Troy Vincent wants to explore a developmental league


Recently, NFL defensive back turned NFL draft expert Corey Chavous and yours truly spent some time talking about the need for a developmental league.

NFL defensive back turned NFL director of football operations Troy Vincent may agree.

“We need to keep the pipeline of talent flowing, and that means for all areas of our game: players, coaches, scouts, game officials,” Vincent told the Associated Press.  “I am responsible to look at whatever the Competition Committee looks at, and that includes a developmental league.

“For all this football talent around, we have to create another platform for developing it.  Maybe it’s an academy — what would it look like?  Maybe it’s a spring league; we’ll look to see if there is an appetite for it.”

Ideally, the NFL would launch a true, in-season NFL minor league, with players being called up and sent down and getting real game reps while playing in mid-level markets not currently served by the NFL.

The NFL previously had a developmental league in Europe, but it went defunct after nearly a generation of operation.  Since then, the NFL has had nothing to supplement the free farm system known as college football.

And since the free farm system known as college football may not be free much longer, especially once the labor costs increase, the NFL may need to create its own way to develop young players.

97 responses to “Troy Vincent wants to explore a developmental league

  1. That’s a great idea. I was just telling my co workers they should have a D-league for the NFL. The season should take place a week after the Super Bowl and end a week before the draft. That way if give teams a chance to assess the talent they have better.

  2. Just make NFL Europe again since they want a team in London and other places so much.

    NCAA is the best development league they can have but like it was mentioned, the NCAA can be in trouble.

    Also say a young guy joins the NFL development league and tears up their knee, besides getting paid they are screwed. At least in college they could further themselves with the free education.

  3. I always said this…each team could have say 8-11 guys or whatever & each division has their own team…So let’s say put a team in Connecticut — have the Jets, Pats, MIA & Bills w/ea team sending 11 guys…so there’s about 35-45 guys per team…have a team in virginia for the AFC Central…

  4. A developmental league is long overdue. Have it run adjacent to the NFL season, over the spring and summer. It will keep football going all year around, providing both proponents and pundits a distraction during the main offeseason. This will be an excellent outlet for borderline NFL players and a moneygrab for the league. I’m actually surprised Goodell, with his money-hungry ways, hasn’t pounced on this a long time ago.

  5. they would wanna keep teams in a close proximity.



    this keep travel costs down where most cities can be travelled by bus

  6. More like another source of revenue.
    Charge those gullible college kids plenty of money to make em believe they can pay their way into the nfl

  7. Maybe a developmental league could also serve as a way to get football on TV and money in the NFL’s pockets without watering down the NFL product.

    The developmental league could play Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They could play Fridays too, but I imagine they’d be competing with high school football in the markets they’ll be playing in.

    I’d actually be stoked to watch some D-league football on Tues/Wed. I don’t mind the idea of Thursday night NFL games at all. I just hate that the games are crap be half of the players can barely walk from having just played four days earlier.

  8. Good idea. Tuesday nights in season. 8 games and 4 team playoff. ESPN/TNT/FS1 could bid for TV rights.

  9. I really liked NFL Europe and the old WLAF. Produced done good talent and experience for players, coaches, and officials. I wish GODell wouldn’t have cut it and focused on developing it rather than goal of NFL team in London….

  10. I, for one, am all for this. Who here wouldn’t love a spring league? Any memories of the USFL? I don’t go for any sport but football and 8 months is a long off season. I’d love a spring/minor league. Even the idea of an “academy” is inteiguiging ( I’m not going to guess on the logistics of that idea, just intrigued.) Troy Vincent’s quote is “we’ll see if there’s a market for that.” Well, you know the NFL has at least an intern devoted to watching these comments religiously so stand up and be heard! Like this comment if you want a minor league in the spring.

  11. Each team would sponsor a minor league team sporting their colors but with a LOCALLY themed mascot ala Salt Lake City Seagulls with hawk colors! Players could be called up during the season and each team would have a cap and a floor for $$$ We lose tons of talent to the north and arena league. Baseball does it why can’t the NFL!!!

  12. I would love for the NFL to have some sort of Triple-A ball. I think it would be great communities and for the league.
    Bottom line: It could produce a better product. It could even be an option for guys that don’t want to (or can’t) play college ball.

    It’s a great idea and should happen so of course it wont.

  13. I’d like to see a 7-on-7 league playing during the regular season. Games would be exciting, developmental QBs would get a lot of reps, and players can be called up as necessary.

