ESPN's Bottom Line - Version 2.0

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who Needs an "Off-Season" from Football?

The derth of football and football news right now is really difficult for many of us serious football fans to take. I mean what am I going to watch on TV all week? What am I going to talk to my friends about?

This got me thinking about the UFL and as of this moment, I wish the UFL played in the Spring/Summer. Imagine if the playoffs of the UFL were coming to a finale right about now as NFL summer camps are getting set to open. It could be used as a kind of tryout period for players hoping to make NFL rosters.

There are currently about 2,400 players on NFL rosters. Roughly 80 players on 32 teams. Which is just a tiny fraction of qualified players. There are 120 FBS division college football programs. If we only count the 22 starters from each team that leaves us with 2,640 college football players per year with starting experience. And for our purposes here let's say that if each of those players remained in playing shape until they were 30 from the time they graduated when they were 22, that is 8 years worth of those 2,640 somewhat qualified players or 21,120.

Now that is clearly an exaggerated number given how many of those players might not be any good as well and given how that many players start for multiple years. What I'm getting at however, is that there is clearly a surplus of qualified players that aren't getting opportunities for one reason or another. Perhaps they are on one team's bench or practice squad being hidden from other teams where they might have a chance to flourish.

However, the UFL is trying to establish itself as a rival to the NFL rather than a developmental league. Although I hope they succeed and eventually compete with the NFL, I just want to see them do it in a different season. The talent to create a competitive league that rivals the NFL is there as you can see above. Maybe the UFL won't be able to post a full 32 team roster but there are certainly enough players out there to fill 8-12 teams. Until the UFL augments the total number of teams, the length of the season, and ultimately fan's interest it won't be anything but a feeder league as players will certainly chase the NFL money and jump to The League at the first chance they get.

It seems like the UFL has good leadership in position to create a compelling football product and is starting by getting the product right before they begin pushing it to the masses. They don't want people watching until they have a product worth watching. Maybe they are playing in the Fall now in order to get players that are still in football shape or maybe they are doing it to purposefully fly under the radar of NFL fans. One thing is for certain though, if they were playing right now I would be watching.


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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