By now, I assume that most of you have at least heard about the Chris Mortenson piece that popped up last night concerning NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s acknowledgement that the implementation of a rookie pay scale won’t become a reality any sooner than the 2011 season. This, in turn, is supposed to be huge news for those of us who wonder if Stafford and Moreno will decide in a few weeks to make themselves eligible for next year’s NFL draft.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not seeing that news being much of a game changer.
First off, I was always skeptical that the wage scale would be imposed as quickly as many have assumed. By all accounts, negotiations over the next NFL labor agreement are expected to be protracted – hell, the union hasn’t even named a successor to Upshaw yet. So I’ve never been convinced that these guys were going to face a tough call over a salary cap to begin with.
Beyond that, though, is the reality that even if the reality of a cap were looming, it wouldn’t affect that many potential draftees. David Hale’s got a pretty revealing Q & A with ESPN’s John Clayton about the impact of the wage scale at his blog. This exchange seems to me to get to the crux of the decision:
DH: You mentioned that only the top 10 to 12 picks would be affected by the cap. How so?
JC: Everything else is in the slot right down the line. It’s just those top eight or nine players. The ninth pick maxed out at $15.45, the eighth pick is 17.4.
DH: So for a guy like Knowshon Moreno who might go later in the first, is the cap not really a big deal?
JC: If you’re told that you’re going to go 23 or 24 overall, you’re better if you’re an offensive lineman, a quarterback, a defensive tackle, you’re probably better served to stay. Now if you’re a running back, that’s different.
DH: So if you go by money, you think it makes a lot more sense for Stafford to go now?
JC: If you’re telling Matthew that he’s going to be top five, economically, it might be better to go. Playing-wise, it’s definitely better to stay because most of the quarterbacks who have stayed have wound up doing much, much better. Financially though, if you’re going to crack the top five, you’ve probably got to go now.
DH: There are those longterm ramifications to leaving early though, as you said. That still makes a difference, right?
JC: You’re not going to hold him for five years. You’re going to let him go after three or four or put him up for some way to get that big contract. Look at Aaron Rodgers. Ultimately if you’re good, you’ll get your money. And if Matthew thinks he’s good, even if he’s slotted in 2010, within three years he can come up and get that big deal making $15 million or $16 million. But if he wants the money now, he’ll be in position to get the money now. I just don’t know if he’s going to be top five.
In short, even if Stafford were a top five pick who got screwed by the cap, after three years, if he’s as good as we think he’ll be, he’ll get his money. And if Moreno isn’t a top 10-12 pick, the cap doesn’t come into play anyway, yet there are still the same good reasons for a running back to come out early, cap or no cap.
In the end, who knows what these guys are thinking right now? But I think Tim Tucker is close when he says what it comes down to for them is this:
Other factors that underclassmen generally consider when weighing whether to turn pro: where they are likely to be drafted; whether they think they would be drafted significantly higher a year later; whether they think their play is NFL-ready; and the risk of injury if they stay in school.
Your guess is as good as mine.