Is There a Benefit to Players With Long Careers?
Of course, that's completely for you to decide. Most of the players with long careers are fan favorites and will be loved wherever they play.
Personally I'd rather not be tied to a player for many years when they're not a personal favorite. I was never a 49ers fan so while I respect Jerry Rice for his accomplishments, he doesn't thrill me in a retro format. I'd rather have 6 years of Chris Collinsworth, 4 of Dwight Clark, 3 of J.T. Smith and 2 of Heywood Jeffires. Those short-term guys are much easier to get out of if you need to switch your approach. Nobody will ever cut Jerry Rice.
Sensory Overload? Yeah, me too. But....
I've made several attempts to create a team with mixed results. My last attempt finally clicked. There is a way through the mountains of information and infinite variables. The 10% discount to salaries from your own franchise is the first clue. Follow these steps:
1. Create a team entirely populated with players from your franchise. Do it in a spreadsheet or on paper. Just the names, position, and seasons played. DO NOT add any Pro-Bowl or All-Pro players
2. Build the team in APC so you can see the salaries.
3. Go back and add your favorite guys. The stars you want without regard to salary cap. As many as you deem necessary.
4. Remove extra players until you reach 60 and are under cap.
You'll pay close attention to the star players and how they fit...but a backup is a backup is a backup. Take the 10% and save some stress.
Quarterbacks can be Tricksy
Bobby Layne was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Layne went into the HOF with 8 combined pro-bowl and all-pro nods - back when they meant something. He finished his career with 196 TD throws, a 49.0% completion rate, and 243 picks. Those numbers make Mark Sanchez look like Tom Brady. Layne's stats match his actual numbers fairly well when using "Standard Offense/Defense Blend" in the game setting, but he improves by about 20% across the board when using "Historical Average." Better receivers would perk that up even more as I tested theories using stock teams. 1980's players are historically fairly average.
Think of Each Era Carefully
Player salaries are not determined only by their statistics and ratings, but also by how their statistics measured up against the rest of the league. In 1954 Harlon Hill caught 45 passes (rated 6/10) and APC gave him a salary of $9021 while in 1995, Willie Green is also a 6/10 on 47 passes but his salary is only $4420. The lesson? Choose your receivers from a passing era. While Hill may overperform, he'll still be limited to 45 catches.
What Does Each Decade Offer?
There are exceptions to every rule, but generally speaking you can think about how football he evolved.
1950's: The last decade where there were very good 2-way players. It's not unusual to find a guy who is an 8 or better OL and a 7 or better LB at the same time. George Conner is in the hall of fame and has 4 seasons in the 50's where he is a 10 OT and a 7 LB or DE-LB.
1960's: The decade of creation for the NFL. The passing game was finally opening up. Running backs had not yet reached potential, but Jim Brown was leading the way to enlightenment. The NFL still considered football as trench warfare. There was pride in a 3-0 or 6-3 win. Defense was king, and strong OL play was crucial. This new-fangled offense thing was a fad that would fade away.
1970's: Bombs Away. Most old-school teams finally realized that big plays filled the seats. Defense is boring. The 70's were the "juiced ball" era of the NFL. I can remember being impressed by a QB with a 50% completion rate. That was the line of demarcation between a star and a scrub. When you figure in the percentage of passes that traveled over 40 yards in the air, then 50% is downright impressive. Air Coryell, John Hadl, Daryl "The Mad Bomber" Lamonica - it was en exciting time for the NFL. Yards Per Completion were regularly in the 15 yard range, some higher....even for average QBs. The last 5 NFL seasons (2011-2016) combined had 13 QBs with YPC of 13.0 or better with a high of 14.2. 1972 ALONE had 13 players reach that mark, topped by Joe Nameth at 17.4.
1980's: The age of innovation. With the opening of offense shown through the 70's great coaching minds began to experiment. Playbooks expanded by huge factors. QBs began to be valued for more than their toughness or ability to physically control a field full of rock-headed monsters. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana gave us the West Coast Offense and nothing would ever again be the same. The thought of using the passing game to open up running lanes was unheard of...but it worked. And consequently the success of the running game opened up myriad passing options for a smart game plan. As always the defense was slow to adjust. Offense was exploding. Teams were slow to react to the new game, until Buddy Ryan and the 46 defense showed the way. Defensive players were being valued as much for speed and "motor" as they were for strength and surliness. Technique beyond "see guy, hit guy" evolved and continues to evolve to this day. This is the best decade to get your offensive skill players.
1990's: The age of refinement. During the 90's the defense had finally began to catch up to the offense. Cornerbacks, safeties, and tight ends were the crown jewels of most teams. Sacks and the ability to make a QB uncomfortable were no longer "boutique" stats - they were necessary to win.
2000's: The age of specialization. Rosters had evolved to the point where it was increasingly difficult to find players who could "do it all." Packages and sub-packages, press corners, zone defense, man defense, Tampa-2, 5-6-7 man defensive backfields were all the rage. The game became complex to the point where any player who survived the change was very intelligent, hyper talented, or both. College safeties became linebackers, wide receivers were asked to block, running backs swung out wide, and the nose tackle or middle linebacker were elevated to defensive gods as they could control the line of scrimmage. The NFL as we know it today began early in the 2000's when Vince Wilfork and Brian Urlacher came into the league. This control of the middle of the field gave birth to strength on the edge - Tony Gonzalez, jason Witten, Antonio Gates. Those guys could get behind that midfield bottle neck and gave us a new term - "the seam"