Jake Locker, the University of Washington’s stud junior quarterback, had been projected to be one of the first players selected in this April’s NFL draft if he decided to forego his senior season and declare himself eligible for the NFL.  But Locker, citing that he still had a few goals to achieve at the collegiate level and expressing a feeling that he was not quite ready for the NFL yet, announced this week that he would stay at Washington for his senior year.

This decision has set off a firestorm in the sports media as to whether Locker is costing himself millions of dollars by not entering the draft this year. The NFL’s owners and the players union are headed toward labor Armageddon, as the owners opted out of the collecting bargaining agreement last year, leading many to believe that the league may be headed toward a lockout prior to the 2011 season.  One of the big things that the owners want is a salary cap for rookies.  Recently, top draft picks have received huge contracts (in excess of $40 million dollars over five years), and some owners and many in the player’s union have argued that it makes no sense for players that have never played a single game in the NFL be amongst the highest-paid players in the league.

And while nobody disagrees that Locker definitely could use another year of seasoning at the college level (he is not the most accurate of passers). Also, being that he would likely be a high first round pick, the team that drafted him would be under enormous pressure to play him right away instead of allowing him to spend his first season on the bench learning the ins-and-outs of NFL football.  Instead, he would likely be thrown right into the fire — a decision that would be putting him in a position to fail.

So the question the media has been asking after the Locker decision is does he want to be rich or does he want to be successful? We don’t feel that this is the either/or proposition that the many in the press have made it out to me.  First off, there is no guarantee that the owners are going to get a rookie salary cap in place prior to the 2011 draft. At best, they are probably looking at getting something like in place before 2012, which would not affect Locker (the media wants to write this story now, so they are using Locker’s decision as a reason to speculate.) Second, even if there is a rookie salary cap in 2011, if Locker is a success, he will be in a position to make even more money after his rookie contract is over.  Overall, a successful first round pick is liable to make more money over the course of his career with the salary cap in place.  What the cap would do is protect teams from having to pay millions of dollars to players who don’t pan out.

So overall, we believe that Locker made the right decision.  We pray that he doesn’t  get hurt and that his decision looks good at this time next year.