While Northwestern is not nationally regarded as being a breeding ground for professional players, the ‘Cats manage to put a player or two in the NFL each year. With several players on the current roster with National Football League (NFL) potential, the state of the league could dictate their futures.
Who wouldn’t want to play in the NFL? Upsets occur weekly while two undefeated teams currently lead the league and plenty others have high aspirations within reach. Franchises have balanced (somewhat). Owners and fans alike believe the hype and embrace the expectations. The current season has been a dramatic one, to say the least.
For fans and ‘Cats alike, it’s too bad it may be one of few left.
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement is expected to end in 2010 if owners and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) do not compromise. Owners expect an adjusted salary cap for the league, which includes a rookie salary cap. The NFLPA wants fair and equal representation for their players, draftees or not.
The constant strife, however, calls into question the league’s future. Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league will not renew the current collective bargaining agreement by its May 21st deadline citing:
“Our objective is to fix these problems in a new CBA [collective bargaining agreement], one that will provide adequate incentives to grow the game, ensure the unparalleled competitive balance that has sustained our fans’ interest, and afford the players fair and increasing compensation and benefits.”
As a result, the NFL could face a cap-less 2010 and a lockout in 2011.
With the future unclear, college football players are forced to reconsider their options. Some who feel their NFL future is in doubt will likely remain in school and pursue an education; conversely, touted prospects, pressured by their peers, will come out early as juniors to grab the purse while it’s still full. Some will request exorbitant amounts of money for unproven professional ability and follow the Michael Crabtree cult.
“If the young man can go and be a potentially top 32 pick, then he needs to go,” Northwestern football head coach Pat Fitzgerald said, “That’s once-in-a-lifetime money.”
But a cap-less 2010 could prove unfavorable for those with wishful thinking. With the rebounding economy, owners would feel weary going for someone unproven for too much money, especially if they show questionable character. Instead, one could acquire a veteran for worth, despite expense. The same logic applies to late-round draft picks because owners would prefer only to pay for a sure thing, which is unfortunate for Northwestern players, who are usually picked in a late round or not drafted at all. With these changes, players like Tyrell Sutton may not get a chance to make a roster.
“A lot of agents and runners are going to tell them to come out now to make some money,” Fitzgerald said, “It’s on a case-by-case basis.”
Hope is a relative term when it comes to a prospect’s future. For some, money is the only incentive. For others, it is all about the dream. With the NFL’s future held by a thread, staying in school may be the only option. Lucky for Northwestern football players, they always have one of the best degrees in the country to fall back on. Recent graduate Eric Peterman tried out for the Chicago Bears with the knowledge that he could fall back on a job with American Airlines.
“Anything could happen in football,” senior wide receiver Zeke Markshausen said. “I could get hurt tomorrow, but my education would still be there.”