The hole in the middle of many teams' rosters is caused by the 2013 draft.
Three of the top nine picks from that draft are no longer with their teams. Two more are suspended. Six of the top 11 picks didn't have their fifth-year options executed. The Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns don't have a single 2013 draft choice on their current 53-man roster, and 11 other teams have only two. Only 16 players from the 2013 class have made the Pro Bowl.
Now the ghost of the 2013 draft will haunt the 2017 free-agency class.
Fewer starters will be available than in most years. The foundation of most free-agency classes is built on draft choices from Rounds 2-7 who survive their four-year rookie contracts. Last year, 70 draft choices made it to free agency, with 47 leaving in unrestricted free agency and 17 getting second contracts with their teams after they hit the market.
For next year, there might be fewer than 55 2013 draft picks who could hit the market, thinning out what might one of the weakest free-agent classes ever.
"To me, [the 2017 class] stinks," one general manager told me. "If you were at the top of that draft, you didn't get value. It was just a bad class."