Young players who made their respective teams, but are stuck at the bottom of the roster, might hold off a bit in unpacking their suitcases or signing apartment leases. There is still considerable roster shuffling to be done around the league, and a good deal of it could take place next week.
Clubs have been reluctant so far to sign "vested" veterans (four seasons or more of service), because their base salaries are guaranteed if they are on an opening-day roster. So many teams will attempt to make it through the opening weekend with the players they have, and wait until next week, when the guarantee disappears, to sign veteran vested players who are suddenly looking for jobs. Then teams will be liable to the veterans on a prorated basis, based only on the number of games they are on the roster.
The financial difference between vested veterans and rookies is a substantial one. The minimum base salary for a player with 4-6 seasons of accrued service is a $635,000. For a rookie, it's less than half that amount, $310,000.
As of Thursday evening, only eight vested veterans who were released last weekend had signed with new teams. There were, however, 16 younger (and cheaper) players released who were claimed on waivers.
It will be surprising if some vested veterans -- like defensive tackle Terdell Sands (cut by Oakland), offensive tackle Langston Walker (Buffalo), cornerback Roderick Hood (Chicago), and former first-round wide receiver Matt Jones (released by Jacksonville earlier this spring) -- don't get signed next week. Franchises often don't want to commit guaranteed salaries to players who have been released by another team, no matter the reason, and the guarantee becomes a non-factor next week.
His off-field problems aside, expect Jones to sign somewhere in the next week or so. Jones recently had a terrific workout for Tennessee, an audition in which the former Arkansas star didn't drop a pass, and in the NFL talent trumps all else. Jones is still only 26 years old and, although he may never live up to his first-round status (2005), the four-year veteran figures to get a second chance with some team. Jones had 65 catches in only 12 games in 2008. Extrapolate that over a 16-game season, and it is 87 receptions.
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