We had an interesting and important plan from the NFL get leaked on Tuesday. The NFL is planning on launching a spring football league.
This new league wouldn’t be like the old USFL that tried to compete with the NFL. Instead, it would be a developmental league where guys who aren’t on NFL rosters would go to learn their craft.
This is something that has been discussed before. The NFL actually tried it back in the 1990s with NFL Europe. That league was doomed by a lot of factors, but hopefully the NFL has learned from their mistakes and will be able to make this new attempt work.
Such a league would be great for forward-thinking teams like the Seattle Seahawks. General manager John Schneider has shown a great eye for finding undrafted talent. A developmental league would give those players a chance to learn. They’d be able to make the transition to the NFL faster, instead of having to wait multiple years like the team has done with tight end Cooper Helfet.
It would also provide them a chance to get their defense-to-offensive line conversion projections playing time in real games instead of just expecting them to learn from practice alone. Seattle could have Kristjan Sokoli getting regular playing time in the spring as he learns to play center. That would greatly accelerate his development.
I also believe that a spring league would be great for fans. Fans of the Seattle Mariners get great enjoyment would of watching players from the Tacoma Rainiers succeed on the big league team. There is always a special appreciation for “home grown” players.
There are hurdles that need to cleared before this can happen though. Rules must be established and agreed upon with the NFLPA that would allow a small number of rostered NFL players to participate. That likely won’t be a small obstacle.
The NFL must also find a way for the league to work financially. The NBA’s D-League has worked in part because of the very small rosters that basketball requires. That isn’t the case with football.
Just ask the creators of the Arena League. It had to cancel an entire season and file for bankruptcy back in 2009. While it has recently made a comeback with a new business model, its continued existence is far from a sure thing.
The NFL is on the right path here in their attempt to create a quality developmental league. They are also wise to tread slowly into these waters.
If they do it right, a developmental league will be good for the NFL’s teams and fans.
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