2011 NFL Draft: The Impact of an Expiring CBA
By: Craig VanderKam
February 8, 2011
Commissioner Roger Goodell
NFL owners had voted 30-2 in March, 2006 to extend the collective bargaining agreement that was set to expire after the 2007 season for an additional six years, but a unanimous vote in May, 2008 allowed them to opt out of the agreement two years early. Thus, the current NFL collective bargaining agreement is set on expire on March 3 and while negotiations are ongoing the probability of a deal prior to deadline is slim. In the event that the CBA does expire, trades and free agency will not start with the league's new year on March 4 but rather be pushed back until a new deal is reached. With that being said, there is a possibility a new CBA would not be agreed upon for a long period of time, potentially cutting into the 2011-12 season or wiping it out entirely. While the 2011 NFL draft is guaranteed in the current agreement it is about the only certainty as the NFL offseason begins and it too would be affected without a new deal in place. This article highlights five things relating to an expiring collective bargaining argument and how it could influence the NFL draft from top to bottom.

Julius Peppers
No free agency and no trades means more team needs -- Last season within the first week of the new league year several players had found new homes including Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Karlos Dansby, Aaron Kampman, Julius Peppers, Dunta Robinson and Antrel Rolle, among others. Most of these acquisitions addressed huge needs and allowed teams to look at other positions with their first round selections but teams will not have the luxury of acquiring players via trades and free agency with no collective bargaining in place. In 2007, Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson was widely mocked to the Cleveland Browns before Jamal Lewis was brought in as a stop-gap solution to the running back position and posted two straight seasons of over 1,000 yards rushing. The Browns took Wisconsin OT Joe Thomas with the third overall selection. In 2011, a team's first new additions to their roster will be through the draft and teams must weigh their selections with what they can feasibly accomplish through a shortened free agency and trade period once a new CBA is reached.

Mark Sanchez
Draft day trades are limited to pick(s) for pick(s) -- Of the 33 trades made on draft weekend in 2010, only six included packaging a player to move up -- Tim Dobbins from Miami to San Diego, LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson from Tennessee to Seattle, Kirk Morrison from Oakland to Jacksonville, Leon Washington from New York Jets to Seattle, Bryant McFadden from Arizona to Pittsburgh and Jason Campbell from Washington to Oakland for a fourth round pick in 2012. The other 27 involved swapping picks and future picks, which trades will be limited to this year, as picks have zero contractual value with or without a collective bargaining agreement. Now, of the six trades mentioned, the teams likely could have agreed to additional compensation by way of draft picks and not allow a player to be a deal breaker for a draft day trade. However, a blockbuster trade such as the New York Jets packaging their 2009 first and second round selections, along with three players, to Cleveland, for the #5 selection and Mark Sanchez would have been much more difficult and may not have gotten done had Kenyon Coleman, Brett Ratliff and Abram Elam not been included.

Armanti Edwards
The value of 2011 picks will increase -- Under normal circumstances a pick in the current draft has higher value than a future pick. The immediate reward of bringing a player into the fold outweighs having to wait another season or two before even being able to make a selection. For example, New England acquired Carolina's second round pick (#33) in 2011 for #89 in 2010 (Armanti Edwards) and Jacksonville acquired New Orleans' fourth rounder (#120, prior to compensatory announcements) in 2011 for #158 in 2010 (Matt Tennant); these type of trades happen all the time during draft week. Without the possibility of filling a need via free agency and trades, teams could covet their picks and view them as insurance for missing out on a potential available player later in the offseason. Teams can trade 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 draft choices.

There are added factors on late round selections -- Until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, not even draft picks can be signed to deals, though the teams will hold their rights; more importantly, players not drafted can't be signed as undrafted free agents. On average, 600 players are signed as UDFA each year. Within five days following the conclusion of the 2010 draft, 489 undrafted rookies had signed with NFL teams or been brought into camp on a tryout basis. Often, teams bank on signing a late-round local talent as an undrafted free agent but will be unable to immediately following the draft this year. Teams might draft such a player late to guarantee they get him rather than compete against other teams for his services in an undrafted pool when a new CBA is reached.

Matt Stafford
A rookie pay scale could be incorporated as early as 2011 -- Rookie salaries have escalated out of control and in the last two drafts Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford have signed deals for the most guaranteed money in NFL history at $41.7 and $50 million, respectively. A rookie cap actually already exists in the current salary structure, with rookie contracts representing less than 7 percent of total player salaries in the league and the rookies' share of the salary cap has decreased from 6.86 percent in 1994 (first capped year) to 3.71 percent in 2009 (last capped year), according to nflplayers.com. The average guarantee for first round picks is $11 million, versus $2 million for second round picks. The maximum guarantee for rookies drafted in the third round of below is $668,000.

The NBA incorporated its rookie scale in 1995, one year after #1 overall selection Glenn Robinson signed a 10-year, $68 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. The following season, #1 overall pick Joe Smith signed a three-year deal with the Golden State Warriors for $8.5 million. If a rookie scale is agreed to in the NFL's next CBA -- and, by all indications, it is a priority -- it could be incorporated with the 2011 rookie class. There was speculation prior to the 2010 underclassmen deadline that many juniors would declare early to avoid a pay scale (53 declared, tying the record for most non-seniors ever, prior to 56 for 2011). Without a rookie pay scale, when the difference between #1 overall and mid-first round is more than $20 million, a player will stay in school to increase draft stock. With a pay scale incorporated, and the gap between guaranteed money narrows, a prospect will be more inclined to declare early and start the countdown clock toward free agency, where the big contract is awaiting. That said, 2012 could set another record for early entries and be a very deep draft class, and senior talent could be lacking in years following.

(May 1) -- The NFL Draft is in the books and Sideline Scouting would like to thank our visitors for making this our most successful year to date. We hope you enjoyed our coverage. Sideline Scouting will be back next year and better than ever. We have some big changes planned that we hope will make your visits here even more enjoyable.

*Cameron Newton
QB, Auburn
Von Miller
LB, Texas A&M;
*Marcell Dareus
DE, Alabama
*A.J. Green
WR, Georgia
*Patrick Peterson
View Mock Draft »