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Rookie wage scale takes center stage when talks resume


We reported on Saturday that the NFL and the players currently are at a stalemate regarding the contours of a new rookie wage scale. Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that, when the lawyers reconvene on Monday, “the biggest issue remaining on the ledger is the rookie salary system.”

Breer outlines the key sticking points, the most important of which is the league’s insistence on five-year deals for first-round picks, and the players’ preference for four-year contracts in round one. He explains that one league proposal includes a trigger that would “push[] the fifth year to 150 percent of an average starter’s salary at his position, with a floor of $6 million and a ceiling of $12 million” for the first eight picks.

With the return of the salary cap and a salary floor that is expected to approach, if not exceed, 95 percent of the spending maximum, there’s no reason for the league to demand a system that goes beyond the placement of reasonable limits on the money paid to the top 10 draft picks. In fact, the presence of a slim gap between spending maximum and spending minimum arguably makes the entire draft unnecessary.

We know it’s sacrilegious to suggest an NFL without a draft, but why shouldn’t teams that are required to spend almost as much as they’re permitted to spend not be able to spend as much, or as little, as they want on rookies? Free agency didn’t create chaos in the NFL -- and we’re now starting to come to the conclusion that, with a hard cap and a hard floor not far below the hard cap, the lack of the draft won’t impact competitive balance.

Of course, the draft remains an important part of the offseason hype machine, making it highly unlikely that it ever would disappear. So why not cut it down to three or four rounds? No one cares about rounds five through seven, and the new dynamics of the salary cap and floor will provide teams with every incentive to spend smartly when signing new players, regardless of whether they’re veterans or rookies.

Again, we doubt that any changes to the draft will be made. But as the two sides look for ways to put this issue to bed, they need to be willing to be creative, in light of the realities of the new salary floor.