Will labor uncertainty push Clausen and Tate to NFL?


While Charlie Weis acknowledged that Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate will have a decision to make come December, their choice has been made even more complicated with the uncertainty that looms in the NFL’s ongoing labor negotiations.

It’s tough to disseminate what’s true and what’s fiction when it comes to the murky waters of the NFL collective bargaining agreement. There has long been grumbling about the big-money guarantees paid to top draft picks, and that one of the first orders of business in these negotiations is changing the rookie compensation system. If that’s the case, expect talented underclassmen to make the leap to the NFL now before the system changes, or even worse, the league locks out its players.

Since I don’t pretend to understand complex issues like this, and how they might effect the fate of Jimmy Clausen or Golden Tate, I dropped an email to one of the only guys that truly does, PFT’s Mike Florio.

Florio told me he thinks “underclassmen will come out in droves due to fear of no football due to a lockout or an NBA-style rookie wage scale if they work out a deal.”

Before people jump to the conclusion that the Irish will lose both Clausen and Tate because of this, they should also consider that this swarm of players jumping might be the exact reason why Clausen and Tate stay at Notre Dame.

Writes Florio:

Here’s the reality. With discussions on a new Collective Bargaining
Agreement slowly getting warmed up, any new labor deal implemented
before 2011 is widely expected to include some type of a rookie pay
formula that purports to rein in the current windfalls received by the
first eight, nine, or 10 players drafted.

This could prompt even more players to cram their way into a 2010
draft class that already is generating significant buzz as being one of
the best in recent years, if not ever.

The problem, of course, is the money will be paid no matter how few
or how many players crash the draft party. So as more of them join the
flock, more of them will not be drafted in the top of the first round.
Or in the first round at all. Or in any round.

On the surface, the smart move for many will be to wait. But what if
there’s a lockout in 2011? Players who choose not to join the draft in
2010 might not get paid in 2011, either, if the league isn’t bluffing
about being ready to lock out the players and if the players aren’t
bluffing about being ready to take it.

Florio notes that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declared last December that there would be no change in the rookie compensation structure for 2010. He implores the commissioner to do the same this season, if only to help players make an informed decision regarding their future.

While Jimmy and Golden might very well decide that this season is their last at Notre Dame, the labor uncertainty in the NFL might do more to keep them in South Bend than anyone actually realizes.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.


Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.