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Wilmington Snooze-Terminal, June 4, 2006

Roster Size Controversy Mars EFL Owners Meeting

Rebels’ 2005 Championship Run Aided by Overstocked Roster

by Rip Snorter
At the annual EFL owners meeting Saturday, the failure of the practice of self-enforcement of the 45‑player roster size limit by teams was dramatically demonstrated. The practice, which was instituted during the 2003-04 off‑season, has been discontined, with the league ownership reassuming responsibility for enforcement.

With more than a trace of bitterness, the Providence Steam Roller front office rocked the Exton meeting with the revelation that the Richmond Rebels, to whom Providence lost in last season’s championship game, had 47 players on their roster — two more than the limit — for the entire 2005 season.

Minutes later the Richmond front office countered by pointing out that Providence played two players short and therefore had no basis for complaining. To say the squabble that broke out was contentious would be an understatement.

Delaware Cherries’ coach/GM Jon Brams left the room during the early part of the squabble to audit the 2005 and 2004 rosters. When he returned 20 minutes later, the other teams’ representatives finally quieted to listen to Brams present the results of his audit. The results were disheartening to say the least:

At that point Brams moved that the league resume responsibility for enforcement of the 45‑player limit. A voice vote was held and it was unanimous in favor.

As has been his custom the last few years, Brams left the meeting early. Reached afterward, he disagreed with my contention that the EFL had laid an embarassing egg.

“Look, it’s not that big a deal. When a team is short-handed their players are more likely to suck it up and play hurt. That tends to even things out.”

Evaluated in the context of the championship game, Brams’s argument may have some validity. Several Richmond starters were lost to injury during that game.

Evaluated in the larger context of the 2005 season as a whole, however, his argument doesn’t hold up. Richmond players missed only four games to injury during the 2005 regular season, fewer than any other team. Short-handed Providence, on the other hand, lost 15 player&‑games to injury but still achieved a better regular season record — 10‑4 — than any other team. In any case, playing hurt rarely increases a player’s effectiveness, so Brams’ argument is intuitively flawed.

The Rebels started their run to the 2005 championship at the midway point in the season. They were only 2‑5 at that point. Did having an overstocked roster help them in the second half of the season and the playoffs? I doubt it could have hurt. Would they have earned their title without the extra players? There is no way of knowing, of course.

At any rate, I give kudos to the Providence front office for providing the impetus to end the ill-advised practice, but brickbats for doing so in a manner that reeked of sour grapes. Kudos also to Brams and Delaware for being the only team to adhere throughout to the 45‑player limit.

After the vote several teams found themselves having to dump players. Most affected were the Albany Racers, who had been found playing with 48 players in 2005, more than any other team. By this time Albany had made transactions growing their roster to 50 and had to axe five players in one swipe.

Arguably most hurt in this respect, though, were the Baltimore Bolts. To get down to 45 players, they found themselves with no viable alternative other than to release their first draft choice, strong safety Sammy Knight. Knight immediately was snapped up the Syracuse Crush. Syracuse had tried to work a deal for Knight earlier in the day, but Baltimore rebuffed them. In the end Syracuse ended up getting Knight without having to give up anything to Baltimore in return. Given that the Bolts are well represented at strong safety by starter Troy Polamalu, they could only have drafted Knight in anticipation of using him as trade bait.

Fortunately for the Bolts in my opinion they were more successful at the meeting than any other team with the trades they did make. Their biggest deals were with their arch-rivals, the Washington Capitols, and I have a hunch the Washington front office will come to have regrets.

As for the Cherries, their only activity was releasing guard Bennie Anderson, tight end Jason Dunn, and linebacker Dhani Jones, and replacing them with offensive lineman Barrett Brooks, defensive lineman Michael Montgomery, and defensive back Hank Poteat. At this point their projected starting line-up looks like this:

Cherries Projected Starters
88Eric ParkerWR
76Bryant McKinnie *LT
77Artis Hicks *LG
63Hank FraleyC
73Shawn Andrews *RG
69Jordan Gross *RT
82Daniel GrahamTE
83Lee EvansWR
9Drew BreesQB
21LaDainian TomlinsonRB
49Tony RichardsonFB
90Julius PeppersLE
97Kelly GreggNT
55Terrell Suggs *RE
51Carlos EmmonsLOLB
59London FletcherLILB
58Trev Faulk *RILB
56Bart Scott *ROLB
26Lito SheppardLCB
36David Barrett *RCB
32Michael LewisSS
20Brian DawkinsFS
7Ben Graham *P
4John KasayK
18Dante HallKR-PR-WR
88Eric ParkerPR-WR
* projected new starter or positiion change

The league’s website has the full list of the day’s trades and other transactions.