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Teams may trade future draft picks “at [their] own risk”

NFL Draft Football

An NFL logo and stage is shown before the first round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, April 22, 2010, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

AP

Until the lockout is resolved, players can’t be traded. Draft picks can be traded.

Future draft picks, beyond 2011, also can be traded. But an ominous caveat comes from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Per Mort, the league has advised teams that any trades of draft picks beyond 2011 will occur “at [their] own risk.”

In other words, there may not be a draft in 2012.

That would be one potential outcome of the current Brady antitrust litigation. Though the case does not yet directly attack the draft itself since the labor agreement expressly contemplates that a draft will be held in 2011, we explained when the lawsuit was filed that the case could be amended in the future to include a member of the 2012 draft class, with a specific allegation that the draft violates antitrust laws.

And, frankly, it quite possibly does. Assuming the decertification of the union sticks, an effort by 32 separate companies to divvy up incoming workers easily runs afoul of the antitrust laws.

That said, if the players ultimately take away the draft from the NFL, the players will be taking away the draft from the fans. And that would be a P.R. nightmare for the men who play the game.