Chris McAlister, Lorenzo Neal, and Matt Stover Among Forgotten

Anthony LashleyContributor IMay 6, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 7: Cornerback Chris McAlister #21 of the Baltimore Ravens runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won 17-10. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

The life of the average NFL free agent is not as glamorous as it seems. Not everyone signs a ten-digit contract as Albert Haynesworth did this offseason, or is courted by every team in the NFL as Ray Lewis was.

Most are veteran players whose former teams feel as if they have aged too quickly and can be replaced by players a decade their junior. Others are players who clashed with management and were told to pack their bags, as they weren't important enough to the team.

One only needs to look at the current list of free agents still on the market to see the mercurial nature of the NFL. Jason Taylor has made the Pro Bowl six times in his career, yet was cut in Washington after refusing to workout in the nation's capital during the offseason.

Four time Pro Bowl selection Edgerrin James was recently cut by the Cardinals after the arrival of Beanie Wells on draft day. Sometimes, even the young are not spared. Former Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams has made the Pro Bowl an astounding five out of his seven years in the NFL and is only 28. However, Williams fractured his arm twice last year and has been tagged with durability concerns ever since.

Chris McAlister is certainly not young by NFL standards. Coming out of the University of Arizona in 1999, McAlister was a versatile, athletic cornerback, who went to Hawaii three times and was regarded as a shutdown defender for much longer.

McAlister was the face of the franchise and in 2005 was rewarded with a seven-year, $55 million dollar contract. The signing of that contact along with age set in to motion a slow decline in McAlister's production, which culminated in his release this offseason.

Many thought that McAlister would instantly have his signature on the dotted line with another team like other Ravens free agents Jason Brown and Bart Scott. Strong rumors indicated that McAlister would sign with the Lions to be a leader in the lockeroom and help turn the franchise around.

When these rumors did not transform into fact, the days became weeks and the weeks became months. McAlister was mentioned as a possibility for every team lacking defensive back depth and everyone of those teams passed on him.

Lorenzo Neal and Matt Stover both have had similar experiences. Lorenzo Neal was signed last year by the Ravens out of San Diego to open holes for Willis McGahee and Ray Rice. He did his job exceptionally well but had to deal with the emergence of rookie Le'Ron McClain at his position. Neal was not resigned and has not found a team as of today.

Matt Stover is the Ravens' all-time points leader and was the only player who remained from the original Browns team. Deadly accurate, his kicking strength has gone down significantly. Stover will most likely not be resigned by any other team and will be forced to retire.

McAlister, Neal, and all other veteran free agents could learn a thing or two from Samari Rolle. Rolle asked for his release from Baltimore at the beginning of the offseason as he felt he was disrespected by management, who had stripped him of his starting role.

He got his wish and spent two weeks as a free agent, but heard not a single offer from any team. He then wised up, turned back to the Ravens, and soon was signed to a deal that would send him back to Baltimore.

NFL players need to realize that once they reach the age of 30, they are no longer in the prime of their careers and, therefore, will not get the big bucks that they envision. If they checked their egos at the door, then that door would be opened much wider.


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