Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Impact of the Ongoing Labor Dispute on College Football

There are 56 players that are leaving college for the NFL that still have eligibility left. That number of 56 early departures is the most in history, besting only the 2010 and 2008 draft class by two. The SEC leads the country in underclassmen who have declared for this year's NFL Draft with 14. This class is headlined with guys like A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, and Mark Ingram. I refuse to put any players on this list that wear orange on their uniform for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, they're still included in that group of early declarees.

With the ongoing labor dispute in the NFL, there are a lot of question marks surrounding these guys. Most of these uncertainties stand a very serious chance of having a drastic impact on their immediate financial future. If the players and owners don't come to an agreement, just what does that mean to all of these guys? Do they get drafted and just hang in limbo for a year? Is there a NFL Draft at all? If there is a new CBA established, what are the likely new stipulations and how would they affect rookies? These are the most pressing questions in my mind, so I thought that some of you might be thinking along the same lines.

First of all, there will be a draft no matter what occurs with labor negotiations. The drafted players will not be able to have any contact with team officials, however once they are drafted. That means no mandatory team workouts, mini-camps, press-conferences, or offseason workouts. The drafted players would be able to workout with the team, but there can be no representative of the team present, thus all drafted players will be pretty much in limbo for a year. 

The draft really isn't the largest concern here, though. The most pressing issue is that of undrafted rookie free-agents. If there is no CBA established by 11:59 on March 3rd, those who go undrafted will not be permitted to have any contact with any team. That means no private workouts, mini-camps, or free-agent tryouts. Any rookie free agent would not be permitted to sign a contract until a new collective bargaining agreement was established. That would mean guys like LeGarrett Blount, who led NFL rookies in rushing, would be most likely sitting at home for quite a long time. 

The other 50000-lb. gorilla in the room is establishing a rookie wage scale. The main consensus from what I understand, is that the NFLPA is lobbying for a 4-year contract for rounds 1-3 and 3-year deals for all other rounds. This would mean unrestricted free agency after the fourth year unless they opted for a fifth year tender based on performance. After the fifth year they would become unrestricted if they indeed signed on for the 4th year tender. This would be essentially the same end result as the current system, which gives players the option of unrestricted free agency after their fourth year in the league. The owners are trying to establish a minimum 5-year contract, which would help reduce costs being that they could simply cut a mid-career guy in order to draft a "cheaper" rookie. (Good read: Yahoo! Doug Farrar)

With all of these issues and the lack of progress that is being made, it seems to me that this is likely going to end up badly for the NFL. I heard today on ESPN Radio that the two sides are so far apart that it's like they're "basically speaking different languages". With all of these issues compounded by the larger revenue-splitting issues, getting this done without delaying the season will surprise me. If that's the case, what happens to all of these guys who still have eligibility remaining? 

I'm of the opinion that these guys should be allowed to come back and play if they haven't signed lucrative deals, a la "He Who Shall Not Be Named". Granted, I have a huge DAWG in this fight (pardon my lame puns), but what else are they gonna do? Sit around for a year and twittle their thumbs? I can see the other side of the argument as well, though. Each of these guys has already assumed the risk that they won't be playing this year or making any money. Honestly, looking back on it, with all of the uncertainty surrounding this year's draft, it wouldn't have made much sense for me to go early if I was a marginally high draftee. Either way you'd be looking at a rookie wage scale, but you also have to worry about the possibility that you wouldn't be making any money.

Way too many "what ifs" for me. Then again, I don't have someone barking up my tree telling me that I'm the greatest football player they've ever seen and they're gonna pay me in wheelbarrows of cash to come to their team. Also of interest is the NBA labor dispute for next year. 2011-2012 could be the sports year without sports. Don't forget the Mayan Apocalypse either. 

So what are rookies to do? Either way, it's a good problem to have I guess.

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