CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Linebacker Scott Fujita #99 of the Cleveland Browns makes an interception in front of Eric Hagg #27 and guard Jacob Bell #63 of the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
In case you missed it, offensive lineman Jacob Bell handed in his abrupt retirement from the league in the wake of Junior Seau's death, after recently signing a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. He admitted later today that the health concerns presented by chronic traumatic encephalopathy weighed heavily in his decision, especially when weighed against the veteran's minimum salary he was set to make.
I'm not naive enough to think that one player's retirement will send shockwaves across the NFL, forcing a mass exodus of NFL veterans away from their chosen professions, and certainly not naive enough to think that it'll force the NFL to close its doors from college athletes no longer wanting to risk their brains for large amounts of cash. But this could have an impact on the NFL anyway. Hit the jump.
Let's remember what Jacob Bell was in the NFL - an eight-year veteran offensive lineman on his third team who had signed for the veteran minimum in Cincinnati, not any kind of superstar player, team cornerstone, face of a franchise, or anything like that. He was, to put it bluntly, "a guy." But he's a guy that weighed his priorities, and found that health and family were a higher priority than taking another year of physical beatings in the NFL trenches for about three-quarters of a million dollars.
While he admitted as much that were he playing for more money he would not have turned in his papers, other players in his position, playing for the veteran's minimum or other low amounts, might just decide that the relatively low money isn't worth the extra beatings. There won't be much of an effect from one free agent to another, but this could force minimum salaries to increase if the players decide the veteran minimum isn't enough.
The more noticeable effect could be more of a reliance on younger players, particularly in those players that have typically washed out after their first contract. If players start getting more concerned about their mental and physical faculties, the league has a source of players ready to step in - young players looking for a second chance to resume their NFL careers.
We could eventually see a gradual decline of the numbers of the most veteran players in the league, whilst bolstering the league's core of young players.
Does one player's retirement mean all this would happen? No, of course not. But if we start to see the Jacob Bells of the league value their health over their paychecks, for now, finding replacement players isn't difficult, but in the future, those players may start to fall by the wayside. There will always be other players to step in - it's just the way the league works. But if these players on the veteran minimum start to retire even a year earlier, the longer-tenured players of the league may be in short supply.
It's hard to say if this would make for a better or worse NFL, but with moves like this, if others follow suit, either teams would hang onto more of their "fringe" draft picks or wind up paying veteran free agents a littlemore to convince them to stick around.
Do you think Bell's retirement could spark any kind of domino effect amongst the players? If such a domino effect were to occur, what do you think the ramifications would be? Would it hinder or help the NFL? And what can the NFL do in the future? The floor is yours.