Welcome to the Wild West.
NFL player agents are packing pens and willing to negotiate on behalf of their free-agent clients and there is no sheriff in town.
The bullets will start flying if the current chaotic state of the NFL remains in place when the NFL calls its first name in Thursday’s draft.
Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling that the lockout is over has flipped the owner’s world upside down and lifted the spirit of this year’s crop of pro prospects far beyond expectations.
About 24 hours ago, it didn’t seem as if being a top draft pick was going to be as lucrative as it has been for the last decade or so.
Ever since DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced their breakup, the only thing they apparently agreed upon was a rookie salary cap.
The two combatants decided if money numbers were going be changed, let those fuzzy-faced kids coming out of college take the hit.
It meant no more Sam Bradford-like contracts ($86 million for five years) after which the lucky recipient buys houses for his immediate family, cousins, nephews and all living relatives.
At the moment, there are no trades or free-agent signings, though no one seems to know for sure who is a free agent.
It could be weeks or months before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a rule on the owners request for a stay on Nelson’s ruling, and labor talks are not scheduled to resume until mid-May.
This is why it pays to have Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on your side rather than a Jerry Jones and Goodell, who is the highest paid errand boy in America earning $10 million a year, though he pledged to cut his salary to $1 for the length of the lockout.
The owners lost round one. It’s hard to feel sympathy for this bunch that oversees a $9 billion industry and lives in a perpetual state of luxury, while many ex-players can’t remember their address or how to feed themselves after taking so many hits to the head.
Reports say the owners proposed a five-year rookie plan, which is really a wage scale considering the average NFL career lasts about 3.5 years.
The current NFL players don’t care that much about rookies and are looking out for themselves.
So if you are just out of college, you are swimming alone; albeit with agent in pocket.
That’s why it’s imperative to cash in your chips before this game closes down.
There is bedlam or anarchy depending on one’s vantage point. But if you’re a kid who just received his degree in college football, now is the time to get some owner to invest in your future.
The extra pile of dollars that was expected to grow from a rookie cap was going to the owners and veterans (or so they believed though owners still had the right of refusal).
If they revert back to the 2010 rules, there is no salary cap, and free agent salaries could soar.
Veterans who believe a rookie salary cap will help them might want to investigate the landscape.
If you are a 12-year vet and maybe just a tad better than a second-year guy who can be had on the cheap, guess who is going to be out of work. It happens every day in the real world.
A rookie cap might benefit a guy like Cam Newton, who comes with enough baggage to bring his personal bellhop to the draft.
If there is no salary or rookie cap, a team might think twice about drafting Newton first. He had a great season at Auburn, but could wind up joining the long list of failed Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks.
At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds with sprinter’s speed, Newton can get a lot of people dreaming. But how he fares in the CDH test (character, demeanor, heart) is another story. He cheated on tests, was caught with a stolen laptop and his father reportedly tried to sell his services to the highest college bidder (of course without his son’s knowledge).
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.