After being cut by the St. Louis Rams and clearing waivers, Michael Sam is now a free agent.
Unfortunately for Sam, it is starting to look as if he won’t find a job in the NFL anytime soon.
After Sam was released, it was assumed by many that he would at least sign with a team to be added to their practice squad, possibly even the Rams. Each team can add up to 10 players to its practice squad. These players aren’t eligible to play in games, but they can potentially sign with the full 53-man roster if someone gets injured.
Despite 320 practice squad spots, Sam has yet to sign with a team, and the number of available spots is quickly running out.
Of the 32 NFL teams, 23 have already signed filled up their practice squads, including the Rams, and the other nine clubs have just 14 total spots still available.
One thing working against Sam is his position. With the Rams he played exclusively as a defensive end in a 4-3 defence (four linemen, three linebackers). Half the teams in the NFL use a 3-4 defence, and while Sam could potentially play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defence, teams have yet to see him do it.
Another potential reason for Sam’s unemployment is fear by teams of the heavy media attention that would come with Sam’s becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL.
GM tells me: “Teams want to sign Michael Sam but fear the media attention.”To me, that’s cowardice. But that’s just me.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) September 1, 2014
While the NFL likes attention, individual teams often fear the distractions of extra attention, especially if the player is a borderline talent.
While Sam played well at times in the preseason, picking up three sacks, he received just an average grade for his performance. Of the 100 defensive ends in the preseason who played in at least 25% of their teams’ defensive snaps, Sam ranked 43rd according to ProFootballFocus.com.
That’s only slightly above average, but it should be good enough to be one of the 65 to 80 defensive ends in the NFL playing for teams using a 4-3 defence. And it should definitely be good enough for a spot on some team’s practice squad.
One possibility for Sam is the Canadian Football League. According to Ian Rapoport, the Montreal Alouettes own Sam’s rights and have reached out but have not heard back.
If Sam wants to play football this year, the CFL may be his only shot.
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