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The coverage of free agency is how the coverage of the NFL Draft should be

Are you tired and sluggish? Maybe you’ve consumed way too much draft coverage. Draft coverage should be like the coverage of the NFL’s annual free-agent frenzy: Short, insane and over in a couple of weeks.

NFL: NFL Draft Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, almost three weeks removed from the beginning of the NFL’s new unrestricted free-agency period, and the frenzy has died down quite a bit.

But that sure was fun, wasn’t it?

We laughed. We cried. We said, “WTF!” We said, “yay!” We broke out the wine when the Steelers lost Cam Sutton. We broke out the champagne when they signed Patrick Peterson. We pretended like we knew anything at all about Nate Herbig and/or Isaac Seumalo.

The NFL’s yearly free-agent frenzy is always a whirlwind, and it’s also something I’m beginning to enjoy way more than the coverage of the annual NFL Draft.


Because, unlike the draft, there’s no lengthy build-up to unrestricted free agency, where the best players—the best players that aren’t deemed good enough to be franchise tagged, at least—get to hit the open market and have NFL owners overspend for them in ways that their very own children could only dream of.

There may be some previews in January and February—a bit of anticipation—leading up to the start of the NFL’s new calendar year that changes back to “January 1” every March, but most people don’t seem to be paying much attention.

A lot of fans are still too wrapped up in the NFL’s postseason drama to worry about pending free agents. And if they’re not focused on the playoffs and Super Bowl, well, they’re talking about the draft. And if they’re not talking about the draft, they’re watching the NFL Combine, a week-long dog-and-pony show that has everything to do with the draft.

Basically, the fans spend an awful lot of time focused on the annual NFL Draft.

The annual free-agent frenzy is much different.

It begins on the Monday before the new calendar year kicks off two days later. That Monday is known as the start of the legal-tampering phase (it’s kind of like unrestricted free agency but pens are prohibited).

Fans lose their minds. Teams act like they signed the guys they wanted all along. I scramble to find out who these new Steelers are—just like with Herbig and Seumalo (two prominent members of the Steelers Free-Agent Frenzy Class of 2023), I also had no clue who James Daniels and Mason Cole (two prominent members of the Steelers Free-Agent Frenzy Class of 2022) were right after the Steelers signed them a year ago.

The first week is a blur. The second week is still kind of crazy.

The frenzy begins to die down after that, and we all go back to talking about the NFL Draft.

In my opinion, the draft coverage should be EXACTLY like that of the annual free-agent frenzy.

That’s how I remember things when I was a kid. I’d get all amped up for the NFL Draft about two or three weeks before it commenced, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

I didn’t know most of the prospects, but I knew many of the big names, and I seemed to get along just fine.

I lost my mind. I got too happy when the Steelers drafted a player I wanted all along. I got too mad when they picked a player I didn’t want at all. I became dejected if they selected someone I had never even heard of (Aaron Jones in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft). I scrambled to learn about the players the Steelers picked in Rounds 2-12.

I really liked the draft a lot more when I was younger than I do now. Did I become a bitter old man? I ask that question because I still really enjoy the draft, only, my enjoyment of the event begins around the same time of year that it did when I was 15 or 16. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t jump for joy or break things over picks (that’s how I acted when I was a teenager), and I’ll likely be bowling during Pittsburgh’s first-round pick (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft, but I still have fun during Draft Season.

I just don’t understand when Draft Season—again, a time that used to be two or three weeks long—turned into a four-month festival of non-stop coverage. (Maybe it’s because of global warming.)

Seriously, all of this coverage for one weekend? All of this anticipation for what comedian Bill Burr described as a glorified college graduation?

What’s the need to learn about a prospect's measurables in January when you can learn about those same measurables in April?

To me, the free-agent frenzy is like when it unexpectedly gets crazy at work. You just put your head down and push through it until it’s over, and afterward, you’re like, “Wow, that was crazy. What the hell was that?”

Conversely, the annual draft coverage is like your boss overstaffing and making everyone come in early in anticipation of crazy business. Sure, maybe it’s a little busier than usual, but did I really have to come in early for this? Everyone has been standing around and looking for something to do all day.

Oh well, it’s about a month before the real draft begins. I will now finally turn my full attention to the prospects, the Steelers' needs, and who they may or may not draft.

And, guess what?

I’ll bet you I know all that I need to know by the time the first round begins on Thursday, April 27, 2023.