Steve Beuerlein joined a “Who’s Who in the NFL” club Wednesday when Jacksonville made him the first pick in the first expansion draft in 19 years.
For the rest of the day, it was mainly “who’s that?” as the Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers went for the unknown, the underpaid and, in some cases, the relatively unfit. The Panthers in particular stayed with low-priced, low-profile players.
Beuerlein, who fell out of favor with coach Buddy Ryan after a good 1993 season with the Arizona Cardinals, became an asterisk when the Jaguars made him the first pick. Overall, Jacksonville went for veterans and spent more money while Carolina, hoping to attract free agents, went young and cheap.
Beuerlein goes to Jacksonville with no illusions.
“One of my claims to fame throughout my career is that I’ve always been able to take a hit,” Beuerlein said. “I’m sure that won’t be any different going down to Jacksonville. I’ll stand in there and take a hit with the best of them.”
But after the 30-year-old quarterback, due to make about $2 million next year, the new teams turned to youth and low salaries. Carolina didn’t go for quarterbacks until late, taking the veteran Jack Trudeau from the New York Jets on the 28th round after taking Miami’s Doug Pederson six picks earlier.
And a number of big-name, high-priced players were ignored, including Michael Dean Perry, William Perry, Gary Clark, Dante Jones, Chris Doleman, Mark Rypien, Tom Rathman and Chris Miller.
Rod Smith, a 24-year-old cornerback who started seven games for New England, was Carolina’s first pick.
“I’m just one of 30 guys,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about the contract at this point.”
And so it went, with each team required to spend at least $14 million against what’s expected to be a salary cap of about $36 million next season. Of the first 36 players chosen, 24 made under $200,000 last year.
But Jacksonville spent far more late in the draft, taking a group of high-salaried players, including wide receiver Desmond Howard, the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner but a major disappointment in Washington.
That and the selections of two other busted No. 1 picks - tight end Derek Brown from the New York Giants and guard Eugene Chung of New England - put them over the $14 million mark. That whole group had cap numbers over $1 million.
They also took such veterans as running back Reggie Cobb, wide receiver Kelvin Martin and linebacker James Williams in the late rounds.
And they took just 31 players, one more than the required number. Carolina took 35, although both could have chosen 42.