With Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several of his teammates possibly opting to follow coach Jim Tressel out of Columbus, the question becomes whether Pryor and any of the other Buckeye players would try to enter the NFL via the supplemental draft.
“There could be a supplemental draft, yes,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT on Monday night, in connection with an item regarding the possibility that Pryor could choose to challenge the entire draft process as an antitrust violation. Before it ever gets to that point, the NFLPA* could try (via the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit or the legal process established by the expired CBA) to finagle a finding that no supplemental draft can be conducted absent a new labor agreement.
Article XVI of the expired CBA sets forth the rules regarding the draft, and the first sentence of the provision language is clear (or, that is, as clear as anything in a CBA ever is): “There shall be an Annual Selection Meeting (the ‘College Draft’ or ‘Draft’) each League Year during the term of this Agreement and in the League Year immediately following the expiration or termination of this Agreement.” Although the balance of Article XVI contains various references to a supplemental draft, Article XVI plainly states that the use of a supplemental draft in any given year results in the forfeiture of the corresponding selection in the next year’s “Annual Selection Meeting.”
In other words, the supplemental draft represents an advance on the next year’s draft. Since the expired CBA doesn’t call for a draft next year, how can there be a supplemental draft?
It potentially creates an awkward situation for the league. Allowing any Ohio State players who choose to leave the school to become free agents would set an unwelcome precedent. Arranging a supplemental draft that falls beyond the terms of the expired CBA could invite a successful legal challenge from the NFLPA*, and possibly from the affected players. Informing the players that they won’t be allowed to enter the league until the 2012 draft, if there is one, could invite an action from the affected players.
There’s simply no graceful path out of this potential mess for the NFL, if Pryor and other Ohio State players who already are slated to be suspended five games in 2011 opt to try to get officially paid for playing football instead.