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Will 2011 be the NFL's final draft?

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Ok, so that statement seems to be ridiculous, but bear with me. While the players association is using the draft as leverage, no one believes that the draft will actually go by the wayside once the new CBA is in place.

However, what if the NFL calls the players' bluff? The days of the draft are over, and incoming eligible first year players are thrown into the free agent pool, for all to have a shot. The market becomes saturated with talent at each of the positions, overpriced veterans are now more likely to lose their jobs to rookies. With no draft slotting in place, the top players will still get theirs, but salaries would likely go down across the board since the owners are holding a defacto auction for their services.

And is it possible that this scenario could be better for the league? Again, you'll need to bear with me, but why not? Now ESPN and NFLN get the rights to the new draft format involving ALL Free Agents. It will be held auction-style. Team 1 nominates a player, and the bidding war begins. Could you imagine an NFL-wide bidding war over Tom Brady? Let's say Philip Rivers and Big Ben hit the open market together, and the Chargers put in a bid for Big Ben? How does Rivers react if the Chargers end up "settling" for him?

The fact is, this scenario has played out every year across the country in fantasy football leagues. Many leagues still use the draft, but those that have switched to auction realize what an archaic form of player acquisition that truly is. And while some players will end up garnering more money as a result, in the end, there are always bargains, and I'd imagine that in the NFL's case, avg. salaries league-wide would decrease, making it a potentially lucrative play by the NFL.

I know this scenario will never happen, but sometimes it's just fun to imagine what if.

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  1. msclemons's Avatar
    I think you're right on a key point Trumpet. Without a draft overall salaries would decrease.

    Right now a team is "stuck" with it's pick as much as the player is stuck with a team. A 1st round choice can hold out and there is tremendous pressure on the team to get him signed. Without a draft if a prospect is intransigent the team can simply move on to the next prospect.

    Top ten guys will reap the rewards of bidding wars but the rest of the free agents could end up screwed.
  2. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
    Exactly. If you saturate the market, the top salaries will remain high, and a bidding war would probably make the high end players end up with more money. But overall, salaries would come down saving the owners money.

    They'll never call the players bluff on this, but it would be interesting if they did. In the 70s, when baseball was in the courts fighting for free agency, A's owner Charlie Finley suggested the idea of total (yearly) free agency to the other owners. Of course, they all looked at him like he was an idiot, but Marvin Miller, head of the players association, thought it was genius. He was the only other person who realized that if yearly free agency was offered, there would be no way the players could turn that down, but that it would ultimately save the owners a ton of money on salaries. Players would be fighting each other for the available jobs more than the teams fighting for players.

    Of course, yearly free agency would never fly, but in a sense, NFL contracts are year to year anyway. A modified version in the NFL may have the same effect. Of course, the draft is going nowhere, but I think it's something that the owners could use to quickly alter some their leverage as the CBA gets worked out.

    And honestly, how great would a made-for-TV auction be? 6 teams in on the QB wars, with Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Andrew Luck, Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith, Matt Leinart, Vince Young as the prizes. After the Saints win Drew Brees, and the Eagles win back Mike Vick, you now have the Redskins, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Broncos (who have prematurely given up on Tebow) fighting over Andrew Luck, with the losers' other options in plain view. The drama would be incredible.