Changing Jersey Numbers Is Going to Cost NFL Stars Millions of Dollars

Kyle Koster
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The NFL is now allowing players to wear previously-restricted uniform numbers, which on its face seems as though it will cause a cavalcade of jersey-swapping because up to this point, changing numbers has been a proven winner in terms of attracting interest and moving merchandise. Some reporting from Pro Football Talk, however, presents a clearer picture of the process and it's far more complicated than simply turning in a 21 for a 4 or an 88 for a 6.

Per PFT, players wishing to change numbers must purchase all existing unsold inventory with the outdated number at the Fanatics' retail price. That will impact each case differently, though generally the more popular the player, the more expensive such a switch will be.

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, for example, looked into the process and discovered swapping his No. 33 to the No. 4 he wore at Florida State would cost $1.5 million. This hefty opportunity cost proved too much for the ball-carrier, who has decided to stick with his existing uniform.

This is not the greatest injustice in the world but it does seem to be an odd way of going about business. Allowing incoming rookies to corner the market on these numbers doesn't really do anything since any NFL number is going to be a new one for consumers.

There are certainly more sympathetic figures than NFL superstars who want cooler digits on their jersey. At the same time, it's pretty wild that teams don't have to buy up a ton of gear when they trade or release a player. Either that risk is baked into the sausage every time or none of the time. It shouldn't vacillate depending on what's causing the existing product to spoil.