The NFL buys the AFL (Arena Football League) and uses it as an off-season farm league. As far as an investment, it would be relatively small; the entire AFL was sold at auction in 2009 at $6.1M total. The idea would be that each NFL franchise would gain an AFL counterpart with which to hold players over, like the current 8-man practice squad, except it would now become the 20-player roster. The individual pay-check would be a comparison to but a marginal increase from that of a practice squad player, making it an overall drop in the bucket for most franchises, and undoubtedly, it would have its own salary cap restrictions to accommodate such.
To further this proposal, each team would be in a reasonable proximity to the parent team’s central fan base – the Seattle Seahawks would parent the Spokane Shock, for instance – or if a team’s city is large enough to support the market, it could be co-located – the Chicago Bears with the Chicago Rush or New Orleans Saints with the New Orleans VooDoo. With only 16 current AFL Teams, some old names might need to be resurrected, such as the Los Angeles Cobras or the Albany Firebirds, in order to round out the AFL as a mirror image to the NFL.
August 10, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Arizona Rattlers celebrate holding up the AFL championship trophy following a win over the Philadelphia Soul in ArenaBowl XXV at the New Orleans Arena. The Arizona Rattlers defeated the Philadelphia Soul 72-54. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The most important aspect to this would be the money making angle that an NFL-endorsed AFL would have for the League and owners. The timing of the season would be critical, which would naturally be the NFL’s post-draft off-season; in a word, now.
The AFL season is currently 18 weeks long, which would make for a great time to get re-acquainted with players cast off from the 53-man roster from the year before as well place some of your undrafted free agents on the field right away. Would Bengals fans pay to see Brian Leonard and Jordan Campbell play for a theoretical Louisville Lions during this time next year if it meant they remained in the Bengals system and were available to be called up to the active roster this coming season?
And then there is the merchandising…
This isn’t a perfected idea, that’s a given; the point is that if we are going to start paradigm-breaking in the name of expansion, then let’s really brainstorm all of our options rather than default to an encrusted and failed concept like NFL Europa, which, notably enough, was shut down by Roger Goodell during his first year as the Commissioner of the NFL. Contrarily ironic, in August of last year, the AFL launched AFL China, headed by Philadelphia Soul present and part-owner Ron “Jaws” Jaworski, with the intent to establish a 6-team league that would play a 10-week schedule that is slated to start in October of 2014. Besides offering an alternative to the BCS and NCAA’s exploitation of young talented players without compensation, it would be easier to establish Arena Leagues as a feeder system to the NFL, not just at home, but abroad as well. At least conceptually, doesn’t that seem to make more sense than a London team? The crazy part is it would probably be cheaper too… despite being only six teams, NFL Europe was losing $30M a season when it folded in 2007.