As the 2022 NFL preseason approaches, many people are wondering where — and whether — Nassib will land on a team roster for training camp and for the upcoming regular season.
Various LGBTQ people on social media have claimed without evidence that NFL teams’ failure to sign Nassib at this point proves outright homophobia by the league. The thinking goes: Nassib came out publicly as gay, played one season, was eventually cut from the NFL, and will never return again because the league is homophobic.
This is simply false. Nassib was not cut for being gay, and he is not banned from the NFL by the league, the teams, the owners, coaches or players.
Carl Nassib + Raiders + math
There are so many factors that go into the present and future career of an NFL player. For Nassib’s future with the Raiders, it was an issue of math: He ended the 2021 season with 21 total tackles in 13 appearances, enough for back-up consideration but — to the Raiders — not worth the contract they’d promised him.
From Sports Illustrated at the time:
The decision comes ahead of what was set to be the final year of his three-year, $25 million deal with the team. Nassib was set to earn over $7.7 million this season. The team is reportedly designating him as a post-June 1 release, which will save it $8 million against the salary cap.
The salary cap, for those who don’t know, is the total amount a team can pay all of its players in a given season. Teams find ways to play around with this number, but every single person around the NFL I’ve spoken to has said the same thing: Nassib’s 2020 and 2021 production just didn’t equal what he was due in 2022. His production was enough to get him a roster spot in 2022, just not at the amount the Raiders had committed.
Add to that a new coaching staff for the Raiders — Josh McDaniels, who won six Super Bowls as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots, is the new head coach in Vegas; Dave Ziegler, also from the Patriots, is the new general manager. It was about a week after the Raiders announced their full 2022 coaching staff that they released Nassib.
It happens. This is the reality of pro sports: Changes in management and coaching always result in larger-than-usual shifts in player personnel.
No one in and around the NFL was surprised the Raiders released Nassib when they did — ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez said it was “not unexpected” at the time, and it had nothing to do with Nassib being gay. The math simply didn’t add up.
NFL veteran looking for a job, and the NFL looking for edge rushers
Still, when he was released, various people in and around the NFL said he’d get offers to play. Nassib is a guy with more football in him.
“With the NFL in constant need of edge-rushing depth, Nassib should have no problem finding a job this season — it just likely won’t be for $7 million,” wrote NFL.com’s Kevin Patra.
Again, that’s the reality of professional sports. What is a player worth to a team’s efforts to win a title, as well as market itself? Conversely for the player, is the contract worth it to the athlete to play another grueling season? Playing in the NFL isn’t easy on anyone’s body or mind. It takes a toll. We’ve seen some of the biggest-name players in the league — Barry Sanders, Andrew Luck, Robert Smith — decide to walk away at the height of their careers.
Nassib is also not remotely the only veteran deserving of playing time who currently doesn’t have a roster spot. Some of the others, thanks to Outsports co-founder and NFL guru Jim Buzinski: Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins, Ndamukong Suh, Eric Ebron, AJ Bouye and Kwon Alexander. Each one of those players has either won a Super Bowl or been to a Pro Bowl in the last five years.
Nassib has so far played six seasons in the NFL. The average NFL player plays about three seasons. And that average includes anomalies like Tom Brady, who is entering his (gulp) 23rd season in the NFL. Yes, Nassib was in elementary school when Brady took his first snap for the Patriots.
Still, entering his seventh season, Nassib has gas in the tank. In his first regular-season game after coming out publicly last season he had a strip-sack that led to the Raiders’ week-one win over the Baltimore Ravens. It was an incredible, athletic moment that told the world a gay player was just another player... who could help seal a key win.
For those fantasy football players who had the Raiders defense and won their fantasy matchup that week by three points or less... you can thank Nassib.
Training camp and the 2022 NFL season are up next
Where will he end up in a team’s training camp? It’s hard to say. In a pass-happy league, productive pass rushers are a hot commodity.
And that may be where Nassib is right now — a hot commodity waiting for the right opportunity. We saw with Michael Sam what happens when a player goes to a team that doesn’t really need a defensive end: If you can’t pass a couple guys on the depth chart, you get cut.
The next couple weeks could reveal Nassib’s ultimate 2022 landing spot.
Yet still, some people point to Nassib’s public support of the LGBTQ community, beyond his coming out, as the reason he’s not on a roster at this time. Nassib has not been shy about his financial support for The Trevor Project; That support has in the past financially been matched by both the NFL and the Raiders. Nassib has recommitted his support for the organization in 2022.
Sure, it’s possible that a coach here or owner there would rather not have Nassib on their team because he’s gay, just like some directors of TV and film don’t want gay men playing straight romantic leads. Yes, this still exists, yet there are plenty of other people in the league who have zero issues.
In the NFL, winning is king. And there are owners, like the Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the Miami Dolphins’ Stephen Ross, who would likely see an opportunity to win games while building the fanbase and doing some social good.
For every one person in the NFL uncomfortable with gay people in 2022, there are many more who are ready to welcome anyone who can help them got to a Super Bowl and win the Lombardi Trophy.
So where next?
Nassib wants to play this season. The NFL wants him to play this season. The question now is what team is a good landing spot for the veteran defensive end, and where he wants to play.
One of the favorite guessing games the NFL media plays during the offseason is to assert the “needs” of each team. So what teams “need” a defensive end like Nassib? Depending on the publication, it could be the Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl defending champion Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens... or, frankly, anyone who can use a veteran defensive end who knows how to make big plays when they count the most.
Depending on the team, veteran reporting dates for training camp are July 20-26. We could know as early as next week if Nassib will be in a training camp, or if he’ll be waiting into August to figure out where he may be playing this season.