One of the NFL’s biggest weaknesses is its ass-backwards approach to paying rookies. First-round picks get far too much guaranteed money, which effectively robs veterans and retired players, who get a smaller piece of the pie. No one’s sure why the yearly increase in rookie wages — 233 percent since 2000 — has drastically exceeded regular inflation rates, but it’s something that both the league and the players know has to change.

There’s a belief that things will indeed change as part of the continuing negotiations/litigation around the collective bargaining agreement. And the league has apparently made a new proposal:

The NFL’s proposal to the players for a rookie compensation system would divert about $300 million a year from first-round draft picks’ contracts to veterans and player benefits.

More than $525 million went to first-rounders in guaranteed payments in 2010. So nearly half of that total would wind up as veterans’ salary or benefits under the proposal, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

“During talks for a new collective bargaining agreement,” writes Barry Wilner of The Associated Press, ”the league also proposed eliminating holdouts by reducing the maximum allowable salary if a rookie isn’t signed when training camp begins.”

What I don’t quite understand is how holdouts would even be possible under a regulated system in which rookies are slotted into predetermined salaries. Regardless, fewer holdouts would be huge for professional football.

In fact, the league is also reportedly trying to adopt rules to restrict holdouts from veterans, but that seems far-fetched.

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