NFL Free Agency kicks off in about a week to what could best be described as pro football’s version of the world’s largest “Used Car” Expo. Makes and Models from across the League will be put on the lot for 32 buyers to kick the tires, check under the hood, and sit behind the wheel for a bit. But don’t dare ask for a test drive unless you’re willing to pay the sticker price.
“Have I got a car for you!”
Today’s NFL Free Agency is like the Used Car business. Do what you can to check the “CARFAX” or inspect the odometer. Try to inquire as much information from the last owner about “How it ran, did it require high maintenance or was it a frequent gas guzzler? Did they park it in the garage or did it stay out at night? Has it every had any major body work done?”
But as a potential buyer, understand that the seller is going to have it all shined up with an airfreshener tree hanging from the rearview and balloons on the antenna. “Low mileage, mint condition, only driven hard on Sundays”. Sports Agents conjure up some of our best images of used car salesmen when haggling with NFL General Managers over Free Agent contracts.
Never ending depreciation
Come to think of it and with all due respect, professional football players are a lot like cars. The moment you drive them off the lot they begin to depreciate. Some faster than others, but all in all you can’t hide their “wear and tear”. And much like automobiles there are those that just have a greater value from the start; Mercedes vs Toyota, Lamborghini vs Volkswagen, Maserati vs Yugo. They’re faster, more powerful and just plain look better than their low dollar counterparts.
I’m not saying NFL superstars aren’t deserving of a higher resell price than your average rostered “journeyman”. But let’s be realistic, you wouldn’t pay a new car price even for a top of the line model with over 100,000 miles. That just doesn’t make sense. Too much risk is involved to make that kind of investment. If you could get some sort of guarantee that its performance would be as good or better as when it rolled off the lot five years ago, then perhaps you’d think about it. But why spend that kind of money when you could go buy the newer version for even a better price?
To buy or not to buy
That’s the dilemma every GM faces this time of year. Agents, media and fans are clamoring for you to purchase an upgrade over the “old clunker”. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the finer details of a luxury auto. You know the reliability of this Make & Model over the years, but you’re on a budget as well. To spend at an inflated cost for another two to three years of potential service, but continue paying well past its scheduled date with the scrap yard… seriously, would you do that?
Same with football players. There are superstars in the game that have risen to a level above the rest of the player pool as a result of past performance and productive value to their teams. When compared to the 48th player on the roster, there is no comparison. These players are the collector’s version of the car industry. But unlike the museum models sitting with a red rope around them and “Do not touch” signs on the hood, pro football players continue to ramble down the road picking up dents in the door and cracks in the windshield.
The financial system that governs and has grown out of purchasing NFL Free Agents could actually learn a thing or two from the decisions that we all make in buying a used car. Where does it say that late model players should always attain top market prices? Keep in mind this analogy as clubs “start their engines” and speed after 2012 NFL Free Agents. There’s always that chance you’re buying your dream car with nothing but a lemon under the hood. The question is did you let the salesman break you in the process?