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Why the NFL Needs a Development League

The NFL and its NCAA counterparts have been in a long battle to combat the issue of paying college athletes.

The events that have gone down in response to the outcry for compensation have been rough and, at some times, ugly.

From the Northwestern University football players union to the NCAA taking minor action, the issue is barreling toward a quick resolution. While the issue applies to both NCAAB and NCAAF, this article’s purpose is to discuss the revolutionary idea of an NFL Developmental League.

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photo via

The idea was birthed by new director of football operations Troy Vincent. His new take was perhaps the most underrated of all his ideas expressed, which included adding an eighth official and utilizing technology more on the sidelines.

A NFL developmental league would provide the NCAA with a solution to the issue of compensation for their entertainment providing bodies. The reason for that is simple.


The NCAA will always struggle with the players and fans fighting for player payment until it concedes. While the players out on the court or the football field risking their lives are making nothing, the NCAA officials are making ludicrous amounts of money. The NCAA is considered a non-profit organization. What non-profit organization makes $1.7 million for their head staff?

The NCAA players have had enough and, if they can not win with the NCAA, they deserve a new platform to prove their worth.

Cue an NFL development league.

Imagine a league where players are paid to develop their skills and experience success on a national stage. They would play for their respective squads, learn from older players, and bring home a paycheck. Exactly what the NCAA should be. Why should the NCAA players playing football for their squads be at risk of severe injury but not bring home a check?

According to a study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (first reported by, there were 243 football deaths – High School and College – from 1990 to 2010. 

What are you doing in your daily job that you risk your life every day?

Whether it be at practice or on the playing field, these players trade their bodies for the chance at millions in the NFL. But why not have the best of both worlds?

What the NFL D-League plan should be

Paying the athletes and letting them develop and grow would be the ultimate goal of the D-league. Players would now be compensated for their production and also have a place to go after high school (for the top prospects) or after a year or two of college football. The athletes would be looked at equally as the NCAA athletes or perhaps superior to them. It would be far from the ways of the NBA D-league, where the athletes there are looked at as the undrafted bunch or the aging, washed up veterans.  These players would be looked at as the elite college football players who themselves and scouts felt were ready for payment for their work.

The NBA D league is a good system, but it does not quite apply for the NFL. NBA rosters only hold 15 spots, and even selecting from the top crop of the D-league usually ends in that player ending up on the bench for however long their contract lasts. Also, NBA D league teams have NBA affiliates. This would not work with the NFL. Rather, the NFLD league players would be independent of NFL squads and allowed to enter the NFL draft whenever they choose. The NFLDL players would not be called up into the big leagues. They would be drafted just as if they were playing college football.

So, they get a chance at the pros, but what about they money?

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photo via

Well, continuing the comparison to the NBADL, the players would not rack in stacks of cash.

According to, the average NBADL salary is $12,000 to $24,000. Keep in mind that players do not sign contracts with teams in the NBADL, just the league. The NBA provides most of the money for teams and for salaries for players.

Still, $12,000 – $24,000 is much more than the free housing and unlimited snacks you get in college scholarships.

For an NFL D league to work, it would require a whole new system. The players who enter the D league would enter through free agency of the league and be signed by teams to their own contracts. Contracts would have an NFL draft out clause so that they can move on to the next level. Salaries would depend on the teams revenue and the NFLDL salary cap.

The league would be backed by the NFL but be independent and have its own conferences, teams, stadiums (maybe), and coaches. It would generate its own revenue and be nationally broadcasted just as NCAAF is. The college football stars that get so much media attention would not lose it transferring to the NFLDL, maintaining their media star status as well as playing a semi-pro form of football.  For those players like Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens who desperately attempted to join an NFL squad but failed would also have a shot at career revival. The veterans in the league would help teach the young guys mentally and physically.

Possible destinations for independent(-of-NFL) NFLDL teams in big or growing markets include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Houston, Miami, Kansas City, and Philadelphia.

Some possible destinations for NFLDL teams that are close to local schools and would have a large college fan population would be Austin, Cleveland, Hartford, Boston, and Charleston.

The purpose of the NFL D league would not be to replace college football or steal its prized players, but give them a chance to be paid for their efforts after they have proven themselves.

Mixing small markets, growing markets, and big markets would be a great idea for the league that would combine youth, talent, and opportunity. Their would never be a shortage of players and the NFLDL could easily become just as entertaining as the current day college football, pitting the toughest, most NFL ready players against each other.

The addition of an NFLDL would provide a whole new dimension to the current development system of players as they begin their journey to the bright lights of the NFL. This league would end many issues in the NCAA world today and start players early on the lessons learned from making money playing a sport they love,  training them, physically and financially, for the National Football League.






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