A Modest Proposal to Retain Players and Increase fan Interest

We all know that the high turnover in rosters affects fan interest- especially that of the casual fan. With the rise of the AAF we may see even more turnover.

Back 30+ years ago the league allowed imports to “become designated as Canadian players” after staying in the league for from 5-7 years. (I can’t remember the exact number of years.) That policy encouraged teams to take care of such players as it helped them with the ratio.

But those players began to be expensive because they gave such roster flexibility and some people objected to the loss of an opening that would give to a genuine Canadian player.

Could we bring that system back WITH A CHANGE? How about you get that roster status only if the playerremains with the same teamfor - say 4 or 5 years. This would encourage the team to keep the player AND the player to stick with the team because once they had that status their value on the open market would jump.

Please pick away at this because I may just be nuts.

I agree. I've been saying the same for the last 25 years.


I agree that keeping player continuity is a major part of fan interest in a team and the league. I’m not sure the bean-counters that influence many things see it that way, precisely “because once they had that status their value on the open market would jump”.

The other factor may be changes in charter rights, citizenship, work permits and the like since the last time there was a rule such as you suggest. Only citizens or permanent residents can get preferential employment treatment in most cases; not sure your rule suggestion would be survive a legal review.

I've been recommending this for years as well, but with a slight variation. Reduce the number of internationals allowed (two starters and five roster spots, for example), with those spots needing to be filled with either a national or a "retained" international, one who's been on the team for five/six years.

If they go somewhere else, they lose their "retained" status (or maybe just partial loss), making them more valuable to the team they've been playing for.

This means the number of nationals, starters and roster, doesn't drop as a result of these long-term players, and in fact could go up.

Is it any surprise that the more successful teams somehow keep their players longer. Consistency is the key.

A lot of sense being spoken in this thread for sure! I like it!

The CFL brought in the “Naturalized Canadian” rule in the 1960’s, but it was soon scaled back, then eliminated within a few seasons. It just didn’t work. The last thing we need is more Americans like Singleton and Wolitarsky qualifying as “Nationals”, after being born in the U.S., playing all their football in the U.S. and never having set foot in Canada before taking the position of one of the seven National starters on the roster.

I also don’t believe it’s fair to penalize some U.S. players who changed teams, like A. Bighill from becoming a National, while S. Eliminian qualifies because he didn’t get traded (and likely receiving a salary boost for his National qualification?)

I think the bigger reason why there is so much turnaround with players is the salary cap. Players have a breakout season and then become too expensive to be retained on teams - unfortunately, it is usually those players whose jerseys fans are buying and who become the face of those franchises. The 2013 Roughriders are a textbook example of this - that team was basically dismantled after that Grey Cup win because so many star players demanded more than the salary cap would allow (and nobody should begrudge any player asking their worth - you win a championship, you deserve a raise).

This also has the side-effect of dissuading franchises from developing talent, because there is a lot of time and effort that has to be expended to develop a player, and if that player then becomes a star in the league, they can become too expensive for that team to retain. It is cheaper to pick up a star player in free agency than it is to put a half-dozen players through several years of development in the hopes that one or two become stars. The shortage of league-wide talent in some positions (such as quarterback - I would say less than half the teams in the league have a bona-fide CFL-calibre starting QB right now), is a direct result of some teams just simply refusing to develop players.

What I would like to see is a salary cap structure that grandfathers a player’s originalsalary with a team in some way, so that the teams that scout and develop players can pay those players the higher salaries that they deserve without hitting salary cap issues.

One way this could work would be to use a three-year average of a player’s salary on a team. For the first three years, the player’s actual salary would count against the cap, just as it does now. If the team retains that player after three years, though, then every subsequent year, the lesser of the three-year-average of the first three years’ salary, or the current year actual salary would count against the cap. This grandfathering would be valid until the player is traded, released, or becomes a free agent. If any of those things happens, the new team that picks up the player starts from scratch and has to apply that player’s full salary to the cap. The only caveat (mainly given the threat of AAFL and other leagues), is that a player who exercises his NFL option and then comes back to the same team later can still have their salary grandfathered in the cap as if they didn’t leave.

This modification to the salary cap would give a bargaining advantage to the “builder” teams in the league (the teams that have strong scouting and development systems and who actually build the league). It would also provide a strong incentive to players to re-sign with their teams rather than test free agency, because their value would be higher to their current team than any team that would pick them up in free agency.

That's an original idea - to me, anyway. (I like the OP's idea too, but I've seen it suggested numerous times over the years.)

I like it in principle, but if I had to think of a downside, it's that it would help keep the strong teams strong and the weak teams weak. Does CAL really need even more of an advantage than they already have? (even though the advantage has been earned by quality management and scouting)

The CFL draft just isn't meaningful enough to give the bottom teams a leg up in improving their rosters.

