This is my first FanPost here in many many moons. But I had an idea tonight that I could NOT refrain from putting out on to the Interwebz. I was trying to think of a way that the league could accomplish their most important goals:
- Create more league revenue
- Provide a longer season for fans
- Mitigate the effect of player injuries
- Increase the level of on-the-field play
- Add some aspects to please the player's union
Part I: The New, Longer Schedule
First off, I realized that 18 games could very well mean the end of the NFL. Not immediately, but over time. But the league says fans want to enjoy the NFL for longer each year. Makes sense, and I believe that. But fans want a longer, more enjoyable season without endless injuries. So here is my compromise: a 19 week season with each team receiving three byes. In order to accommodate this, for 13 weeks, from Week 3 to Week 15, 12 teams get a bye. Six teams from each conference.
Now, you might ask, "Why the hell would the networks go along with this?" One might say that for the majority of the season each network would have three less games, and that means less money, right? I don't think so. The NFL is one of the few sports that people watch even when they don't have a horse in the race. And with a slightly less games, this means that those football eyes on any one weekend tune into the other games. What does that mean? Higher ratings for those games. And remember, there is still the same amount of games in the season. It's just drawn out a couple of weeks more. So, on balance, I believe we have the same amount of revenue at a minimum, if not a good percent more.
This also allows more time in the season for coaching, resting, and making adjustments. The result will be a better on-the-field product.
Part II: Say Hello to the Injured Reserve and Practice Squad
So how do we allow teams to do what's best for injured players but still allow the team to compete? Create a more flexible system for dealing with injuries. First off? Complement Injured Reserve as we know it with a Rehabilitation Squad. How would it work? A team could put a player on the RS at any time during the regular season. The player does not count against the active roster but receives his full pay. The team may promote a player from the practice squad, sign a free agent, or make a trade to fill the roster spot. When the player is ready to return to the field, the team has to wait until a bye week or the end of the regular season to add the player back to the roster. If the player that was added to the roster for the injured player came from the practice squad, he may return to the practice squad without clearing waivers.
The practice squad also grows to 15 players. Teams can also tender practice squad players up to a fourth round tender. The highest tender would pay the player 75% of the rookie minimum, this amount does count towards the salary cap. This allows teams to plan better for possible injury situations and have the right player in place in case of an injury. Tendered players that are signed to the active roster can be demoted to the practice squad on their original tender without clearing waivers.
Part III: Rookie Pay Structure
The last step to make (nearly) everyone happy, let's change the rookie pay structure. First off, a player entering the league can receive no signing bonus. Salary can be no more than the mean salary of a third year player at his position, and can only increase year-over-year the same as any other player's salary. The initial contract for all players is three years. An extension can be reached only after the second season. Roster bonuses may not be used the first year, and can not exceed the player's salary in the proceeding years. Performance incentives may not total more than the player's salary for the same year.
This step could transfer a huge amount of money from rookies to proven veterans and therefore allow non-superstar veterans to increase their pay. It would also mitigate the disastrous effect missing on a high draft pick can have on a team already struggling to compete. This increases parity and therefore overall fan interest in the sport.
Some of the other things I would like to see addressed would be prorating salary cap hits for playing time missed due to injury and league using a percent of league profits to fund construction of new stadiums up to a certain level. Beyond that, I believe that the above steps could change the future prospects of the league for the better if they were all implemented in the new CBA. Please feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think of this concept.