The NFL needs a developmental league more than it needs a team in Europe

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Since the signing of the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, 32 teams full of 90 players have assembled annually during the offseason. Exactly 41% of the roster will only last from April to August. The 53-man roster then goes through several changes, due to talent and injury, over the next five months. A practice squad of eight players is also involved. That means that 29 players on 32 teams are out of work when Week 1 finally rolls around. The NFL then disregards the majority of the 928 players that are disbanded from rosters.

Prior to the shutdown of NFL Europe, those 900-plus players had the opportunity to hone their skills along with up-and-coming coaches in an environment solely based on the development of professional talent. Players like Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Adam Vinatieri, Brian Waters and Israel Idonije made a name for themselves in Europe when they had seemingly no shot at the NFL.

The league disbanded the European development league in 2005 and has not replaced it since. Like in every business, it is important that the league maintains and builds its assets. For instance, Wake is one of the Dolphins best players and recently signed a large extension after spending two years in Canada. How many of those guys has the NFL missed out on because of the lack of a true developmental system?

At this point, once a player is let go and no longer receives offers from other teams, their only options are Canada and the Arena Football League. Neither league is associated with the NFL outside of the NFL Network covering AFL games. The leagues both offer a different set of rules than the NFL and really leave little room to grow beyond their walls. Few player make it back to the NFL and even fewer last in the two leagues due to significantly smaller funding and roster sizes in the CFL and AFL. There are examples of success with current Eagles like Phillip Hunt (CFL) and G.J. Kinne (AFL), along with guys like the Miami's Cameron Wake (CFL) and Jeff Garcia (CFL & AFL). Still, it happens way too infrequently to be a standard process.

The NBA, NHL and MLB all have developmental leagues which employ hundreds of athletes. The NFL is the biggest money-making sports league in North America and draws better television ratings than any source of entertainment in the country on an annual basis. Why not capitalize on that with more football?

The NFL as a league constantly talks of expansion, European involvement and weekday programming. It can capitalize on all of this by adding a development league. Games could take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the NFL season and let the league cherry-pick ratings, endorsements and MONEY. Oh, and in the meantime, build talent for the future.

For fun let's take a look at the former Eagles that are currently in the CFL and AFL:

CFL

Player Position Team Stint with Eagles
Noel Devine RB Montreal Aloutettes 2011 (offseason)
Byron Parker CB Montreal Aloutettes 2009 (offseason)
Alex Hall DE Winnipeg Blue Bombers 2010 (offseason)
Jamar Wall S Calgary Stampeders 2010 (1 game)
Jacory Harris QB Edmonton Eskimos 2012 (offseason)
Macho Harris CB Saskatchewan Roughriders 2009 (15 games, started 8)

AFL

Player Position Team Stint with Eagles
Rashad Barksdale CB Tampa Bay Storm 2007 (offseason)
Jorrick Calvin CB Chicago Rush 2010 (12 games)

Clearly, these players were not with the Eagles for very long and made very little impact while they were in Philadelphia. However, what if they were given the chance to develop while still being under contract with the team? Would that have improved the Eagles depth and the players' chances of making it in the league? Maybe, maybe not, but if the NFL is serious about European expansion, they may want to consider the re-establishing NFL Europe.

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