It is, but the thing is, it's also something of a positive-feedback loop. Teams that have consistency on the roster (and coaching staff) tend to have more success on the field, which leads to contract extensions for coaches and players, which leads to more consistency on the roster (and coaching staff).

Consistency doesn't breed success immediately, and there is always the need for fans and management to have a neck to wring when things go sour. So players get cut and coaches get fired for lacking success, which then of course hurts consistency and can limit success.

This is why the biggest recent mistake Edmonton made is firing Ed Hervey, and the smartest recent move that the Riders have made was extending Chris Jones' contract.

Perhaps in the short term it might. Calgary is a bit of an outlier here, though, because they've had an absolutely uncanny ability in the last dozen or so years to scout and find talented new players hiding under rocks. There is really no danger in Calgary hitting a salary cap limit with the roster they have right now. With such a grandfathering clause in place, Calgary mighthave retained Nik Lewis and Charleston Hughes for a couple of extra years, but other than that, I don't think the roster would look much different. In fact, keeping Lewis probably would have meant letting McDaniel and/or Grant go a year or two earlier, and keeping Hughes would have made Ja'Gared Davis a possible cut, making these very talented players available to other teams.

The thing is - this is exactly the point of my proposal. Nik Lewis and Charleston Hughes were both franchise Stampeders. They were as much the face of the franchise as Bo Levi Mitchell and Alex Singleton are right now. They were only released specifically because of salary cap issues that they would have created, because the Stampeders couldn't afford to pay what they are worth. The Stampeders (and the CFL itself) could have been marketing these long-standing franchise players to a young fanbase, but that opportunity is now limited because the people who grew up watching and cheering for them are now having to watch them play against their favorite teams.

The other eight teams in the league, all of whom have some star players whose contracts are now coming up for renewal at the end of this year, stand to benefit from this type of structure. The Argos can afford to put more effort into developing Franklin and Bethel-Thompson without fear that whoever the backup is is going to wind up leaving the team the minute a starting salary is dangled in front of their face (a'la Collaros and Willy - both of whom would probably have stayed with their original teams and been developed into franchise starters had such a structure existed). The Riders wouldn't have to worry about Roosevelt looking for greener pastures. The Al's could very possibly offer Johnny Football enough of a salary to give him pause when he is deciding whether to go back to the States or to call the CFL his permanent home.

And yeah - there wouldn't have to be as much speculation of whether the Eskimos or the Stampeders lose the face of their franchise - their star quarterbacks - at the end of this year, because again, there would be the ability for those QBs to make the money that they deserve on the teams that earned them that success.

As for the draft not being meaningful enough for teams. There have been some pretty good players to have come out of the CFL draft in the past few years: Alex Singleton, Brad Sinopoli, Taylor Loffler, Tunde Adeleke, Juwan Brescacin, Kwaku Boateng, Cameron Judge, Nic Demski, Jake Harty, Adam Konar, Brandon Bridge.. All these guys have started games and have had success, and some of these guys are bona fide franchise players (Sinopoli and Singleton, for example).

I like the naturalized player idea.
For me it would only include players that have a minimum of 5 years with same team and lives in Canada year around.

If a player is living in Canada year around, I don’t have issues with them getting special status. Limit it to 1-2 spots per team.

I think this would be good, especially around expansion years, where a team can take a hit on their canadian depth.

Back then if an American player became a Canadian citizen he could play as a non-import. They would have had to live year round in Canada for a minimum of five years to apply. The ratio at that time was ten starting Canadians, so 3 or 4 players getting their Canadian citizens still left quite a few Canadian born players starting. Because Hamilton and Toronto were having the most Americans living year round and gaining their citizenship, things started getting lopped sided. So the League tried to limit things to three per team, a law suit resulted and caused a rule change to what a non-import became. Naturalized Canadians were phased out. That's how I remember it.
Right now anybody who can get their Canadian citizen can play as a "National". However the catch is, "a Canadian citizen before coming into the League". Every "Canadian" goes through the draft now. That omits any "International" player from becoming a "National" after playing in the League. Probably never happen again because they couldn't limit the numbers because of the previous lawsuit.
The rule I would like to see is Canadian QB's count as a National not the way it currently is now, with QB's not counting as a National or International.

I would go a couple of steps further, have like we had previously a franchise player rule.
Which would not count against the cap with let’s say a limit of $1M annual salary and the player would be excluded from the roster nationality limit.

I have been saying that for some time except I would just keep the quota the same ; the cap needs a little help with rewarding the talented one's throwing the ball .

Especially now that there will be competition for players with the start up leagues.
Even though neither will last long.
Still, our league has to evolve and improve the salary cap scenario not go backwards like the stupid decision earlier this year with the cap on coaches.
That for me will have major detrimental effects on getting quality co-ordinators.

The CFL should track every player's residency year round?

well, I am not sure about the whole idea, but the CFL would not have to do any tracking. Anyone applying for this would have to provide the proof.