Keep a level playing field; NFL shouldn’t allow late additions


New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch celebrates his touchdown against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011.

After 17 weeks of fighting for a spot in the NFL playoffs, only a cluster of teams earn the chance to stretch their season into something more. 

One would think that the players who fought together all year long would be the only ones who share in the glory of a playoff berth. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

NFL teams can, and do, sign players to contracts even after the regular season ends, meaning that new assets enter the mix with a chance to help their new team get further in the playoffs. 

It seems unfair that any team can add players to their roster when the trade deadline has expired and the regular season is over. While the players who sign before or during the playoffs may not play a significant role every time, the motive behind the action is still sneaky and wrong. 

This year alone, three players signed with three different teams after the season ended. Wide receiver Deion Branch joined the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Austin Collie signed with the New England Patriots, and cornerback Perrish Cox found a new home with the San Francisco 49ers. 

Branch never played against the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, but the wide receiver spent several years in the New England organization under coach Bill Belichick. The fact that the Colts signed him could mean they wanted information about the Patriots’ offense in order to gain an extra advantage.

The suspicion had to increase when the Colts signed Branch after they advanced from their wild card playoff game and knew they would play the Patriots in the next round. 

On the other hand, Cox played almost the entire time during the 49ers’ wild card game against the Green Bay Packers. Once again, he did not have any interceptions or make any game-changing plays, but the game itself was close and he stayed durable in an action-filled defensive position. 

He also spent some time with the Seattle Seahawks, which the 49ers knew would be a possible opponent later in the playoffs. 

Collie was another case of a player who could have given his team some information about its opponent. Collie played for the Colts from 2009-2012 and could have had something to do with how well the Patriots defense controlled the Indianapolis offense. 

Now, any good team in the NFL changes its play calls slightly every year. Coaches should add new plays and tricks to their schemes to throw opponents off for many years. Therefore, any information from Collie or Branch would have been basic. 

It still would have helped. The entire style of a team does not change that much unless the whole coaching staff and all the key players in an organization get replaced. 

Furthermore, these players who sign with teams to help in the playoffs often replace those who got injured during the grueling regular season. Teams have practice squads and bench players who can replace the ones who get injured.

If a team isn’t deep enough to replace injured players, they probably shouldn’t be in the playoffs in the first place. Barring an unlikely onslaught of injuries in Week 17, this is a rational statement. 

Regardless of injuries, teams who feel the need to sign new players must think they need a boost before the playoffs. These new players are in good enough shape to be noticed by professional teams, and they usually have past experience in the NFL. 

These signings drip with similarity to the pick-up games on the playground that start with a certain group of players. When one of the kids sees his brother getting home, he stops the game and asks his brother to join. Consequently, the brother helps the team he joins to win. 

In no world, including professional football, is that fair. The teams that make the playoffs together deserve some sort of exclusivity. In fact, they should demand it. Not all teams sign new weapons to their rosters before the postseason. 

No team should add new players to help them win the postseason, no matter how they help. The possibility of tainting the outcome of the whole NFL season is just too great.