When the NFL season ends for a club, it isn’t exactly vacation time for the coaches and front office. Work on the next season begins right away. The first order of business for most clubs is to do a position-by-position review of the team.
At the end of the season, each position coach writes an evaluation on each of his players. The coordinator does the same. On the front office side, the pro scouting department also does an evaluation of each player. All is in an effort to get the proper collective opinion on each player.
For young players, the group has to know if they have hit their ceilings or whether room growth remains. For the older players, it’s the opposite: discussing if they can still play at a high level or their play is beginning to trend downward.
Once the club makes its determination of each player's talent level, it can start to plan for the next season in terms of what needs exist. It is also the time when preliminary discussions begin to help deterimine who stays and who goes.
In other words, with young players coming out of contract, the decision-makers start to discuss whether or not they want to offer those players new deals. In the case of four-year vets who were not selected in the first round, they can enter free agency. So, a team has to determine if it wants to make an offer to the player or let him test free agency and compete for his services on the open market. If a team opts to pass on the player, it is usually because either it doesn't feel he is good enough to help them compete for a championship, he may cost more than it is willing to pay or the club feels that it has or will be able to find another player ready to step in and take his place.
In the case of a veteran player, it’s more about what the team thinks of his talent relative to what it will cost to re-sign him. If a club is paying a veteran $2 million, it has to get back $2 million in production. If it doesn't feel it’s worth keeping him at a high salary, then it will move on.
Also part of the discussion is what will or could be available in free agency and the draft. In the case of the Bears this year, without having first- and second-round draft picks, veteran free agency will be important to help strengthen the team. However, the problem the Bears have is that they're currently projected to have a little less than $20 million total in cap space, according to Overthecap.com. That means we can assume there will be veteran players who were on this team in 2018 who will not be here next season if the Bears are going to compete to sign some newcomers in free agency.
At this time, it’s still a little early to talk about the draft, but teams will shortly determine what they feel will be the strength of the draft in the middle rounds. That will help them prepare for free agency.
For some players, like rookie WR Anthony Miller, who has a shoulder problem, it will be discussed whether he needs surgery, what that surgery would entail and how long the rehab would take. If he were to require a procedure, it might be months before Miller could take part in the offseason program, OTAs and minicamp. The same holds true for any other player who might have a condition that warrants surgery. If there are players who do in fact need a surgery, you can bet it will be done within the next few weeks, so that rehab can begin as soon as possible.
Scouting world loses a pioneer
Longtime front office executive Norm Pollom passed away while watching the Alabama-Clemson National Championship game Monday night. Pollom was 93.
An email from Norm’s wife Bonnie said, “he did it his way with a burger, a glass of scotch and watching Alabama-Clemson.”
We should all be so lucky to go that way.
Norm was an executive with both the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills. He was the Rams' scouting director in the mid-1970s under head coach Chuck Knox, and when Knox became the head coach in Buffalo in 1978, he brought Pollom with him as his director of player personnel.
During his time in Buffalo, Pollom, along with Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys and Dick Mansberger with the Seattle Seahawks were instrumental in the formation of the Quadra Scouting Combine in the late 1970s.
Quadra's formation marked the first group to hold a “Combine” for players eligible for the draft. The other two scouting services (National and Blesto) soon followed. It wasn’t until January 1985 that the first joint Combine with all NFL clubs participating came into existence. If not for Pollom, Brandt and Mansberger, the Combine as we know it today wouldn’t exist.
Most of the great players on the Buffalo Bills teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s were drafted by Pollom: Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed, Fred Smerlas, Jim Haslett, Darryl Talley and Jim Ritcher, among others. Pollom was also the person responsible for hiring Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian in 1984 as the Bills' pro scouting director. Polian had been working in the old USFL when Pollom hired him.
Why my interest in Pollom? He gave me my first job in the NFL in August of 1981 when he hired me as a part-time evaluator for the Bills and the Quadra Combine. My film reports on college players went to all four Combine clubs. Thanks to Brandt and Mansberger, those report forms were four pages long and very detailed. It taught me exactly how to watch players correctly. Even though my reports went to four clubs, it was Pollom who taught and mentored me. I owe my entire 30-plus year career in the NFL to Norm. Thank you, my friend, and may you rest in peace.