Commentary

Trade deadline under review

Other bylaws are also up for discussion at the next owners meeting

Originally Published: May 21, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

At their meetings in March, the NFL team owners tabled seven bylaw proposals, four that would have significant impacts on the 2012 season.

Owners hold their spring meeting this week and might vote in some long-awaited upgrades to the game. One of those proposals was the increase to the 90-player roster in the offseason, which has already been implemented.

However, the most interesting proposal back on the table this week will be extending the trade deadline. Critics have complained for years the deadline ends too early. Under current rules, no trades can be executed past the Tuesday after the sixth week of the season.

In baseball terms, the NFL trade deadline would be the equivalent of going 61 games into a 162-game season. On a baseball calendar, trades would be stopped around June 8 or 9, and that's too early to see which teams are good or bad.

The proposal is to move the trade deadline back two weeks to allow eight games to be played before the trade deadline. That's a good start, although it wouldn't hurt to move it back another week or two.

Another well-thought proposal is allowing teams to bring back one player from the injured reserve list before the end of the season. Let's say Tom Brady or a marquee player suffers a serious injury before the start of the season. That player could be placed on the injured reserve list by Sept. 11 under a special designation.

The player would be able to return to practice after six weeks and be eligible to return to the active roster after eight weeks. Current rules force teams to place an injured player on IR and then lose him for the season.

The third most interesting bylaw involves players who suffered a concussion. It would allow a team to gain a roster spot for a game if a player with a concussion hasn't been cleared by doctors. Current rules allow for teams to designate seven inactive players. As long as the player with the concussion misses at least one game, he can be designated as inactive and become the eighth inactive player and it would free up a roster spot for that game for a replacement.

From the inbox

Q: I don't think the rookie salary cap would work very well for the NFL if the league had viable competition. I would love to see what would happen if some extremely wealthy folks stepped up to do something like what the old USFL attempted. I have been angry ever since the USFL won their anti-trust lawsuit and got $1 as the base for the trebled damages. I take anti-trust issues seriously. Will you humor me and comment on this?

Tim in Taos, N.M.

A: You are right that the rookie salary cap would make the NFL a target. The problem is finding investors who are willing to put up the money to make that sort of a challenge.

History has shown us it's tough. Stadiums in the major cities are locked up with NFL teams. There isn't a network that would put up enough money to fund the costs of doing business successfully. With benefits, you are talking more than $600,000 a player to attack the NFL.

The difference from the past is salaries were lower when the AFL and USFL were around. Start-up leagues usually make a mistake or two in the beginning. When that happens now, there usually aren't enough funds to get out of hole.

Q: I read with great interest [Chris Mortensen's] article on the new CBA and how Terrell Suggs and Jason Peters could lose salary for "non-football" injuries. If Suggs and Peters lose pay, and other players around the league see that, doesn't it provide all players with far less incentive to maintain good conditioning during the offseason? For fear of injury, they may end up coming to camp in poor shape. Add that on top of limited practice and limited contact, and one could argue that these clauses of the new CBA will hurt the quality of the game for years to come.

Tyler in Bethesda, Md.

A: The non-football injury (NFI) designation has been around for years and has always given the team the option of not paying a player who suffered an injury that wasn't related to football. The new CBA just added a little tougher language.

If a team does take away a players' salary for a non-football injury, the player can file a grievance. If he was training outside the facility when he suffered the injury, he would get the money back. I don't see any change coming out of this. Players have to train to make the roster.

In the case of Suggs, the Ravens won't take away his salary because he has a chance to be healthy sometime later in the season. Peters would be more vulnerable because he's out for the season, but I don't see the Eagles taking away his salary unless his career is over.

Remember, if you do that to one of the best players on your team, you do that with the understanding the relationship will be over.

Q: I am a Giants fan and, as such, I've felt fortunate that the team hasn't had to really use early-round draft picks on quarterbacks. That being said, given several different scenarios that have played out for many teams at the QB position the last few years, I start to wonder when would be a smart time to invest a valuable draft pick on a high-upside, viable long-term starting QB when you already have a top QB currently in his prime (i.e. Eli Manning).

From Pravin in Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: As the Dolphins, Broncos and other franchises learned, it's very difficult to replace an elite quarterback. Unless you lose 13 or 14 games, getting that next franchise quarterback is tough. When Eli Manning is around 35 or 36 years old, that's when the Giants should start thinking about a replacement.

Normally, an elite quarterback doesn't like to have a team actively developing his replacement. Remember how John Elway reacted when the Broncos used a first-round choice on Tommy Maddox? Eli has a personality that wouldn't rebel if that happens, but Giants fans don't have to worry about that for years.

Q: Your analysis on "Mike & Mike [In The Morning]" regarding Donovan McNabb made a lot of sense in the fact that he's in a similar situation to that of Jeff Garcia and Jake Delhomme -- waiting for an injury to get a call. But in terms of his generation of QBs, it'd be more fitting to compare him to Matt Hasselbeck than to Delhomme or Garcia.

