We’ve written extensively about the financial difficulties facing the professional sports landscape, but it’s always seemed that the NFL has stayed largely immune to the worst rumblings (moving, contraction, etc). But it appears now that even the nation’s most popular sport is going to be radically altering the personnel process, and it’s all about the economy.
(If Pro Days go away, though, when will we get to see Andre Smith’s wonderful mammaries?)
As PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY notes, the NFL’s owners will be convening later this week, and, basically, the entire offseason schedule is up for review. The biggest no-brainer - moving the Senior Bowl and Shrine Bowl to Tampa to join the Combine, saving unholy amounts of money - will probably only upset Mobile, Alabama, the current home of the Senior Bowl.
But the old standard of the league’s offseason - the mid-spring draft - is probably toast.
For instance, the draft has been held in late April or early May since 1977. However, there are a number of movers and shakers in the league who believe that veteran free agency should follow the draft, and with the CBA still to be agreed upon for the next contract, this issue could be a bargaining chip for owners.
Those same league insiders would like to see the draft moved to late February, with free agency to commence following rookie minicamps, most likely in mid-to-late March.
“They need to get the draft put ahead of free agency,” one veteran talent evaluator told PFW.
Why, you might wonder, would a team want to conduct free agency after the draft? Of course: money. Rookies (especially after the first round or two) cost a lost less than all but the cheapest of veterans, and when a team has three or four holes to plug, they’d probably like to see what they can accomplish in the draft before having to go into the high-stakes world of veteran free agency.
Further, the most damaging thing a rookie can do to his first-year development, aside from wrecking his ACL or something, is hold out while his agent argues over a couple hundred thousand dollars here or there. If the rookie can be drafted two months earlier, perhaps the negotiations can run their course long, long before training camp starts (and if they don’t, well, time’s no longer an excuse).
This overhaul is probably good news for the league, which expends an unusual amount of energy on scouting during its seven month offseason, even with meh to below-meh results. As mentioned in the article, one top exec said the NFL “to find a way to give the league more of a break,” and perhaps a few deep breaths during May and June is the right way to accomplish that.
Then again, nobody was pushing that notion while the economy was doing just fine.