Owners need to create downside for taking chances on problem players
It’s an idea that has been percolating for years. With the latest arrest of Bears defensive lineman Ray McDonald, its time finally has come.
NFL teams will continue to give talented players second (and third . . . and fourth) chances because NFL teams want to win. Seven years ago, the NFL implemented a deterrent to the practice of harboring problem players by instituting a convoluted system of fines on teams with multiple players suspended in a given year.
It hasn’t worked the way it should, and for good reason. Fines are a cost of doing business, especially when the ultimate goal of business is to compete for championships.
The only way to get the attention of teams inclined to roll the dice on the Ray McDonalds of the world will be to attach the loss of future draft picks when a player with a propensity for getting into trouble gets into trouble.
Last October, owners discussed the possibility of removing draft picks from teams with players who have multiple incidents under the Personal Conduct Policy.
“What level of accountability should be expected of clubs?” Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to owners before the October session, Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reported at the time. “Is the current Salary Remittance Program sufficient, or should additional measures be considered?”
They should be considered, and they should be implemented. It won’t be easy; the formula for taking away draft picks when players get into trouble needs to be clear, simple, and fair.
Ultimately, it’s the only thing that will cause a team that sees a first-round talent slide to round four to stop and think about the potential consequences for rolling the dice. If/when the worst-case scenario unfolds, the team won’t simply lose the lower pick invested in a player whose ability should have gotten him off the board much sooner. They’ll lose one or more picks in the future.
Given the weight teams attach to those draft picks, it’s the best (and probably only) way to get them either to do a better job of keeping out players who may find trouble -- or to ensure that players with a checkered past won’t find trouble in their next place of employment.