Hasselbeck seemed to receive a lot of attention last offseason. He also started 16 games each of the last two years, if you include the playoff games in 2010, yet has had periods where you could tell he wasn't in his prime anymore, much like McNabb. That, I guess, is where I get confused.

What has Hasselbeck done that McNabb hasn't to get GMs attention and coaches to stick with him? It's fascinating to me, because as an NFL fan, they've both had similar careers, and that's where McNabb's situation baffles me. He's even a year younger than Hasselbeck.

Seth in St. Louis, Mo.

A: Even though Hasselbeck struggled in his last couple years in Seattle, a lot of the problems were with the offensive line and the lack of talent around him. As Hasselbeck proved in his first year in Tennessee, he can still play.

I believe McNabb had a better career than Hasselbeck. The NFL, like most sports leagues, is a "what have you done for me lately" operation. McNabb didn't turn around the Redskins and Vikings, and unfortunately he's paying the price.

The other part of the business is having friends in high places. The Titans had Mike Reinfeldt running the team when Hasselbeck became available. Reinfeldt knew Hasselbeck from his days in Green Bay and Seattle. It was a natural fit. The Cardinals would have gone from Hasselbeck had they not traded for Kevin Kolb and they said no to McNabb.

Q: As a Redskins fan, of course I'm fairly optimistic about this upcoming season, and not just because of Robert Griffin III. They brought in Pierre Garcon to help the passing game and the running game looked solid the last six games or so last year. The defense was vastly improved from 2010 and the front-seven looks strong again anchored by Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, and London Fletcher.

With that said, what sort of production does RG3 need to have for the Skins to make a push from the playoffs?

Connor in Alexandria, Va.

A: You should feel good about the future of the Redskins. I don't see them as a playoff team this year, but by next year, I think they have a chance.

RG3 will have some growing pains as a rookie, but he'll be exciting. What needs to happen is the offensive line, receiving corps and backfield must come together like the defense did toward the end of last season. To ask three spots to work out in one year is a lot. If two of the three come together on offense, then the Redskins might be a seven- or eight-win team. If only one comes together, they might win only six. The future is bright in Washington.

Q: What are the chances Vince Young eventually becomes the starter for the Buffalo Bills -- either through an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick and him coming in and being so impressive they let him keep the job, or just flat out beating Fitzpatrick out for the job?

Jay in Gaithersburg, Md.

A: The starting job isn't open. The Bills and Chan Gailey believe in Fitzpatrick. He's a smart quarterback and gets rid of the football quickly. Young signed with the idea he was going to be the backup. The Bills signed Young in case Fitzpatrick suffers an injury that would knock him out for a month or so. Young would give them a better chance of winning without Fitzpatrick. They also can add some Wildcat packages involving Young. I don't see this as being an open competition. Neither do the Bills.

Q: It was said that as many as 22 of the Saints players participated in the bounty system. Yet only two current players were suspended. This would seem to be based on competitive advantage for the Saints. Yet since the punishment hurts the players' pocketbooks, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove appear to be being punished for moving on to other teams. Would all four have still been suspended if they remained with the Saints? Would others be suspended if they had moved on?

Matthew in Atlanta

A: Roger Goodell was looking for the best way to get impact from his rulings so no player or coach would want to be involved in a future bounty system. Instead of punishing 22, he focused on maximizing the punishment so players understood that they might lose a season if they're involved in a pay-for-hit system.

Jonathan Vilma's one-year suspension is excessive. Goodell was looking for one player to make an example of, and Vilma became that player. The Saints have suffered a lot of damage. They've lost coach Sean Payton for the season. They lose interim coach Joe Vitt for six games. They lose their general manager for eight games. They lost a second-round choice along with two players. They've paid a heavy enough price.

Q: Why am I not seeing more people putting the Denver Broncos up as Super Bowl contenders this year? With the addition of Peyton Manning, not only does our offense get extremely better than last year, but this will also allow our defense to bring a lot more pressure. Our defense was not extremely bad last year and definitely better than the Colts' defenses of past years where the Colts won more than 10 games in a year. We have questions in the defensive backfield, but a young, strong core group of defensive lineman and Defensive Rookie of the Year Von Miller at linebacker. How are the Broncos not expected to be a 12- or 13-win team and one of the top teams in the AFC, if not the best?

Kurtis in Murray, Utah

A: I did one projection in which I put the Broncos at 12 wins if Peyton Manning is anywhere close to the Peyton Manning of old. The reason everyone isn't all-in yet is no reporter has seen him throw. Once reporters see him and give positive reports, the projections will start improving.

It's just hard for everyone to buy into putting the full 12-game projection on Manning because of the four surgeries to his neck. All eyes will be on the Broncos for OTAs and minicamp.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer