Orlando Apollos and the AAF may be in the process of folding

Alliance of American Football majority owner Tom Dundon told USA Today that if the NFL Players Association doesn't play ball and let the league's players compete in the AAF, then the start-up AAF may fold.

"If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can't be a developmental league," said Dundon, an NHL owner who became the AAF's chairman last month when he invested $250 million into the financially-shaky, fledgling league, noting that a decision will come in a couple days. "We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league."

An NFL Players Association spokesperson declined to comment when Orlando Weekly reached out for comment. However, in speaking with USA Today, an anonymous NFL Players Association official pointed to several concerns with allowing young NFL players to compete in the AAF, such as potential injury risk and violations of the collective bargaining agreement.

Given that, it's a weird rich-guy flex considering Dundon's leverage, or lack thereof, if the NFL Players Association simply tells him to piss off and move on with his life.

But for contrarian's sake, Dundon does have a point: Currently, the NFL has everything to gain from the AAF in the form of athletes who've been provided a second chance on the gridiron and capitalized on it. In other words, one of the world's most powerful professional sports leagues will have the pick of the litter once the AAF's inaugural season comes to a close.

And yet, the beneficiaries of this deal have made no monetary investment in this arrangement. The NFL has absolutely no financial stake in the AAF, even though the AAF's universal three-year, $250,000 player contracts allow for athletes to opt-out if they're provided an opportunity in the NFL. And, not to mention, at least two weekly AAF match-ups are shown on the NFL Network, which has maintained steady ratings since its inaugural kickoff, so to speak, the weekend after Super Bowl 53.

The eight-team AAF was originally billed as a developmental league, as in the only place to go up from the AAF aside from the Canadian Football League (which would actually be a somewhat unilateral professional move) would be to join the NFL. So by that logic, wouldn't it be fair for the transaction to work vice versa for certain young players in the NFL, such as those on the practice teams?

Sure, you could argue that lower-level NFL players have more to lose than gain due to the risk of career-ending injuries and potentially jeopardizing long-term financial gain. But that argument is extremely subjective to circumstance when you look at the average career span for any NFL athlete, which is about 3.3 years, according to the NFL Players Association.

That same statistic is the reason why many of the players currently competing in the AAF are there in the first place.

Take Birmingham Iron running back Trent Richardson as an example. Richardson was a standout at the University of Alabama and third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. But after a few years with the depressing Cleveland Browns and then the Indianapolis Colts, he was cut.

Now, after a so-far successful campaign as Birmingham's starter, in which he's proven to be effective in goal line schemes, Richardson may very well have another shot at the NFL once the AAF comes to a close in April.

Or look at Orlando Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert. After a tumultuous college career that followed him being one of the nation's top high school recruits in 2009 and floating around the NFL for five seasons as a backup (if not the backup's backup) he opted to sign with the AAF to prove he has what it takes to actually compete, when he could have just as easily elected to sign with an NFL team as a backup again.

Gilbert would have been awarded more money in the short-term; that part is certain. But if Gilbert, who's leading the AAF in passing yards, were to somehow make his back to the NFL and earn a starting spot after the AAF season, how much would he possibly earn over the course of his remaining career in the NFL? Short answer: More than if he'd remained a backup.

There isn't a formula for that hypothetical situation. We admit as much.

Nor is there a good reason for the NFL Players Association to act as a holdout for what's already been a successful start-up this season for the AAF. And the same goes for the Dundon, who prefers taking his ball home if others aren't willing to play the monies game the way he'd like. 

The real problem here is that the Orlando Apollos clinched a playoff spot this past weekend, making them the first AAF team to do so. So without a league, the City Beautiful's without a potential championship, too.

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