The NFL needs a developmental league so that we can all get more football. It’s a good idea for you. It’s a good idea for the NFL. Now it seems that idea is gaining more and more support as it circulates. One major proponent of the idea is St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who also serves on the NFL’s Competition Committee.
Fisher spoke per the New York Times, “There’s been discussions over the last couple years. I don’t know what direction it’s going, but I think we have a need for it,” he said. “I think it would be beneficial from a young players’ standpoint. … if you have to make an outside roster move to get somebody that’s in shape that you can evaluate on film.”
The NFL has long been criticized for using the NCAA as its sole feeder for talent when many players who become draft eligible simply aren’t ready for the league. Once the NFL Europe closed shop in 2007, players have lacked a venue to facilitate their football career between college and the pros. There’s a huge gap in talent between the two and a small league to ease that curve would likely help a number of careers.
Former NFL general manager Phil Savage continued in the piece with a general idea for how a league — played in the spring — might work. “I envision some sort of developmental league, based maybe in Florida or Texas or Arizona. Anywhere from four to six teams; I don’t think more than eight.”
Eight minor league teams with NFL roster sizes would permit over 400 players to get into the NFL system at some level. The league could also serve as a testing ground of sports the way the AHL does for the NHL. The NFL can try more drastic rule changes to see how that impacts their game in the D-league before bringing such an idea up to the big leagues.
Obviously adding 400 players and a supporting staff would drive plenty of new concerns for owners. Insurance, liability, bills. The usual. All of that would have to be arranged, but if there’s money in the idea, expect owners to pursue the developmental league. Savage mentions such an idea being possible for the end of the decade. If the NFL D-league becomes a reality, spring break will never be the same.