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NFL Implements New Rules, But Did They Implement The Right Ones?

The NFL owners 'tabled' some bylaw proposals, and that earns a red challenge flag.
The NFL owners 'tabled' some bylaw proposals, and that earns a red challenge flag.

Some of the headlines coming out of the NFL Owners Meeting today will be about the rule changes the NFL will implement for the new season. Yesterday, our own KD Drummond summarized the the proposed rule changes, and today the NFL announced that five of the proposals were approved during this week's league meetings in Palm Beach, Florida.

After eagerly clicking on the headline ("NFL revamps overtime, turnover review rules") that popped up on my screen, I could barely stifle a yawn when I read through the five rules the NFL is changing. The approved rule changes were: making the overtime rules the same during the regular season as they were in the postseason; an automatic review of turnovers; a loss of down added on loose ball penalties; the 'too many men on the field' penalty is now a dead-ball foul and the ricipient of a crack-back block is now added to the list of defenseless players.

Boring! I'm sure these changes will receive a lot of press and will be discussed at length, but lost among all the self-congratulating claps on the back will be a much more interesting part of the rule changes: many of the bylaw proposals that didn't pass.

The NFL owners decided not to extend the trade deadline. They voted not to extend roster sizes to 90 men. And they agreed not to change the bylaws of the IR rule.


Because the Billionaire's Club assembled in Palm Beach didn't want to spend a single cent more on their product than absolutely necessary.

Take the expanded 90-man roster size proposal. 10 extra players on the roster incur higher expenses. You're probably thinking, how much can 10 extra undrafted free agents cost? I thought the same thing, so I looked it up.

The cost of a rookie free agent

Once a rookie free agent signs a contract, he usually receives a small bonus. These bonuses are mostly in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, but if a particular free agent is heavily sought after by a number of NFL teams, that bonus may go up as far as $20,000. For 10 players, let's put that sum at $60,000.

Once that signing bonus is paid, the UDFAs have to make do with "per diem expenses". All players attending a club's off-season program, get a per diem of up to $155 per day. All this is provided as per the NFLPA contract and is the standard procedure that's designed partly to provide the players some remuneration, and partly to avoid teams outbidding each other for rookie free agents.

CBA: Section 3. Payment: Each player shall receive at least the following amounts per day for any workouts or classroom instruction in which he participates pursuant to a Club’s voluntary offseason workout program, provided the player fulfills the Club’s reasonable offseason workout requirements: $155 (2011–12 League Years),

The new CBA limits offseason workouts to nine weeks. Assuming five days of work per week, that's 45 days @ 155$ for 10 men. About $70,000 in total.

Additionally, all players receive room and board during these activities. Let's assume $100 per day, but for seven days a week. That's another $63,000. Add travel expenses, insurance, equipment and whatnot, I'd give it an extra $100,000.

In total that's already close to $300.000, just to have more guys at minicamps and OTAs.

Training Camp

Once training camp starts, there are additional expenses for those 10 guys. Rookies get $850 per week, veterans $1,600 per week.

CBA: Section 3. First-year Player Per Diem: A first-year player will receive "per diem" payments, commencing with the first day of Preseason Training Camp and ending one week prior to the Club’s first regular season game, at the following weekly rates for the respective League Years: $850 (2011–12 League Years).

10 rookies for five weeks of camp comes to $42,000 in per diem expenses. Add room and board, again at $100 day for the entire five weeks. $35,000. There'll be travel to games, even more insurance, and plenty of other extra costs. Let's put that a little bit higher this time, make it $150,000 due to all the costs and complexities of managing and running a training camp. That brings training camp costs for the 10 guys to perhaps $230,000.

Total cost of 10 more men

This is admittedly a very dirty, back-of the envelope calculation, but those extra 10 guys could cost each team around $500,000. Even if the calculation is off (and it is probably significantly off) the key question is, will these extra 10 guys generate any incremental revenue for the team?

The answer to that is very straightforward: "No."

So from a financial perspective, increasing roster sizes doesn't make any sense at all. The same holds true for adding an extra player to the 53-man roster with a new IR rule or extending the trade deadline. More cost, no incremental benefit.

From the very beginning, the chances of these proposals passing were slim to none, as they would have cut directly into the profit margins, particularly of the lower income teams.

Word from the NFL however, per Pro Football Talk, is that the NFL owners 'tabled' these bylaw changes but are still considering changes to trade deadline and roster rules:

Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said he didn’t sense much resistance from NFL owners to any of those bylaw changes, but he did hear from owners who wanted more time to consider all the implications of changing those bylaws, and he said the owners also wanted to give the NFL Players’ Association time to weigh in on its thoughts about changing roster rules.

In my book, this statement means the teams haven't yet heard back from their accountants and controllers on what the exact bill for these changed bylaws will be, but are willing to use these changes as bartering tools with the NFLPA.

Player health and safety? Integrity of the game?


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