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Will labor uncertainty push Clausen and Tate to NFL?

While Charlie Weis acknowledged that Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate will have a decision to make come December, their choice has been made even more complicated with the uncertainty that looms in the NFL’s ongoing labor negotiations.

It’s tough to disseminate what’s true and what’s fiction when it comes to the murky waters of the NFL collective bargaining agreement. There has long been grumbling about the big-money guarantees paid to top draft picks, and that one of the first orders of business in these negotiations is changing the rookie compensation system. If that’s the case, expect talented underclassmen to make the leap to the NFL now before the system changes, or even worse, the league locks out its players.

Since I don’t pretend to understand complex issues like this, and how they might effect the fate of Jimmy Clausen or Golden Tate, I dropped an email to one of the only guys that truly does, PFT’s Mike Florio.

Florio told me he thinks “underclassmen will come out in droves due to fear of no football due to a lockout or an NBA-style rookie wage scale if they work out a deal.”

Before people jump to the conclusion that the Irish will lose both Clausen and Tate because of this, they should also consider that this swarm of players jumping might be the exact reason why Clausen and Tate stay at Notre Dame.

Writes Florio:

Here’s the reality. With discussions on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement slowly getting warmed up, any new labor deal implemented before 2011 is widely expected to include some type of a rookie pay formula that purports to rein in the current windfalls received by the first eight, nine, or 10 players drafted.

This could prompt even more players to cram their way into a 2010 draft class that already is generating significant buzz as being one of the best in recent years, if not ever.

The problem, of course, is the money will be paid no matter how few or how many players crash the draft party. So as more of them join the flock, more of them will not be drafted in the top of the first round. Or in the first round at all. Or in any round.

On the surface, the smart move for many will be to wait. But what if there’s a lockout in 2011? Players who choose not to join the draft in 2010 might not get paid in 2011, either, if the league isn’t bluffing about being ready to lock out the players and if the players aren’t bluffing about being ready to take it.

Florio notes that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declared last December that there would be no change in the rookie compensation structure for 2010. He implores the commissioner to do the same this season, if only to help players make an informed decision regarding their future.

While Jimmy and Golden might very well decide that this season is their last at Notre Dame, the labor uncertainty in the NFL might do more to keep them in South Bend than anyone actually realizes.