While the NFL Draft is a huge opportunity for the 256 rookies selected, it’s also a wake-up call for some veterans whose teams might be looking to the future. Here’s a look at some experienced players who were put on notice by their teams’ selections:
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
He’s a former Super Bowl MVP. But when general manager Ozzie Newsome traded back into the first round to take Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, an air horn of a message was blared to Flacco. He has four years left on his contract, but he has no guaranteed money owed to him after the 2019 season. So while Jackson needs to sit and develop, the Ravens could accelerate the succession plan if Flacco doesn’t play better.
Sam Bradford, QB, Cardinals
GM Steve Keim’s decision to trade up to No. 10 for UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen might as well be viewed as a premature pink slip for Bradford, who recently signed a one-year deal with a team option for 2019. Widely viewed as the most pro-ready passer in the draft, Rosen is a candidate to play this season, so Bradford probably can forget about seeing that option exercised.
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Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
The last time the Lions had a 100-yard rusher was Nov. 28, 2013. That’s an indictment of Abdullah and his cohorts and predecessors. But after selecting Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson with the No. 43 pick, the Lions are banking on having found their future workhorse.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
GM John Elway gave SMU receiver Courtland Sutton a first-round grade. When the Mustangs star was available in the second round, the Broncos pounced. Sutton has the same skills (catches well in traffic, physical, athletic) and is the same height (6-3) as Thomas, who’s in the midst of a five-year, $70 million deal but has seen his production decline every season since 2014. With the Broncos also adding Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton in the fourth round, the message got even louder.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
Before the draft, Miami running back Mark Walton drew comparisons to Bernard because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and provide a change of pace. Bernard has two seasons left on his contract, but Joe Mixon is the Bengals’ lead back. Adding Walton in the fourth round gives the Bengals a younger, cheaper replacement for Bernard.
Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins
He’s a bargain, earning just $630,000 in base salary, but Kelley is in the final year of his contract. The Redskins’ decision to snag LSU’s Derrius Guice late in the second round signals that he will become the feature back.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns
He just signed a three-year, $15.3 million deal in March, but the Browns have an out after next season that would leave $2.3 mil-
lion in dead cap money. That means the selection of Georgia’s Nick Chubb 35th overall is a good indication Hyde might not be with the Browns in 2019.
Brian Orakpo/Derrick Morgan, OLBs, Titans
This edge duo has been a productive pairing, combining for 45½ sacks since 2015. But both are entering the final year of their contracts. Many mock drafts had Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry projected as a first-round talent, but he slipped into the second. That the Titans traded up — and gave away the Nos. 57 and 89 selections — to pluck Landry at No. 41 shows how much they valued him and what they’ll expect in the future.