In addition, although nowhere near the level found in baseball or the NBA, the Moneyball approach is gaining traction in the NFL. In Green Bay, I had a second "war room" that focused on financial and analytical data rather than combine numbers; crunching that data often showed that a "maturing" player (typically younger and cheaper) provided a similar overall return to that of a "mature" (established, more expensive) player. Many such operations now exist throughout the league.
Finally, teams are also realizing the roster flexibility that younger players allow, especially at premium positions. Two of the most active teams this off-season, the Seahawks and the 49ers, have taken advantage of quarterbacks—Wilson and Colin Kaepernick—on rookie contracts earning a fraction of the average veteran's pay at the position. For Seattle and San Francisco, that has freed up $15 million to $20 million for other position needs.
The new CBA took an axe to rookie compensation in the name of the greater good. That good has certainly been reaped by the teams. For the players—especially younger ones outperforming their contracts and older ones waiting for a call—the harvest hasn't been as bountiful.
Andrew Brandt, a former attorney and agent to NFL players, and vice president of the Packers from 1999 to 2008, teaches sports business at Wharton and directs the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova Law School.