Rookie wages could be set to change


• Overlooked in the discussion of the now-expected uncapped year in 2010 is the fact NFL commissioner Roger Goodell then would have the right to do away with the controversial rookie pool. With one simple decision, Goodell could rid the league of the rookie pool, according to multiple league sources. No one is quite sure whether this would be a good thing or a bad thing for the league. Certain teams could pay whatever they wanted for draft picks, but with each team being strapped for cash, it's possible it could work against rookies, as well. Clearly, if Goodell opted for this course of action, it would put the NFL and the Class of 2010 in a world of uncertainty. Former NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw used to argue that if the salary cap went away, it never would come back, and if it didn't, neither might the rookie pool.

• While the rookie pool has its detractors, it also has its proponents. Many believe that, after the top 16 or so picks, the rookie pool offers good value to the teams in the league. And consider this: The amount of signing bonuses given to the draft's top 16 picks usually is almost identical to the amount of signing bonuses given to the rest of the entire rookie class. It illustrates the discrepancy and the flaws in the system. The top rookies are rewarded handsomely -- too much so -- while other rookies make wages befitting unproven players.

• If Goodell did away with the rookie salary cap in the spring, one of the players that would be most directly impacted would be holdout wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Some league executives believe that Crabtree's situation could turn into one straight out of baseball, similar to what Stephen Strasburg went through with the Washington Nationals. Strasburg told the team what he wanted, and teams around baseball knew it. Some believe that, if Crabtree were to re-enter a draft without a rookie pool, he could tell teams his price and essentially tell teams not to bother drafting him unless they're willing to meet his demands. Plenty would have to happen to reach that point, but it's not inconceivable that it will.

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• Just because Ravens center Matt Birk agreed to donate his brain to science doesn't mean he's done it yet. But Birk, who spent the past two seasons blocking for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, said this week he "would not be surprised" if his former teammate rushed for 3,000 yards in this or another season. Birk believes Peterson is so good and so talented that if any player could do it, he could. It certainly wouldn't be easy, not with run defenses such as Baltimore, Green Bay and Pittsburgh on the schedule in back-to-back-to-back weeks. But consider this: In Week 1, Peterson rushed for 180 yards, which would put him on pace to run for 2,880 yards this season. Peterson would have to average 187 yards per game to become Adrian 3,000. It sounds almost incomprehensible. But Birk believes Peterson is good enough to do it.

• Since Willie Parker rushed for a mere 19 yards in Pittsburgh's opening night win over Tennessee, questions have swirled about whether he can be a productive running back again. But none of those discussions have taken into consideration one important and overlooked fact. During pregame warm-ups for the Titans game, Parker aggravated the hamstring injury he nursed during the preseason. One Steelers source said Parker was roughly 85 percent healthy when he played against the Titans, and he struggled to plant and pivot, compromising his skills to some extent. With 10 days off to rest his hamstring, the feeling is that Parker is a lot healthier for today's game against the Bears than he was for the game against the Titans.

• Some major star-power is expected to be amongst the 100,000-plus fans at the first regular-season game at the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium. Former President George W. Bush, the 43rd U.S. president, is expected to be sitting in the luxury suite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Other distinguished dignitaries expected to attend tonight's game include Jon Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, John Madden and LeBron James. The stars will be out.

• Once Michael Vick returns from his suspension this week, Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia still is assured of being paid. When Garcia signed last week with the Eagles, Philadelphia guaranteed him two weeks of salary -- last week and next week. So even if Vick is activated, and Donovan McNabb does return to the field, Garcia's spot and certainly his salary are guaranteed. But Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is expected to start his first NFL game today and after next week's game against Kansas City, Philadelphia has its bye. So if the Eagles rest McNabb this and next week, they get to sit him three weeks for the price of two games -- not a bad deal.

• Houston quarterback Matt Schaub is playing for this and future seasons, all at once. Schaub has a $10 million option bonus payment that the Texans must decide whether they want to pay by Feb. 12, 2010. If they decline to pick it up, Schaub becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If they pick it up, it would trigger three more years on the contract for an additional $28 million. It's a big decision for the Texans. But this is a bigger season for Schaub.

• While Houston must make an option bonus decision on Schaub, St. Louis has no such decision to make on its quarterback Marc Bulger. He is scheduled to make $8.5 million next season, a friendly number for an NFL starting quarterback. Bulger has said this is a make-or-break year for him but right now, the Rams are happy with him and they think it will be hard to find a starting veteran, Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback for that price. St. Louis always could draft a quarterback in April, but it wouldn't preclude the Rams from bringing back Bulger.

• Oakland owner Al Davis is a visionary, a man ahead of his time. He identified Madden as a head coach before anyone else. Davis later did the same for Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, amongst others. And then, when he was conducting the coaching search a couple of years ago that eventually led to the hire of Lane Kiffin, the first head coach that Davis wanted to hire that year was none other than Steve Sarkisian, who led Washington to Saturday's upset of USC. Only after Sarkisian withdrew himself from consideration did Davis turn to Kiffin. Think about how different the Raiders might be if Sarkisian, not Kiffin, had taken over then.

• Last year Kansas City awarded a five-year, $51 million contract that included $22 million guaranteed to defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. This year they gave a five-year, $57 million contract that included $31 million guaranteed to defensive end Tyson Jackson. Yet for the $53 million worth of guaranteed money given out to two former LSU defensive linemen, NFL scouts still have questions about how long it will take Dorsey and Jackson to be effective. One NFL personnel man said last week that Dorsey is shorter than teams would like for defensive tackles, and he seems to have a difficult time seeing and tracking the football. Jackson still is a long way away from manning the outside end position. And for all their investments, the Chiefs still know their defensive line has some serious growing pains to go through. It can get there, it just might take a while.

• This is called "schedule friendly": For the second straight week, the Saints are going against a QB making his first NFL start -- in Week 1 it was Matthew Stafford, in Week 2 it's Kolb.

The last team before the 2009 Saints to face two quarterbacks making their first NFL starts was the 1988 Raiders -- in Shanahan's first two games as an NFL head coach. The Raiders beat Babe Laufenberg (Chargers) in Week 1 and lost to Cody Carlson (Houston Oilers) in Week 2, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

• When Brett Favre starts Sunday at Detroit, it will mark his 271st consecutive NFL start, enabling him to pass former Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall, who started 270. Back on Nov. 7, 1999, Favre started his 117th straight game and broke Ron Jaworski's record of most consecutive starts by a quarterback. Since then Favre has kept going ... and going ... and going ... through a broken thumb and painful bruises and injuries that have stopped others from playing.