The rookie wage scale isn’t working.
Well, it’s working in one way. First-round draft picks make far less money than they used to, especially at the top of the process.
One of the arguments in support of robbing from the rich and giving to the ultra-rich was that removing the gigantic lottery prizes would help kids choose to stay in school. Which is exactly what the league wants to encourage in order to preserve the delicate relationship with the folks who run the NFL’s free farm system.
In that respect, it’s not working. And it’s no surprise.
The new system doesn’t remove huge contracts. It delays them. To get a huge contract, a player must have at least three years in the NFL. And so it now makes sense to get to the NFL ASAFP, and to put in the time necessary to get the second contract.
The players understand it, thanks to the agents who are explaining it to them. Gil Brandt of NFL.com reports that 80 underclassmen already have applied for early admission to the draft. That’s seven more than last year’s record high of 73.
Brandt expects the final number to exceed 100 by next Wednesday’s deadline.
Three years ago, in the last draft before the rookie wage scale was adopted, only 56 underclassmen entered the draft. There’s a chance that twice that number will file for early admission to the draft in 2014.
It’s unclear whether the curators of college football have expressed dismay to the NFL regarding this trend. We’ve heard, however, that college coaches aren’t happy with the efforts of the league-owned media conglomerate to spend so much time talking about underclassmen who may enter the draft — especially since NFL rules prohibit teams from saying anything about players who haven’t been certified as eligible for the draft.
While Brandt added a perfunctory word of caution to college players in his latest item regarding the record number of players leaving college football early, the cat’s out of the bag and it’s ripping up the upholstery. Staying in school to improve draft stock no longer matters; it’s far more important to get to the NFL and to start putting in time toward the second contract once the player is ready to compete for a spot on an NFL roster.
Which also hurts veteran players, since it creates a glut of younger, cheaper players who’ll then battle it out among themselves for the chance to become the elite veterans who are then surrounded by a glut of younger, cheaper players.