Now this is just an example and there are many more realistic ways this could go down, but as it stands this has to be fixed, and the NFL has the power to do so. This would serve several purposes primarily protecting the franchises from major investment and loss, and at least attempting to curb costs to the fans. I have a couple of scenario's that I think could be employed to help remedy this problem, they are as follows;
Firstly keep in mind this is just pertaining to rookie holdouts. Most rookies that hold out do because the agent they hire thinks they can get more money and said agent also advises them not to put the potential for injury in the mix before a contract is inked.
Let's talk about the latter part of this first. If a player is not under contract by the time camp is scheduled to begin then let's put them on a daily or weekly pay until the dotted line is signed. This amount could be determined by a set scale based on draft position, so in the same case as Mr. Russell as a #1 overall pick could qualify for say $25,000 per week. As this contract would be specified as a temporary one until the primary deal is down it could be prorated once they have that primary contract done. Now the player is on the field as scheduled and is getting paid, and for some who'd argue that maybe the player doesn't want to worry about learning the game and his money at the same time, well tough regular people have to do it so can they.
Now let's look at the big money question. Let's just cut that out all together and make a standardized contracting process for rookies. Again this would be scaled based on draft position, and could either be salary cap percentage based or just put in plain numbers. But either way this amount would increase each year based on the salary cap increase. An example could be #1 overall pick Russell could make no more than 2.5% of team salary cap per year which would be $2.75 million for '07 and this could be scaled for the standard 3 year rookie deal and increase each ensuing year again based on salary cap increase or projected increase. For '06 the cap was set at $102 million and increased 7% to $109 million for '07 and if projected at a 7% increase per year Russell's salary would look as such:
'07 $2.75 million
'08 $2.92 million
'09 $3.12 million for total base of $8.79 million
You could even through in signing bonus as 15% of the total base which would be $1.32 million, for a grand total of $10.11 million.
The only concession I would make would be incentives, these could still be negotiated and included in any rookie deal as they might be now.
Again these are just some off the top of my head numbers as examples, but the main sentiment in this would be to get the players coming out of college on the field when they are supposed to be. Make them prove they are worth more and when their rookie contracts expire then let the money fly, and then if they are not satisfied with the offers they get go ahead and hold out.
Just my 2 cents.