NFL Considering Tinkering With Off-Season Schedule?

The NFL is truly a year-round sport for those of us that follow it.  The pre-season kicks off in August, which leads us into the regular season from September through December.  January and February gives us the playoffs and Super Bowl, and takes us straight into the scouting combine.  Free agency begins in March, the draft in April. . .and then a slight lull until Training Camp begins in late July.

In an interesting little tidbit from Pro Football Weekly, however, the league might be considering moving some of their big events around a little bit in order to make things easier (read: cost-efficient) on the league's franchises.  Here's how the new sequence of events would look, according to PFW's Mike Holbrook.

The decision by commissioner Roger Goodell to take a 20 percent pay cut in annual salary and to eliminate 169 league jobs back in February might have been the prelude to bigger and bolder budgetary decisions, though nothing has been decided yet.

For instance, the draft has been held in late April or early May since 1977. However, there are a number of movers and shakers in the league who believe that veteran free agency should follow the draft, and with the CBA still to be agreed upon for the next contract, this issue could be a bargaining chip for owners.

Those same league insiders would like to see the draft moved to late February, with free agency to commence following rookie minicamps, most likely in mid-to-late March.

"They need to get the draft put ahead of free agency," one veteran talent evaluator told PFW.

Well, this would certainly change things up a little bit. . .but would it necessarily be a change for the better?  Honestly, it's a matter of whose perspective you look at this from.

For the teams, obviously, it would be a good way to cut costs and save money.  Part of what Holbrook says the league is discussing would include moving both the Senior Bowl (currently held in Mobile, AL) and the East/West Shrine Game (currently held in Texas), as well as the NFL Scouting Combine, to a central location. . .in this case, Tampa, FL. . .and turning the entire thing into one big two-week Scout-a-Palooza for everybody to be able to see all the best players, watch a couple of weeks worth of game situations, interview guys they're interested in, and so forth.  From a purely financial standpoint, it makes sense for the league and its teams.

From a personnel standpoint, on the other hand, maybe not so much.  Draft picks are a bigger deal now than they've ever been, what with the salary cap and the added importance that's been placed on developing players from within.  The extended time period between the end of the college season and the draft brings us all sorts of Pro Days, individual workouts, and things of that nature.  This gives the NFL teams an opportunity to not only watch game film on these young men that they're entrusting the future of their franchises to, but also time to see them and evaluate them in other areas.  Each team scouts differently, and not everybody draws the same conclusions from the same data.  The extended time period gives front offices that extra time they need to either confirm what they feel about a prospect or gives them an opportunity to know they're looking in the wrong place.

Take the case of Ball State QB Nate Davis.  At the end of the college football season in January, Davis was being talked about as the third or fourth best quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft.  He had put up outstanding numbers at Ball State during the season, and had received plenty of hype.  Just last week. . .well, I'll let Pro Football Talk tell the story. . .

During the 2008 season, a buzz had been building around Ball State quarterback Nate Davis.

Today?  The only buzz Davis hears is the softly annoying screech of crickets.

Davis conducted his Pro Day workout on Friday.  And only one team attended.

The Colts, which also were the team that had the shortest distance to travel.

Yes. . .the much hyped Nate Davis held his Pro Day, and it was attended by all of one team.  A team that, if nobody's noticed, doesn't have a terribly pressing need at the quarterback position.

Had the draft been held in mid-to-late February, Davis more than likely would have been some team's second-round choice.  Heck, it might have even been the Beloved Purple.  Now, it appears that he might be a guy that can be picked up off of the free agent scrap heap.  Now, second round contracts aren't always necessarily make-or-break money for an NFL franchise. . .but if you ask any team's General Manager whether he'd rather pay second-round money for a prospect or pick the same guy up off the street for almost nothing, they'll take the latter option every time.

Conversely, some players could benefit from the shortened time period, like Alabama's Andre Smith.  Much was made of Smith's meltdown at the Combine, and he went from being the consensus #1 pick in the draft to being a guy that's really sliding downhill quickly.  How would the shortened time period have helped him?  Well, Smith said that the events that surrounded him at the Combine were because he "wasn't ready" and showed up out of shape.  If he only would have had a few short weeks to solidify his stock, he probably would have shown up at the Combine or the senior All-Star games in tip-top shame.  Heck, wouldn't you if it meant the difference between being financially set for the rest of your life and having to fight for a job?

There are many, many different avenues to look at this from, so I'll leave the rest up to you folks to discuss here in the comments section.  Do you think it would be wise for the NFL to move the Draft from its current late April home to somewhere in February before free agency?  Do you think it should stay where it is?  What potential issues could arise from such a change?  Discuss it here. . .and if you're new and haven't gotten yourself an account yet, go sign yourself up for one and let your voice be heard!

That's all for today, folks. . .enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, and we'll see you back here tomorrow!

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