With the 2007-2008 NFL season drawing to a close this weekend, teams like the Minnesota Vikings long-ago began their off-season routines of drawing up their free-agent matrices and deciding upon which of their players to move should the right free agent fall to them. Two of the league's more successful personnel-analyzing and developing teams will soon join these teams in their off-season mode, making for that much more competition for the local team.
But while the Vikings face competition from 31 other teams for whatever talent it is that they will seek in free agency, Vikings' fans can at least take solace in the fact that the NFL has elected to operate under a far different system of free agency than that which encumbers MLB and has adopted a far more lucrative revenue-sharing model than has MLB.
If the NFL employed the same free-agency system and revenue-sharing model as MLB, rather than embarking on discussions of which free agents the Vikings were likely to sign this off-season, we might, instead, be talking about trades--the likes of which rarely occur in the NFL.
We might, for example, be discussing a Vikings' trade of Troy Williamson, a receiver who has shown an ability to run, but not to catch, Ryan Cook, an offensive line prospect with size who needs to learn technique and agility, Mike Doss, a player who once showed great promise but who has been beset with injuries that have diminished his upside, and two players off of the team's practice squad for Tom Brady.
Or, more realistically, we would be listening to Rob Brzyzinski attempt to put a positive spin on the Vikings' trade of E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, and Pat Williams for a rookie quarterback out of Chattanooga State, a safety with two broken legs, and six practice squad players.
"We love what E.J., Kevin, and Pat brought to the team, but we needed to shore up our quarterback and safety spots and we think we did just that. Plus, we added six more players giving us a net of five players in the deal. That meshes well with our organizational philosophy of grooming players to fit within our system. Given the youth of some of these players, this isn't a trade that one can judge fairly today. It's going to take a few years for some of these players to develop, but we think they are on track to do just that. We really like this trade."
Fortunately for Vikings' fans, the latter scenario is unlikely to play out anytime soon. And that's not because the ownership group of the local team is above claiming poverty--something we've already heard as Wilf has not-so-subtly suggested that the Vikings might have to move to make a go of it.
Instead, Vikings' fans can thank the modern NFL's forefathers, particularly the Mara brothers of the New York Giants, for a revenue-sharing system that distributes all meaningful league revenues. And, with a mandated salary structure that provides a spending cap as well as an even more significant salary floor, teams are required to spend rather than to horde.
The consequences of the NFL's progressive planning and astute, if collusional, collective bargaining agreement have been overwhelmingly positive for fans of the sport. Although the NFL system means that more teams will be competitive each year, thus making it difficult for any one team to dominate, it also means that more teams will be competitive each year. And that means that, while MLB fans in most cities watch star players depart as ownership groups line their pockets with their fans' money, NFL fans in virtually every city have reason to be optimistic that next year could be their year--all while NFL ownership groups reap far more revenue than their myopic MLB brethren.
Up Next: Vikings' Free-Agent Targets. Plus, who's out?