When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced last week during his commencement address at the Naval Academy graduation that Keenan Reynolds and Chris Swain could defer their military service the benefits to those two players was immediately obvious. Reynolds and Swain are now free and clear to pursue their NFL careers.
According to multiple sources around the media world the deal will work like this. Instead of a five-year active duty commitment Reynolds and Swain have been given the option of serving for eight years in the Naval Reserves. In addition Joe Cardona, the long snapper for the New England Patriots, has been given a similar option to serve in the reserves. Last season Cardona started all 18 games for the while serving on active duty.
The decision of whether or not to take this offer is not totally cut and dry. For Cardona, a player who has established his ability at a position that doesn’t have serious turnover if a player is talented, it is an easy decision. Cardona is a guy who looks odds on to have a successful, if under the radar 10 year plus NFL career. Reynolds too looks likely to accept given that he was a draft pick that the Ravens are very high on. Swain however has a much more difficult decision. He would be signing away a guaranteed job in the U.S. Navy and everything that comes with that. As a guy who was picked up by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent and asked to change positions he has no guarantee of even a practice squad place. That makes the choice much harder.
So all this leads to an interesting question. Will this become a standard procedure?
There was already an interesting article written about the difference it would have made if David Robinson had been able to go directly to the San Antonio Spurs rather than fulfilling his two year service commitment.
The big deal here though is that Ken Niumatalolo would be able to go out and recruit at a much high level. Niumatalolo has already proven he is an outstanding coach, a coach that makes his players play above their assumed talent ceiling. If he was then able to go out and grab a higher caliber of athlete then Navy would be pushing for the AAC Title, and perhaps more, every year.
This is of course all a what if. There are all kinds of ethical questions within this. It is however a very interesting development.