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Football for Dummies - Free Agency and the Draft

[Editor's note:  If you are looking for a serious football article, keep looking.]

Are you a friend or family member of a football lover?  Do you want to understand this person's fanatical obsession passion for the sport?  Have you tried Football-Anon to no avail?  There's help for you.  You can understand the sport and how it impacts your life.  Here at the Borg School we have a philosophy:  "If you can't beat us, join us."  In time, your own fanaticism love of football will ensure that their actions no longer negatively impact your own.

In this article, we are going to try to explain those strange terms that you may have heard floating around (or mumbled in their sleep):  Free Agency and the Draft.  Bill Parcells likened assembling a team to buying groceries.  You've heard of groceries (even though you may never have heard of Bill Parcells), so we're going to start there.  In these troubling economic times, everyone has to watch their grocery budget.  You may like steak dinners, but those dollars have to stretch to get you through the whole year.  So it is with football.

More after the jump. 

In football, teams have what is called a salary cap (except this year they don't, but next year they might and guys will make them throw away their surplus groceries, so we're going to pretend this year doesn't exist, ok?) which is like your grocery budget.  All of their players salaries have to fit under the salary cap, or else someone is going to toss their cookies.  And cookies are a terrible thing to waste.

Now some teams buy high priced cuts of meat (called starters in football lingo) until the budget is low, and then fill out their roster with frankfurters and beans (called backups).  This may seem like a good philosophy until you find out that the neighbor's dog (known in football as an injury) stole your steak from the barbecue and you have nothing left to feed your guests (known as fans) but a couple off-brand weiners and no buns.  Buns cost money after all, and you didn't expect your hot dogs to play.  Of course, no one does.  This tends to result in what is known as a disappointing season (one that has no chance of an onion ring - the ultimate prize in football).

Now some teams buy some steaks, some ground sirloin, and a little hamburger helper to help their meat budget go further.  They count on getting good play from the steaks, but can substitute a burger in if needed without adversely affecting game play.  As the season wears on and injury (the neighbor's dog - someone should leash that thing) continues to strike, meals may end up being more noodles than meat.  The product still remains a nutritious meal that may bring home the coveted onion ring.

Ok, now where does free agency come into this.  Free agency is what happens when your prize lamb chop decides he could make more money on someone else's table than yours.  Despite seasoning him for four years, the ungrateful morsel decides to go find the biggest paycheck.  Now some teams may be only one lamb chop away from the Cereal Bowl (that's where the winner gets onion rings), and are willing to pay for a nice tender chop.  If that's the case, someone else may end up eating your groceries.  Now you may be wondering what you do if someone outbids you for your lamb chop.  Where is the football grocery store?  It's known as the Draft.

The draft is just like any other grocery store you might go to, except they only have pieces of meat and that meat is rationed based on how rancid the teams meat was the year before.  In other words, the teams with the worst meat pick first and the teams with the best meat (the ones garnished with onion rings) pick last.  Yes, the football grocery store is a socialist paradise.  Well, sort of.  Each team is given their number, but they can trade their place in line with another team in exchange for that team's steak, tenderloin, or maybe a turnip to be named later.  Yes cutsies are allowed in the NFL grocery store as long as you abide by the rules.

Since everybody waits their turn in the queue, they may not get the groceries they wanted exactly.  For instance, you may have your eye set on a ribeye only to find that the only ribeye was snagged by the person ahead of you.  You grab a sirloin instead, because steak is still a position of need after all.  Sometimes a fantastic value drops into your lap and you have to take it (this is known as Best Produce Player Available).  Say you're sitting there with holes to fill at pot roast, ham steak, and veal cutlets, when all of the sudden a porterhouse you didn't think would be available drops right into your lap.  Now you already have a porterhouse or two on your line, but this one is well marbled and corn fed.  Of course, you have to take it.  Who wouldn't?

That's really all there is to know about this crazy little thing we call an offseason.  Feel free to share your new found knowledge with the football fans you love.  Oh, and tell them the Borg sent you.