With last week's
scouting combine behind them, NFL general managers and coaches focused this
week on the free-agency signing period, which was set to begin on Friday. In
what is the strongest class in the five-year history of unfettered free agency,
more than 300 players were set to test their value on the open market.
For a perspective
on the opportunities this flood of talent offers franchises, we asked SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED pro football writers Peter King (above right) and Paul Zimmerman,
two of the finest Monday-morning quarterbacks around, to build 53-man rosters,
drawing from the free-agent pool, as well as from the list of players expected
to be available in April's college draft, while working under the constraints
of a projected $40.95 million salary cap.
King and Dr. Z
followed ground rules similar to those used when the Carolina Panthers and the
Jacksonville Jaguars entered the league in 1995. The Kings and the Z's each
were granted a draft pick at the top and at the bottom of each of the seven
rounds. Picks were made based on insiders' projections of which players would
be available at the time the selections were made. Bidding was conducted for
those free agents whom both teams coveted. As for the other free agents, their
'97 salaries were set by two NFL personnel men.
The rapid rise of
Carolina and Jacksonville has created a sense of urgency in the NFL, which has
had 11 coaching changes since last October. So although King and Zimmerman
worked with essentially expansion models, their project is of interest for fans
of all teams.
King and Dr. Z
also agreed to locate their franchises in NFL-starved markets Cleveland and Los
Angeles, respectively. Hey, whatever we can do to help.