A Modest Proposal For A Developmental League


There’s still one more week to go before we have something approximating “real football” to talk about, so bear with me while I get on my soap box and spell out my vision for the league.

There’s nothing else going on, so you have no choice but to read it.

It’s generally difficult to tell just how much money the NFL is pulling in every year. As a private enterprise, they are not required to disclose their financial statements, but people who are interested in the business side have one way they can peek into league’s ledger once per year — the Green Bay Packers.

Because the Packers are technically a publicly-owned team, they do have to disclose their financials, and last week we found out that they received $187.7 million from the NFL as its part of the league’s shared revenue. Multiply that by 32, and we know that the NFL gave out $6 billion to its franchises last year.

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Of course, the league is keeping some change for itself to pay its employees, run the NFL Network and all of its other endeavors.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell says that the league’s national revenue is about to go up “dramatically” because of new TV deals in the works. Rovell said the league will be getting about 65% more from its TV deals, and therefore teams might be each getting $250 million next season.

Obviously this has salary cap implications (and the Chiefs could use that salary cap increase), but beyond all of that, I think cries out for the need to invest in a second league.

I’ve been living in Europe now for more than five years, and here nearly every country has two soccer leagues. Furthermore, the real money is in the Champions League and Europa League, which are basically tournament competitions made up of the best teams from each of the national leagues.

This is great for many reasons. First, it’s more and more of a good thing — if you’re into soccer. But, most importantly it provides a great base for incubating talent in the sport and provides several tiers of play that allow for thousands of players to make their careers. Not to mention that from a fan perspective there is literally no spot on the calendar when there is no soccer.

While it’s great that football is so successful in the United States, I think it would be a shame if all of this extra revenue ends up just making the salaries of the top players that much fatter without adding any more players to the pool.

When it comes to developmental leagues, sure, there’s the CFL , Arena and several other short-lived iterations like the UFL, XFL and so on. But, those leagues will never be able to compete with the appeal of the NFL and college football, and they are fighting for attention during the same time of year.

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What I suggest is that the NFL create a minor league structure similar to what Major League Baseball has. First, this would mean that the NFL franchises themselves would not be directly threatened by the new business. Each team will have its own farm team in the minors, and will have special rights to be able to move players up or down from them.

But who would watch this glorified practice squad play, you ask? Well, if they genuinely were potential Chiefs depth players, I think you’d get least some of the Chiefs faithful to tune in, but I have an even better idea for that — make them play in the Spring.

There may be some legal issues between the major sporting leagues about when they are allowed to have events competing with each other’s seasonal slot, but I’ll leave that to the lawyers in the real world. In my fantasy world, this means year-round football.

For the players in the developmental league, sure, there’s always the risk that if they get banged up in minor league play, they’re risking their dream of playing in the NFL just a short time after. However, they get a big bonus for playing in the offseason as well. During the season, basically the only people on NFL teams that watch the CFL and other alternative football leagues are 1-2 scouts the team dedicates to compiling reports on prospects there.

Put this league’s season opposite to the NFL and I guarantee you that you will have head coaches, GM’s and regular fans watching you ever Sunday.

This minor league expansion could achieve a lot more of the NFL’s goals as well. It would allow for it to expand its other prime-time offseason events like the combine and the draft. Both would need to be twice as big if each franchise is drafting to essentially fill two full teams. Plus, just like baseball, they could easily base the minor league teams in secondary markets that have been crying out for NFL franchises for a long time.

Los Angeles, Mexico City, Toronto, London, you name it.

To me, it makes perfect sense. The owners, players, and, most importantly, the fans all win. Therefore, it’ll probably never happen.

But, what say you, Addicts? Can we start a movement?