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Pro Bowler Eric Weddle on Job Security in NFL: 'Teams Don't Look Out for You'

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMarch 8, 2019

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 30: Free Safety Eric Weddle #32 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It isn't unusual for Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to watch practice while sitting in a golf cart. It also isn't unusual to see Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs taking that cart for a ride around practice if Bisciotti isn't there.

Sometimes, Suggs' joyride would lead to him inviting teammate Eric Weddle into the cart. Weddle would laugh and then politely decline.

"That's out of my pay grade," Weddle would tell Suggs.

Like almost everyone in the Ravens organization, Suggs loved Weddle. Weddle was one of the most popular players on the team because he was talented, resilient and genuinely enjoyed seeing his teammates prosper. He was a selfless player on a defense full of selfless players.

"What I love most about football is when I see my teammates make plays," Weddle recently told B/R. "I love how we all work together, watch film together and make a play as a defense against these high-powered offenses today."

Weddle remains one of the NFL's most underrated defenders, and even at 34 years old, he has enough to contribute that he will be a hot free agent in the coming days.

Editor's note: Weddle is expected to sign a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams. The team announced the agreement Friday. 

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But he's also a cautionary tale.

The reason Weddle will be a free agent is because the Ravens released him Tuesday.

Weddle is yet another example of how contracts in the NFL are meaningless. He had a year left on his contract, but that did nothing to prevent the Ravens from cutting him.

When free agency begins March 13, we will hear reports of sizable contracts and huge money being handed out. But in many cases, NFL contracts aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

Weddle isn't the first player to be cut before the end of his deal, and he won't be the last. He's just one of the most recent.

Most NFL contracts can be shredded. Redone. Reworked. Reworded. Teams can honor them or not. Players essentially must. Owners do not take pay cuts, but players do all the time.

Weddle is a smart, skilled player, but the Ravens still released him.

He isn't bitter or complaining. But his comments are instructive on what it means to be an NFL player in the salary-cap era—and how free agency isn't really free.

"The Ravens made a decision, and I get it," Weddle said. "All you ever want as a player is for the team to be upfront and honest with you. So I really appreciate that. But what happened to me is also a reminder to everyone, to all players, that players have to do what's best for them.

"Teams don't look out for you. This is why players should have guaranteed contracts. There's no hard feelings toward the Ravens or any team. It's just how it is. I'm not bitter, but people on the outside of the NFL need to know how the league really works."

How does the league really work? While the NFL is now generating more than $8 billion in annual revenue, teams treat players as disposable far too often. Players make a lot of money, but they are still dramatically underpaid in many ways.

Le'Veon Bell understood this when he sat out last season. Some media members, fans and others ripped him for it, but Bell always knew his time in the NFL was limited. Maximizing the money he makes is vital.

The next fight for all players will be guaranteed contracts. The current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season, and we will see the players and owners engaged in an all-out war.

Weddle said he figured his days in Baltimore were coming to an end when the team asked him to take a pay cut after the season. He refused. Weddle made his third straight Pro Bowl last year (sixth overall), and the Ravens were one of the best defenses in football.

What happens to Weddle now? He's scheduling team visits and says he's already had inquiries from more than half the league. Players like Chiefs star receiver Tyreek Hill are trying to recruit him.

"One of the things I'll miss most about Baltimore is how the city and the Ravens fans fully embraced me," Weddle said. "I'll miss my teammates there, and I'll miss the fans, too."

Weddle will be fine. He'll end up in a good situation.

Others in the same boat won't be so lucky.

             

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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