chris Lee/AP)

Opinions vary wildly on Michael Sam’s draft stock, with some projecting third round and others anticipating he goes completely undrafted. (Chris Lee/AP)

The top draft pick in last year’s third round, Travis Kelce, received slightly more than $700K in guaranteed money via his signing bonus. Mike Catapano, the first player off the board in Round 7, nabbed about $69,000. The gap between the two players may not sound like much in the rich NFL world, but it is enough to explain one of the main reasons Michael Sam could slide come draft day:

It would be easier to cut him.

The fact of the matter is that no one is really sure how this will go. This is unprecedented ground for the NFL.

So, all the positive comments from around the league are nice, but … well, what if the naysayers are right? What if the team Sam lands with proves too unsettled in the locker room to handle the situation or the media frenzy? Heck, what if Sam himself buckles under the weight of what’s ahead? He has been stoic and steady thus far, with absolutely no public issues from inside Missouri’s locker room after he came out to this teammates. Jumping into the NFL draft circuit, immediately after making his historic announcement, presents another challenge entirely. And even after navigating that, there’s uncertainty, right or wrong, to how (or if) a team will embrace him.

Sam is a prospect whose on-field potential already was being questioned before he made his announcement Sunday. Add in the other factors, and even though most NFL personnel members are making the appropriate comments now, Sam will be viewed come the draft as a risk.

And the greater the risk a player brings to the table, the less security teams want to offer up in return. The Cardinals tried to talk Tyrann Mathieu into a contract with no guaranteed money before settling on a staggered bonus. Armonty Bryant, a 2013 seventh-round pick who had been busted selling pot in college, received nothing up front from the Browns. Sweeping Sam under the same umbrella as players who have had off-field brushes with the law would be taking a simplistic, ill-sighted view. Yet, it might be exactly how the NFL’s franchises approach him.

KING: How will the NFL react to Michael Sam?

The NFL is an old-school type of place, so we can expect there to be some general uneasiness through segments of it with regard to Sam’s presence. It’s still likely that any tumble Sam takes in the draft will be more about dollars and cents than politics and personal lives.

A perceived locker-room distraction, no matter the cause, is something NFL teams try to avoid. If a franchise is going to jump headfirst into the Michael Sam business, it may opt to do so with a later-round investment as opposed to promising hundreds of thousands of dollars earlier. Teams hunt for starters in the third round — Larry Warford, Keenan Allen, Tyrann Mathieu and Mike Glennon were all taken there in 2013; they roll the dice late. 

There are plenty of people who want to see this story deliver a happy ending, with Sam latching onto an NFL roster and thriving there for several seasons. But front offices cannot predict the future, so they often approach the present with caution.

In the end, most personnel decisions made in the NFL boil down to finances. Why should this one be any different?

DAVIS: The night before Sam changed the NFL

12 comments
rentistoohigh
rentistoohigh

how many gay people in show biz (like pro sports) DON't make an issue of it...like semitism,


just be american and play and if you must speak keep the sex ,politics and religion out of it


the god of showbiz is money.... 

Frotoon
Frotoon

Since when is it difficult to cut someone who makes $700K?

bugeater90
bugeater90

Let's just finally get past this. If he's good enough he's good enough. All these players and execs talking about how it could be a distraction and how it might not be a good thing that he came out... NO ONE would be saying ANYTHING if it was Clowny or Manziel. The only reason they debate his coming out is because he's a middle tier guy with some athletic down sides. If he were a projected first pick of the draft it would be completely different. 

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

He probably should have waited until he already made his NFL team before doing this.  It's not a straight/gay thing anymore, it's a "What team wants to deal with a press circus for a player that may not even be good enough to make an NFL team" thing.  Good on him for coming out and all, but now the business side of things takes place, and a GM is more likely to save his coach from an onslaught of questions for a player that isn't even one of the top 50 guys taken than he is to get on GLAAD's Christmas card list.

eddie767
eddie767

The fact that some teams have dropped him from consideration,proves he may be a problem no one wants to confront. Me I don't care,but I don't play in the NFL. With  pre outing grade of 3rd-4thrd,nobody thought much of him to begin with. So his best chance would be as a low guarantee bonus player, who proves he can handle what he started and prove to some he's "Man" enough to be there.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

His sexual orientation should not matter.  The fact that some NFL execs are already claiming it will disrupt a locker room is pathetic.  If the front office and the coaching staff can't control a locker room's behavior then they are not worth their salt.  Cut whoever starts any kind of trouble and let the media circus blow over.  It will be yesterday's news before too long and all that will matter is if this guy can play a good game of football.  Time to grow up NFL.

Mike26
Mike26

@Frotoon  Not as hard as someone guaranteed $1.5M BUT = $700K is what you might pay a veteran off the street in November/December when you need a seasoned KR, PR, 3rd/4th WR, PK, P, OLB, etc.  If you've already spent it on a guy you cut then you'll end up with a cheap rookie out there instead....

Mike26
Mike26

@bugeater90  You said it - he's NOT a 1st rounder like Clowney or Manziel.  That's why a GM has more considerations with Sam, a guy that could go anywhere from the 3rd round on....and you're right - if he's good enough and on a good enough team with a good enough locker room the story will decrease by 80% by his second season.  

Andrew21
Andrew21

@JimSmith4  Well the problem with that argument is that it's a straight risk/reward scenario. Owners and GM's would have no problem if he was more of a 1st rd talent. Many would do exactly what you spelled out. In this case they WILL get the circus (media, some players, and some fans) attentions on both sides. However, they are not necessarily going to get the reward of the kind of  production from Sam that would warrant weathering the storm. It'll be interesting.

JRock
JRock

@JimSmith4 If his sexual orientation didn't matter, why did he make a big announcement to the press? If it doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter.