NFLPA has no real incentive to help developmental leagues


There’s a common belief that a developmental league would be good for football. But it definitely wouldn’t be good for all football players.

With the Alliance of American Football staking its survival on doing a deal to secure bottom-of-the-roster NFL players and with the NFL Players Association so far unwilling to do a deal that would allow that to happen, there’s an important question to consider as it relates to the finite nature of NFL rosters: Should the union help the new developmental leagues to develop current NFL players?

The NFL-NFLPA labor deal pays players based on seniority, with a higher minimum salary triggered by greater years of experience. The longer a player has played, the more expensive he becomes.

This creates a natural inclination for teams to skew younger, if they can justify entrusting a roster spot to someone with limited experience. A developmental league gives those inexperienced players live reps, making those players better (in theory) and in turn making it easier for NFL teams to justify rolling the dice with one of the 53 jobs on a player who has fewer years of NFL service and thus a lower price.

So if the NFL and the NFLPA agree to make players who have signed “futures” contracts available to developmental leagues like the AAF or the XFL and if those younger players indeed develop in developmental leagues, those younger, cheaper players may supplant older, more expensive ones.

Even though union dues aren’t based on a percentage of a player’s salary, it generally makes sense for the union to want teams to pay as much as possible to its players. Developmental leagues tend to cut against that dynamic, giving the NFLPA no real reason to support a system that makes it harder for established, proven players to fend off their inevitable replacement by a player whose youth allows him to move faster, jump higher, push harder, and basically perform the various requirements of the job better.

That’s not to say the NFLPA should work against developmental leagues. But the perception that developmental leagues are good for the NFL isn’t necessarily a reality for the NFLPA, since there will still be only 53 roster spots per team, no matter how many chances the players competing for those jobs have to develop their skills beyond the confines of NFL offseason workouts, preseason training camp, in-season practices, and game reps.

17 responses to “NFLPA has no real incentive to help developmental leagues

  1. The AAF really lost me as a fan with this play. The idea they want to be both a developmental league and a primetime product really bothers me.

    How many Triple A baseball games play on TNT at 8pm on Sunday? How many nationally televised games does the G League play?

    In my opinion you gotta pick one or the other.

    Also the idea that you start a business with the sole purpose of hitching it to someone else’s business is ridiculous to me. If the NFL wants a development league they’ll start one.

  2. Except that more experienced younger undrafted players don’t have to accept the minimum contract based on seniority. If they are experienced and creating demand in the NFL, they can demand higher salaries.

    Also, the NFLPA can expand their reach to include the developmental league(s) and create a new CBA with the new league(s) and collect more union fees.

  3. Doesn’t the salary cap negate much to that point? As long as the average team is spending x percent of the cap (again, on average), the pay is somewhat irrelevant. The net result is the older players would make more… there would just be less of them. Now I could see non star players being totally against helping the developmental leagues and pushing the union.

  4. I fail to see how bottom of the rung players will help make the AAF that much better. Just giving the AAF some NFL branding might help, but the AAF isnt getting viewers based on talent. Hell the vast majority of NFL viewers wouldnt notice a difference if they put two AAF teams in NFL uniforms and put them on during the regular season. These people will watch worthless preseason games and bad college teams. Its not about talent, its about branding.

  5. Really bums me out that the league might fold due to lack of practice squad players. The AAF can still be a stepping stone to the NFL, much like the CFL is. I didn’t start watching bc I thought they might be able to get PS players. I watched bc it was affordable, entertaining football.

  6. Lower tier player are ALWAYS complaining about the lack of both practice reps and game reps.
    So the NFLPA complains to the NFL on their behalf…even though the NFLPA ITSELF demanded less practice time for their clients.

  7. mark0226 says: “the NFLPA can expand their reach to include the developmental league(s) and create a new CBA with the new league(s) and collect more union fees.”

    jlinatl says: “Doesn’t the salary cap negate much to that point?”


    Stop with the logical, common sense stuff.

  8. Shotgunnoblitz

    This is how I think it could help using Orlando as an example. Your regionalize the assignment. So Orlando would receive players from the Dolphins/jaguars/Bucs. This will help increase attendance at games as fans of the three teams will be more willing to attend. For the fans in Florida or fans around the country then will be more inclined to tune into the game associated with Orlando. You could duplicate this around the country (San Antonio = saints/Texans/cowboys). The issue is the weather as you can’t put a team in Columbus Ohio for the Steelers/browns/bengals/colts in the dead of winter.

  9. There will never be a developmental league unless there is enough $ for the owners & players to split.

  10. Look at it like this….if all the teams can start replacing the stars players with much cheaper players ( and do it solely because they’re cheaper ) would they teams then lower ticket prices? No, of course they wouldn’t. So why would any vet player be in favor of the owners working a system they only care about because it could potentially increase their profits? It’s not logical for the players to get behind something like this.

  11. There is no question the NBA has hit it out of the park with having the G-League. It’s a developmental league for players not quite ready for the NBA. It allows players to play games while developing their skills. The same could be said for the AAF. That what the AAF wants. I like what the AAF is doing with it’s players, GM, and referees. The XFL strictly wants to compete with the NFL for talent.

    The NBA origionally had the D-League. The NBA players association worked out an agreement with the D-League. Some NBA teams decided to buy into the D-League. Then just about every team bought a franchise and it became the G-League. Some teams owned there G-League affiliate outright. Some teams pooled there resources and supplied players that way.

    I have to think the NFL has to see the benefits provided by the AAF. It helps supplies players not ready when they first try out for the NFL. It allows those players to play meaningful games while developing their skills. It’s basically the same as the NBA G-League. It develops players who aren’t quite ready. The NFL and the NFLPA need to work out a deal to cover players, whether the NFL buy franchise in the AAF or not. It’s going to help the NFL in the long run.

    I’ll certainly pay to see future NFL stars since I can’t afford tickets for NFL games as long as it’s less expensive than the NFL. Football is football whether it high school, college, AAF, or NFL.

  12. Of course.

    There is a fixed salary cap and a fixed roster.
    It doesn’t matter if you limit younger players, the veterans will still be cut because of the fixed cap and roster size.
    This creates additional jobs (at the low end) and gives the NFL access to better players, making the games more interesting, and thus more revenue is brought in.

  13. ededinetti19 says:
    I watched bc it was affordable, entertaining football.


    I think this is the selling point. The average fan can’t afford NFL season tickets. Even a single game will set you back hundreds of dollars for a couple tickets and food/drinks. They were selling AAF season tickets for $75.

  14. It should be voluntary ? If NFL teams make players available to the AAF, then should be up to the individual player to decide whether or not the risk of injury is worth it. I think many fringe players will say it is. But for the ones that don’t ,it should not be held against them……

  15. I don’t understand the reason for 53 man rosters. It’s not like the owners can’t afford more people on the roster. Why not expand the roster to 75 players. That way we get more players and maybe a better quality of games.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.