Redshirting is a part of life in college football. In the NFL, it's banned for no good reason.
The practice of removing a player from the active roster, but keeping them in the organization makes sense for both sides. For the team, they don't have to burn a roster spot on a raw talent. For the player, they get to practice and train with the team. Win win, right?
Wrong. The NFL doesn't allow it. Instead, teams are forced to lie year in and year out. A stubbed toe becomes a broken bone, a sprain becomes a tear. Players are then stashed on IR and the dance continues.
For example, take a look at current Eagle Alex McCallister. Drafted in the 7th round last season, McCallister was 6'6”, 239 lbs--impossibly light for a defensive end. So what happened? The Eagles played the game. Per CSN's Dave Zangaro:
”Really, it was just a redshirt year," McCalister said after an OTA practice this week, admitting he was completely healthy about two weeks into the 2016 season. While McCalister would have obviously preferred to play during his rookie season, he also admitted he "definitely" needed the extra time to get bigger and stronger.”
It goes to a larger issue: There's not enough player development in the NFL. Teams are so desperate to refine players that they break the rules every year in hopes of hitting the lottery. How can we make it so that more talent is available? I have some ideas:
1. Legalize redshirting. Teams are doing it now anyway. Just make it legal for each team to redshirt a couples of players a year. Those players would practice and train with the team, but would not be subject to waivers like practice squad players.
2. Expand the practice squad. If you want to get picky, there's 24 starters in the NFL. Right now practice squads allow for 10 extra players to hang with each team. Why not expand those numbers? Practice squad players cost nothing in the big picture and would help develop more star players.
3. Create a development league. The NFL could go the route of baseball, hockey, and basketball by creating a farm system. Teams would each have their own farm teams to pluck players from, young coaches would hone their skills, and the league as a whole would benefit.
Any of these solutions would make the league a better product and are sorely overdue. The sooner one of these changes are made, the better.