CLEMSON -- Perhaps the person most pleased with the NFL's labor strife is Dabo Swinney.
Before the Tigers' first bowl practice Monday, the Clemson coach said the NFL labor uncertainty could compel more college underclassmen to remain in school next season. The underclassman Swinney is most concerned with is junior defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
Swinney believes Bowers would be a top 10 selection if he entered the 2011 NFL draft. Swinney indicated in previous years Bowers would have an easy decision: forego his senior season after recording 15.5 sacks this fall. But now there are potential complicating factors.
Swinney and others believe a rookie salary slotting system will be included in the NFL's next collective bargaining agreement, which will affect the 2011 class. Such a system would drastically reduce rookie contracts and perhaps allow Clemson a better shot at retaining the Bronko Nagurski Award winner.
"I think he was a born a year too late," Swinney said. "I think you're going to see the NFL go more to an NBA model -- no negotiation. Here's what (the rookie contract) is going to be: Be productive and you'll be rewarded. I think the money should go to players, but it should go to (veteran) players. I don't think there is any question (a rookie slotting system) is going to happen.
"I never understood how a guy who has never thrown a pass or done anything gets $50 million, and you got a pro bowler who's getting a million."
Eric Berry was selected fifth overall by Kansas City in April and received $34 million in guaranteed money. Former Clemson star C.J. Spiller was selected ninth overall by Buffalo and received a five-year, $25 million contract, including $20.8 million in guarantees.
In the NBA where there is a slotting system, the fifth overall pick last June, DeMarcus Cousins, received a two-year guaranteed deal worth a total of $7 million.
Swinney met with Bowers last week to discuss his future.
Among the things Swinney talked about with Bowers was the possibility of a rookie slotting system and a how lockout could erase a portion or possibly the entire 2011 NFL season.
Bowers said he will wait to make a decision after the Dec. 31 bowl game. He indicated Monday the labor strife could play into his decision.
"I haven't made a decision yet," Bowers said. "I'll sit down and think about it long and hard."
Swinney said he did not "sell" Bowers on returning, but whatever Swinney has said in recent similar meetings has been effective. Spiller and DeAndre McDaniel elected to return for their senior seasons and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele turned down a more lucrative contract from Tennessee last spring to remain at Clemson.
If Bowers returned, it would be a major boost as the Tigers will lose four senior defensive starters.
Bowers, who has been traveling to various award banquets, says he hasn't had much time to think about his decision. He said he saw he was up to No. 2 on Mel Kiper's big board. He has heard from friends and teammates about how he would be "crazy" not to declare early, but Bowers insists his motives are not purely financial.
Bowers will likely have to make a decision before a new CBA is reached, as the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is typically in mid-January.
"My mom wants me to get my degree, and I promised her I would," Bowers said. "She hasn't taken a side on which way I should go yet."
Bowers said he would also like to experience a senior season at Clemson, win an ACC title and break the school's all-time sacks record (28) shared by Gaines Adams and Michael Dean Perry. Bowers has 19 1/2 career sacks.
While the new CBA could negatively affect Bowers' bank account, Swinney believes it could benefit the pro and college games.
"If a guy is going to get $50 million, there are people out there that are going to do whatever it takes to represent that guy," said Swinney of the recent agent issues in the college game. "At the end of the day, (a rookie slotting system) may deter some of the things that have gone on."
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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