NFL free agency is often thought to be a glamorous period where players sit and wait for teams to back dump trucks full of money into their driveways. Joe Flacco and a few other top players cashed in with mega-contracts, but a lot of players go through a very different process.
The majority of NFL free agents don't sign eight- or nine-figure contacts. Instead, many wait for teams to call with an offer. When that offer does come, they may not have much time to mull it over due to the fast-paced free agent process.
Fourth-year cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is a prime example of the other side to NFL free agency. Munnerlyn became an unrestricted free agent for the first time after four seasons with the Panthers. He ultimately signed a one-year contract worth a reported $1.1 million to return to Carolina, but not before a few eventful days of free agency.
Prior to the start of free agency, Carolina offered Munnerlyn a three-year contract worth $5 million. He made the decision to test free agency, ultimately opting for a one-year deal. In a phone interview with SB Nation, Munnerlyn discussed his reasoning for testing the market and what it's like to be a NFL free agent.
Munnerlyn, who called the free agent process a crazy experience, said he tested the market because he felt he could get a more lucrative offer. He received interest from several teams, but a better offer never came. Some would regret passing on the original deal, but he doesn't. .
"I don't regret turning down the three-year deal from Carolina," Munnerlyn said. "I'm a guy that takes chances."
Whether that chance pays off remains to be seen. Munnerlyn received a one-year offer from Chicago as well, and said he almost made the decision to sign with the Bears. The offer from Chicago came on the opening day of free agency and Munnerlyn was forced to make a decision quickly because he didn't want to wait too long and not have a job at all.
"If you don't make the decision right then and there, the team can move on," he said. "I didn't want to take too long and not have a job at all."
A number of factors can influence a free agent decision, but for Munnerlyn, familiarity and opportunity were the keys to his decision. He's played in Carolina's defensive system before, and while the Bears have two established Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Carolina's cornerback depth chart is in flux.
"I felt like, me going back, I have a shot to be the No. 1 guy and compete."
Making a career-altering decision with millions of dollars at stake would be stressful enough, but as Munnerlyn learned, NFL teams weren't the only ones wondering what he was going to do. Munnerlyn said he received a number of calls from friends and family members wanting to know where he was going to go. Still deciding on what to do, Munnerlyn said he stopped answering his phone.
Now that he's signed, he said he hopes to stay in Carolina long-term and sign an extension before free agency begins next year. If not, he'll go through the process once again.
"Hopefully, I go out there next year and we have a good year and some more cap space opens up for me and I can sit back this time next year and be like 'well, you know that was a great decision by me,'" he said. "I'll see what happens though."