Monday, March 7, 2011

How a New CBA Could Impact the 2011 NFL Draft

As NFL owners and players continue to hash out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), NFL teams are going about their business preparing for the NFL draft on April 28. But the decisions that might come from the labor meetings in Washington D.C. could have a profound impact on this year's draft.

One of the major items expected to come out of a new CBA is a rookie wage scale. The amount of money that teams are paying to the first 10 to 15 picks in the draft has gotten out of control and both sides appear to agree. However, players will only support a rookie wage scale if the money trimmed from the rookie's contracts go to veteran players -- not the owners. Money saved from a rookie wage scale could also help retired players.

Under the current rookie salary system, teams picking in the top half of the draft are making a significant financial investment in one player. It's easy to see why one bad high draft pick can set a team back for several years, especially if that pick is a quarterback.

During the past five years, twelve quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round (selection number):

  • 2010: Sam Bradford (1), Tim Tebow (25)
  • 2009: Matthew Stafford (1), Mark Sanchez (5), Josh Freeman (17)
  • 2008: Matt Ryan (3), Joe Flacco (18)
  • 2007: JaMarcus Russell (1), Brady Quinn (22)
  • 2006: Vince Young (3), Matt Leinart (10), Jay Cutler (11)
The reason I point this out is because Evan Silva, NFL writer for NBC Sports,, Rotoworld came out with a mock draft recently that included five quarterbacks in the first round. His mock draft seemed too quarterback-heavy to me, considering 1999 was the last time five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round. Is it really the year of the quarterback? Or are teams so desperate for a franchise quarterback that they will overreach? If I were to choose from those two options, I would say the latter.

While Silva doesn't elude to why his first round mock is full of QBs, it occurred to me that if a rookie wage scale is implemented, more teams might be willing to gamble on a quarterback in the first round. Look at the salaries of the top quarterback taken in the past five NFL drafts:

  • 2010: The St. Louis Rams guaranteed Bradford $50 million dollars, even before he took a snap. Bradford's deal was worth six-years, $78 million.
  • 2009: Stafford's deal cost the Detroit Lions $72 million over six-years, with $41.7 million guaranteed.
  • 2008: Ryan, who was the #3 overall pick, signed a six-year, $72 million contract that included $34.75 million in guarantees. That same year, #1 pick OT Jake Long signed a five-year, $57.75 million deal with the Miami Dolphins.
  • 2007: #1 pick Russell's contract with the Oakland Raiders was a six-year deal worth $68 million, with $31.5 million guaranteed.
  • 2006: Picked #3 overall, Young signed a five-year contract worth $58 million overall including $25.7 million in guaranteed money. #1 pick Mario Williams was paid $54 million over six-years, with $27 million guaranteed.
It's expensive for teams to draft a quarterback in the fist round, even when they're not taken #1 overall. If a rookie wage scale is implemented, expect to see guys like Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder join the first round fraternity. Also, watch for teams to start eliminating the question marks surrounding Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. Both of them will be high first round picks -- now with less risk.


  1. You forgot Josh Freeman in 09.

    What was more amazing about 1999 is that 5 QB's went within the first 12 picks. Given how many teams are QB needy in the first half of the opening round, a new rookie wage scale could definitely stimulate some reaching.

    To me, Gabbert and Newton are both locks for the first round, regardless of CBA terms. The others you mentioned and Mallett are all borderline 1st/2nd.

  2. Thanks for keeping me honest Ash. Your comment is dead on. Thanks for reading.