  14. I’ve been an advocate for a d-league in the spring for years. Set it up for all those guys who keep bouncing around practice squads. A nice 8 game season during those slow months during the off season would be great. Give the refs some competition too. That’ll give the NFL its year round dominance it so much desires and hopefully it’ll keep Goddell from moving draft dates and whatnot around when there’s no reason to.

  15. NFL should “acquire” the CFL, expand it with teams in LA, London, San Antonio, etc. and use this as a developmental league. Not only for the players but also to allow a city to develop a fan base and prove that it’s worthy of a NFL team.

  16. without Europe league there highly likely would not have been Jake Delhomme or Kurt Warner every starting in NFL. Without USFL there would never have been Sam Mills in NFL (he had pretty much given up on his career and was teaching school when USFL and Jim Mora gave him a shot). Just three examples off pro bowlers off the top of my head.

    Developmental league needed in order for the best product to be put on the field, in order for the best players to be discovered. That’s just reality.

  17. Football is too brutal a game for a developmental league to make sense.

    Players will burn themselves out in development — have nothing more to give, and drop beside the way.

  18. It could create some more interesting levels of competitive dynamics, and help to build more layers of cash flow to help get more athletes into the mix to expand the quality and breadth of the game which would also then boost the demand as many more income-generating opportunities would arise. But then you would need a lot more coaches and staffs and just have to amp up everything about the business of professional football into high gear. And that could be a lot of paperwork.

  19. I think a D-league would be a good way to end this crap about paying college players. The players could have an option of playing in college and getting the education free on scholarship, or enter into the D-league and get paid. That way you would probably see more football players who play in college actually getting educated there.

  20. This might be best for everyone including the NCAA. Some of these kids have no interest in being in a classroom and the schools are doing all sorts of unethical things in order to create the illusion that they are actually learning something. NFL developmental can takes kids right out of high school and pay them while NCAA football can go back to being about student athletes.

  21. A development league won’t work for football like it would baseball. The return of talent you would get isn’t worth the investment for an NFL owner. Football is a young man’s game and most careers are over in less than 3 years. Sure you would get a few players here and there but the cases are rare. It isn’t like baseball where you can hone in hitting before you move up to the majors. They also send everyone through the minor leagues to prove themselves, that won’t ever happen in football.

    If it is in season no one would watch and I don’t think would make much for money. If it doesn’t make money and they aren’t getting their talent there for the most part they owners will never go for it.

  22. NCAA: Gulp

    NFL: Well, the writing is on the wall.

    NCAA: Amateur Athletes

    NFL: You got away with it for 20 years longer than you should have. Good thing you had 20 years to make a tweak a backup plan.

    NCAA: Gulp

  23. If there was a developmental league I think the Vikings would have to leave the nfl and join. I mean let’s be honest, that’s where they belong. Vikings fans are the worst. That means you poet. Your a bottom feeder.

  24. Since the recently signed CBA keeps players from actually practicing playing football and teams don’t want their starters to get hurt in pre-season games, none of these players have a chance to improve after playing college ball.

    Something needs to be done to help these guys get better as players otherwise they’ll continue to get a shot at making teams, fail and end up looking for real jobs.

    NFL needs to do something to help players who are on the cusp of making teams get better otherwise they’re just churning through college players.

  25. In season minor league is a terrible idea. One of the advantages that young players and street free agents have is that they are fresh. Tearing up their body’s in season doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s good in baseball and basketball, but only because the game is much less physical.
    A spring league is the perfect idea. There are still good players in the league, like Antonio Smith, who cut their chops in NFL Europe. They need to bring back that model, just maybe not in Europe, although it did have moderate success over there. I lived in Frankfurt, and they used to draw over 30,000 a game. Goodell and the owners where very short sighted when they got rid of the league.

  26. Who’s gonna pay the players, what stadium are they going to play in and will fans show up? College football is successful bc there’s a lot of history and loyalty to the schools. I personally don’t think a development league would work, otherwise their would already be one.

  27. This is so obvious, the NFL going to Europe for a D league was not well thought out. A D league in large U.S. cities would be much more practical logistically. The fan base for this sport is here now. Cities like Memphis, Milwaukee, San Antonio and so on would sell out games. Merchandise would also sell. If ticket prices were reasonable good football would be available to many more fans. I think its a no brainer. Just like MLB does with its minor leagues.

  28. I think a post-college league could be done,

    Somewhere to keep all those cut from the 90-man roster, in case the club needs some depth.

    Could be a place to stash some prospects lost in the cuts, plus a few UDFAs.

    The problem is, the player turnover rate would be huge year-to-year. And if the club doesn’t like them enough after one year at the farm, they will be booted for the next batch of rookies.

  29. I say it is worth a try. It would give practice squad players and players that never make it a chance to prove that they have talent to be on a 52 man roster.

  30. Its a cool idea for sure. It could be hard to get up and off the ground though.

    But if they started smaller in like 10 places and expanded up to like 20 over a couple years it could probably go somewhere.

    Could be a good way to test other markets for relocation or whatever too.

  31. NFL Europe again…? The difference with football and other sports is that your prime is when you are young and fresh. These developmental players won’t see the field with an NFL team really. It’s good how it is with practice squads. The only benefit with a developmental league is more jobs.

  32. NFL Europe was that developmental league, the problem was many coaches started sending over scrubs they signed one day before the deadline.

    When used properly NFL Europe was superb, send over some decent young talent and they benefit from 10 actual games to play in. Send over crap and you’ll probably get crap back

    Kurt Warner, Brad Johnson, Jake Delhomme, Adam Vinitieri all did well in NFL Europe and all say it helped them.

    Not every single player will do well there, but what do you honestly want your 3rd string players doing in the offseason ? Getting valuable experience/gametime or panicking in case they’re getting up to no good and watching that arrest meter here at PFT go up ?

    PFT slated NFL Europe as they seemed to want a league in the US, that didnt work (The original WLAF had teams in Canada/US). However Europe wont want a league now as they’re used to regular season games now and dont want a farm league.

    But its a waste of all that talent from college who go undrafted, a developmental league makes sense

  33. Check the prisons; pretty good ball players in there.

    I’m guessing, with enough money, you could buy out their contracts and have them in camp this Spring.

  34. Hmmmmm makes a little too much sense for Herr Goodell, no doubt. I suppose they’ll find a way to bleed this idea dry should it actually come to fruition.

  35. nfl has blown their shot at setting up a good minor league system like the mlb, or even an effective one like the nba dleague. oppressive (monopolistic) business practices don’t pay off.

  36. A D-league could also be a solution to the college-union issue.

    Allow players to go straight to the D-league from high school if they are good enough. Then they can stop crying that colleges should pay them.

  37. America is such a vast country that can not get enough football i can not see why this will not work. There is plenty of time for a 2nd tier league between super bowl and the draft or training camp. It will not interfere with the college game, there must be many towns / cities that would love some football as well as us fans because i am fed up with all the mocks and rubbish spewed out this time of year. What a great way to get some of the players who will not ordinarily see much playing time and some who are desperate to prove they are worthy of a contract or just a chance. I would think these teams could be self funding once everything settled down.

  38. I have always wondered why the NFL did NOT have a stateside, in-season minor league with teams in mid-sized markets. Seems like a guaranteed revenue stream without a downside.

  39. When Vincent talks about “an appetite for it”, i believe he’s referring to fans. The league should not look at a developmental league SHOULD NOT look at a DL as another money making scheme as it will surly be a money losing proposition.
    It should, however, look at the MLB model. Have each NFL team set up a minor league franchise, have a minor league draft, etc. where they can develop young players and draw on their talents as needed.

  40. The NCAA will, of course, fight it. A developmental league would interfere with their cash flow. As someone once said, “Don’t mess with the money”.

    Seriously, an outlet for players that are interested in pursuing a football career but not interested in college football or the college life is long overdue. There is no reason whatsoever for a young man to have to pay tribute to the NCAA. It’s downright un-American.

  41. I’ve always wondered why there’s no minor league football. I guess the NFL doesn’t want to because it doesn’t have to but if they’re going to increase the number of games played, they’re going to have to increase the talent pool or the product quality will suffer. But as long as the billionaire boys club, aka: the NFL, is making money, they won’t care about quality.

  42. I think this is a great idea, and it segues nicely with the article from yesterday about being more “humane”(whatever that means) when cutting players since one of the ideas brought up by the author was having a minor/developmental league. As brought up yesterday, it would provide income for UDFA’s and cut down casualties, provide another source to tap for talent other than colleges, and give football fans what they can’t seem to get enough of…more football. Not to mention, it would provide another revenue stream for the league. Everybody wins. Players, coaches, scouts, officials, executives, and most importantly, the fans. EVERYBODY.

  43. I’ve advocated for this “D-League” here and elsewhere for a long time. The idea of an in-season league is fine, except with college and high school football going on, it would get lost.
    The NFL offseason is long. They do their best to try to keep fan interest with free agency and the draft. Why not put teams in places like Columbus, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Orlando, etc. and run a season from March through early June? It would give fans a chance to see rising talent. It would compete against baseball, the NBA and hockey, it’s true but it would give football fans a chance to keep their interest up until training camp.
    The d-league players would be given a couple of months off before the start of training camp.
    It would also bring more value to the NFL Network during the long off-season.

  44. Its called NCAA! However if this is to work than it should be high school graduates who couldnt get scholarships to play at the next level.

  45. Keep it in the u.s. and it’ll work. Plus help increase the economy. How many overall jobs does the NFL provide. Think of a minor league in the u.s. and the jobs it’ll help create

  46. You may be right, there should be other avenues. But, with scout-team roster-spots and mini-camp invites, training-camp invites … you would think there exists plenty of opportunities for guys with some sort of “glimmer” of potential to secure themselves a developmental role.

    If there were to be some sort of system to be designed similar to MLB’s developmental process (of course it would have to be of a smaller scale, simply due to the costs involved with maintaining a football club) it wouldn’t draw much interest outside of local-crowds … And all of that for what? So MAYBE one of those guys lands an opportunity to suit up for a couple of rotations into special-teams? Nahhh. I think all that will happen here is TALK – no action.

  47. There are Semi-pro league all over the US, maybe the NFL can take a serious look at the individuals in those leagues that are legit and make something happen there.

  48. This would be a great solution for the NFL. Best of all my Vikings and their NFC North worst defense would be able to maintain their place as the Packers’ retirement home team.

  49. Well, there’s suddenly a $30 million dollar stadium in Newark NJ available since the Newark Bears have just gone belly-up.

    People in the area who can’t afford $400 for aftermarket Giants tickets will gladly pay $20 to see the “Might Be Giants” play in Newark.

  50. For those bleating that the development league is the NCAA haven’t thought this through. There is a time LIMIT in the NCAA meaning that the players are just entering their physical prime once eligibility runs out and with nowhere to go if they can’t catch in with a team. There are many many many players who would jump at a chance to play in a development league if it was viable and sponsored by the rich NFL.

  51. I already hashed this out in my amateur blogging days:

    Since Roger Goodell started talk of an 18-game season, he has sold it as something that the fans want. Peter King and Mike Florio both wrote about the 18-game issue in MMQB and on respectively. I will try not to regurgitate what other writers say, but I want to add my input. The NFL is the only sport that I follow with fervor and passion. I love NFL football. I have stats, obscure players who never made it, draft picks, all memorized. I think it is the most entertaining sport in the world. With that being said, I am and always have been completely opposed to an 18-game season. Neither side of the argument has proposed a real solution or alternative to this conundrum. Well, I have one.

    I have thought about this since the folding of NFL Europe and I think it can legitimately bring the NFL to a new level, for both entertainment and revenue stream. An NFL sanctioned Developmental League system. Bear with me here, because this is me spewing my ideas that I have had for 3+ years into some kind of organized thought.

    1) NFL teams peak in the offseason at 90 players. Throughout the offseason, they have to trim down eventually to 53, and on game day, 45. That literally leaves entire NFL league (1440) players without jobs. How many of those guys could flourish with a little development in real game situations? How many draft picks fizzle out because they couldn’t climb the depth chart? I think there are a lot of talented players out there that are a victim of a game of numbers.

    2) Offseason entertainment – NFL-starved fans, like myself, crave NFL news. Look at the draft, almost 40M unique viewers. seems to break a new record every month. Fans are constantly waiting for an NFL story to break in the offseason. What if they could watch an actual game?

    3) Revenue (for the NFL/Owners) – This kind of ties into the point above, but it deserves its own bullet point. I know if there were a minor league team, I would go to the games. If they were televised I would watch every one. Who doesn’t want to see guys their teams drafts develop. It creates an entire league that you can now market gear, advertising, etc for. Realistically, the league could pay for itself.

    4) It would solve a lot of problems. Shut the NFL/Owners up about additional games. Shut the players up about not wanting to play 2 more games. Give roster casualty players another shot. And give the fans what they

    How Would it Work?
    I am not an expert. But the NFL moves slowly into things, so I will start this idea slowly. Let’s say we start small. Please note that I have not worked out all the details, so this is kind of just a starter plan. I suggest two potential paths to start; a four team format, and an eight team format:

    Team Make-Up:
    -8 Team: Eight teams of 48 players. It would be split by NFL Division. It would be a true farm system. Each team in the division would designate 12 players to send to the farm team. They would not count towards your NFL roster. But you could call them up and send them back down the same way you do in baseball. You would sign them to normal contracts but it would work like practice squad players. If other teams want to sign them to their active roster, the team that owns his rights would have the ability to match the deal and sign them to their active roster.

