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2017 Offseason Questions: Would You Rather See NFL Draft Before Free Agency?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Should the NFL Draft come before free agency?

I’m stealing this one from Pro Football Talk, who posed the question, and the reason that I’m doing so is because the answer surprised me. At the time that I viewed the poll, which was fairly early on, 57 of responders out of roughly 3000 votes cast on the Twitter poll said that they would favor the draft coming before free agency.

Personally, my guess for the reason behind the schism is based on the fan base of who’s voting, and as somebody who has followed the Steelers over the years and adapted to their model, it makes sense to me intuitively to have free agency first, and then go through the draft.

For a team that builds primarily through the draft, it is wise to utilize free agency as a supplementary farming system that shores up any clear needs on the roster, which better enables you to navigate through the draft freely, without your hands tied to accomplishing any one specific objective.

In the salary cap era, in which it is so imperative to acquire quality ‘cheap labor’ with players on rookie contracts, you can only do so much in free agency by acquiring talent, because there is a finite amount of cap space to sign veterans that would improve the roster relative to a rookie.

On the other hand, one can argue that holding the draft first could have the effect of lowering the average salary value of free agents, although premium talent will always be paid as well. But when you have a league of 32 teams going into free agency having already plugged a ton of holes in the draft, rather than in free agency, then the supply-to-demand ratio will be different.

Intuitively, I like things the way it is, but a part of me is curious to see how things would be different if the draft came before free agency. No doubt there will be unpredictable implications to this that would be interesting to see unfold.

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