Every year, we get a few rookies who are invited to the NFL Rookie Premiere and dont make the team. Happens like clockwork, much to the chagrin of all the collectors who will still be pulling their cards as the year goes on. Because the premiere is done ahead of cuts, and cards are produced long in advance, the companies cant just pull the cards out of the products – unfortunately. Thus, we are stuck with these guys for the whole year.
This time around, its a bit different, as we got two prominently featured rookies that were cut, although both will likely end up on a practice squad somewhere. Im going to start with Michael Sam, who is really more important than anyone could have guessed, following his jersey being a top seller so far. Sam was invited to the premiere, but declined the invite due to personal reasons. Even though this was the situation, Topps still recognized a need to complete the cards they had built for him. Its a good decision. He was even included on the 40 signature rookie premiere attendee card despite his not attending.
As you can see there are still people interested in his cards:
Sam is one of the more valuable rookies of all the guys at the premiere because of his open sexuality, which I find to be a story that should be told in cards this year, as well as on the field. When you see the general landscape of things to come, we know that 85% of the rookies at the premiere will end up being unimportant. Another 10 of the remaining 15% will never really amount to valuable guys, despite being contributors through their career. That means that Sam being a guy who will likely fall within the 85% is a good target to have on board, considering his story makes him worth buying for collectors. Agree or disagree with his lifestyle, you cannot deny that he will end up more valuable than the other 5th round guys who will end up being scrubs.
The other player that was left behind is Tajh Boyd, a guy who I thought was definitely going to be a top pick based on his early years at Clemson. After a few down years, though, he fell deep into the draft, and the Jets felt he wasnt worth a roster spot with Geno and Vick fighting for the starting job. He will likely be put on a practice squad as well, and I dont think his career has a period at the end of it quite yet. Everyone knew he would be a project coming out of school, and I think he has a few years before hanging up the cleats.
Like Sam, not all collectors are ready to be done with Boyd:
As with most QBs, Boyd had a few people who wanted his cards from the beginning, and not all of them were Jets and Tigers fans. After seeing what has happened with Brady, Romo, Warner, Russell Wilson, and company, all QBs have become a prospecting target. Lets see what happens with Boyd, but now it looks like he will be a longshot to ever see the field.
Speaking of long shots, Cleveland has also cut Connor Shaw, who attended the Rookie Premiere as an invitee of the NFLPA. Topps elected to leave Shaw out of their post premiere products, knowing that he would likely be on the outside looking in, but Panini has added him to their box hit list as they have with other true attendees. Obviously this was a horrible decision to start with, as it was clear that the companies were not part of the decision to bring him to the photo shoot. Panini didnt seem to think twice before using him in their products.
After getting cut, I mentioned above that the companies will continue to use them in products, but will curtail any additional usage of those players once the deals run out. Usually, they sign each player for autos plus an extended option to extend the deal if necessary. The original deal usually covers most of the products for the first part of the year, with the option covering the latter half. When a rookie gets cut like Tyler Wilson did last year, the option gives them an out. Sometimes they make a decision to walk away, other times not.
As more info becomes available, ill post it here, but for now, the casualties are three. Other rookies like AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray seem to be hanging onto a thread, but for now are safe.