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Monday, July 19, 2010

Rookie Salary Cap and Draft Changes

Over the course of the next week or so the St. Louis Rams and Sam Bradford will come to terms of one of the richest contracts in NFL history. The only problem is that Sam Bradford hasn't even watched an NFL game from the sidelines yet, let alone played in one.

The Rams were "awarded" the first pick in this year's NFL draft because they had the worst record in the NFL last year. The purpose of the draft being set up with the teams selections coming in the inverse order of the final standings is to help reach that league wide parity that the NFL has been so successful in fostering. Unfortunately the teams in position to select the very best players then have to pay them exorbitant amounts of money and tie up all that money in that one singular prospect. Which is not a good idea for a team that lead the league only in losses the previous year. These teams are aren't looking for that "one last piece of the puzzle." Generally they need a major overhaul at most position groups which, in terms of team building, means they would rather have an abundance of value picks rather than those high priced luxury picks. Clearly something needs to be done in order to help balance out the haves from the have-nots.

Whether that something is a rookie salary cap or an alteration to the way the draft order is established is so far unclear. The rookie salary cap (RSC) would effectively limit the penalty of taking bigger risks on boom or bust players at the top of the draft because teams wouldn't be stuck with paying under-performing former top picks. In the age of the salary cap this is especially important. Currently teams are more or less forced to play those top picks almost immediately because it would be almost impossible to justify such a huge percentage of the teams total possible salary expenditure being tied up in a player who is sitting on the bench. Far too often this practice has resulted in otherwise magnificent talents getting forced to play before they are actually ready to, and for a team with little to no support from the surrounding players. That can obviously shatter both a player's confidence and body and stunt if not end his playing career.

The RSC would also allow teams to be more active on draft day. It will make trading up and down easier for everyone. Teams currently stuck with the top few picks will have a greater chance at moving back in the draft, picking up additional picks along the way giving the the stockpiled new talent they they so desperately need.

There is a good chance that we'll see some movement towards a RSC when the collective bargaining agreement is re-worked next summer because both the NFL and the NFLPA recognize that this imbalance is only in the best interest of the few lucky sports agents that are able to land the players drafted at the top of the draft. Although nothing will be done in time to have an effect on guys from this year's draft like Sam Bradford, it could mean that we'll see in influx of early entrants into next year's NFL draft. Those guys will be hoping to cash in on the final year of uncapped rookie salaries so players deciding between leaving school early and staying might be more likely to venture a shot at the NFL. Look for standout Sophomore and Junior QBs like Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett to rise up draft boards as they declare early for the 2011 NFL draft.


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