    -4 Team: -The four team format would follow the same idea, but keep the standard six “practice squad” players per NFL team. So you would essentially designate your practice squad players for assignment to these teams. The North and South divisions would share a team and the East and West teams would share a team. This could change based on location of actual team, but you get the idea.

    Regular Season:
    -8 Team: The season would start in May, after the draft, you would play one game a week, play your conference rivals twice, and play the opposite conference division you are slated to play that year in the NFL once. This would be a total of seven games.

    -4 Team: The season would start the same time. You would play each of the teams in the league once. This makes a total of three regular season games.

    -8 Team: The top four teams would play in a semi-final and a final game. So maximum a team would play is nine games for the season. The season would be over by the start of July training camp.

    -4 Team: You would play your conference team in a semi-final (NS vs. EW) to determine who plays in the final. The max games would be five for the season. The season would conclude end of June or beginning of July.

    Off Season/Rest for Players:
    Obviously this would have to be worked out. What I am thinking is that there can be some kind of a PUP list for players who participate in this league and are added to an active NFL roster. They could still workout and practice with their teams but not count against the roster limits. There would be a requirement to sit out some length of NFL regular season games if you played in the developmental league.

    Players could serve no more than two seasons in the developmental league. This would force teams to make a decision on a player rather than keep their D-team a power house. It would also cut down on potential injuries to players.
    I am sure that I will think of a hundred more rules. And I understand that the details and logistics would be much more difficult than this simple layout, but that is for the higher-ups at the NFL to figure out. I really do not see a down side to this. I found NFL Europe entertaining, but why launch a minor league in Europe? You have the fan base domestically to support it.
    This is a pure win-win situation for all sides:
    1) The players stay at a 16-game season.

    2) The NFL gets an entire new source of revenue and exposure.

    3) The players who get cut in camp get another shot at making it in the NFL.

    4) The teams get a chance to develop players who have potential in real games. This could generate a future franchise star, create a prospect that could demand trade value, and gives them more flexibility on practice squad players. Not to mention develop more scouts, coaching prospects, and a fan base.

    5) The fans get the NFL-fix they are looking for in the offseason.

    I would have no interest in two additional games added to the regular season. I don’t think it would add much value to the fan or the player experience. A developmental league would create an exciting and new dynamic to the league. In my opinion, it would trump any kind of value that two regular season games would add as well as minimize the exposure to injuries that the current players want to avoid.

  52. I swear the XFL would have (and still could) worked if Vince had just marketed the league as an alternative and stepping stone to the NFL instead of trying to go head to head with the league. Fans die for football during this time of year.

  53. Why does no one watch afl (arena football league)? I’ve found it to be quite entertaining break during the offseason…

  54. This issue is cost, is the NFL willing to invest so much more into health insurance for more players, coaches, staff, more salaries, travel, everything that goes into running more teams. And face it they won’t garner the fans to cover those costs, the owners probably wouldn’t want to go for it. It’s easy for Troy to make this claim how much of his money would go into it? Probably none, I guess I could go on wishing like that as well if I were him.

  55. This is way off topic, but I get annoyed by how PFT just says, more or less, “college athletes should be paid.”

    Which players get money? How much? For what exactly? Food? Leisure? I’m not saying the argument that they should get something is without merit. Everyone’s gut would naturally be, yeah, they’re pulling in lots of money for the schools, they should get something. But if you’re going to keep harping on it, you really ought to say what you think should be bone in specifics. I get WHY you think they should be paid, but what do you all think should be done.

    Not saying you guys need to come up with your own proposition either. Give us a link to an expert’s opinion on what should be done and how to implement a system where players would get paid/benefits/whatever else they’re asking for. That’s what I’m interested in seeing. I may change my opinion if I could just see a plan for how it would all work.

    (PS maybe you have and I missed it.)

  56. They really should do it. There are scores of mid-size cities who would jump at the chance to get in on this. And with the NFL’s support, the media would support and cover the developmental league, as opposed to ignoring it or bagging on it like they do to any other non-NFL attempt at another league.

  57. Amazing idea, something I have been pounding the table for, for a long time now.

    Do it like hockey…instead of having a practice squad, you have a farm-team where you can call up players…or keep developing them for the future.

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