First was the release of high-priced veterans, as owners didn't have salary cap ramifications and got out from under contracts they didn't want to pay. The names made up Pro Bowls of not-the-too-distant past – LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Antrel Rolle. Joey, Porter, Thomas Jones, Maake Kemoeatu, Antonio Pierce, Lito Sheppard, Jake Delhomme, Orlando Pace, Laveranues Coles, Gibril Wilson, Derek Anderson, Phillip Buchanon, Raheem Brock, Ryan Lilja, Torry Holt, Tra Thomas, Charles Grant, Will Witherspoon, Greg Ellis and Jevon Kearse. It was a blood purge of veterans with fat contracts that owners weren't locked under anymore. It created a second tier of free-agent prospects that has rarely been seen – at least not until after June 1.
The second wave was the rash of early signings. What fruit was left on the tree quickly got gobbled up, as teams aggressively went after the reduced free-agent crop. Most of the biggest names in free agency that were unrestricted have already been locked down. But, in the process, a third wave of free agency took place, one that has been growing in popularity, but has burst on the scene in 2010 – the trade.
Over the past several years, trading players in the weeks leading up to the draft and even during the draft has become increasingly popular. Randy Moss went to the Patriots during the 2007 draft, for a mere fourth-round pick – the same day the 49ers gave up a higher fourth-round pick to secure Darrell Jackson. Ah, hindsight. Artis Hicks came over that way and we all remember the enthusiastic explosion when the Vikings traded for Jared Allen before the 2007 draft.
However before this year, the practice of trading veterans for draft picks wasn't all that common. For years, it was all but non-existent, but, over the last three or four years, the tide has turned, as teams have found ways to get rid of disgruntled players for relatively high draft picks. Even so, over the last three years, the kind of trades made from March to May involving veteran players for draft picks averaged between eight and nine a year. In the last week, we have seen nine such trades take place with more potentially coming as the draft draws closer.
The trades have come from varied players with different salary demands and skill sets, but they have one thing in common – they were used as currency to get more picks. Check out the list of players that have post-trade work addresses:
The trade winds have been blowing heavily and it looks like this third wave has a little more steam than initially thought. So the question now becomes, "where is the fourth wave coming from?"
As we enter the 11th day of free agency, there has yet to be one restricted free agent that would have been unrestricted get signed to an offer sheet that would require draft picks to be surrendered. Not one! That's hard to imagine since there are plenty of players that have been given low enough tenders that it might be worth a second- or third-round draft pick. The wave hasn't started yet, but the rumblings are beginning. Expect to see the offer sheets to come flying as the current wave of trading dies down.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.