The NBA has had a developmental (D-League) since 2001.
Should the NFL follow suit?
There have been many leagues over the years that have tried to become a D-League for the NFL. The UFL and XFL have come and gone, while leagues like the FXFL and GDFL still hope to make the jump.
The NFL has used NFL Europe, APFL, and ACFL in the past, but there's currently no official D-League. The CFL is the closest to it, but with no affiliation to NFL teams, it's not of much benefit to NFL teams.
Many believe that it's time for the NFL to start up (or adopt) a new D-League.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote this last summer:
Interviews with a cross section of executives, analysts and observers suggest the landscape is ripe for an NFL-sanctioned developmental league to replace NFL Europe, which was shuttered in 2007. Interested parties envision a domestic incarnation modeled roughly after the NBA's D-League -- perhaps complemented by a training "academy" -- that capitalizes on the thirst for live programming from a growing number of all-sports cable channels.
A developmental league, as the name suggests, could help teams develop young players.
"It's one of the best things that could happen to make players better sooner," said NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt, who spent 29 years working in personnel for the Dallas Cowboys and remains closely connected to player development. "You would look at it like a training program that so many large companies have today. These large, successful companies feel like they need to train their new employees. That's how we should look at it."
Sports Illustrated's Andrew Brandt says that in addition to helping teams develop players, it will also keep dreams alive for those same players.
Brandt wrote this prior to the start of last season:
In one sense, this part of the calendar represents the best part of sports, a time when dreams of becoming NFL players come true. The reality, though, is that about 1,000 of the NFL players now populating practice fields and second halves of preseason games will be ex-NFL players in two weeks. Labor Day weekend always means a drastic reduction in the NFL labor force.
Bandt's suggestion solution: a D-League:
With the NFL’s international efforts now concentrated on games (or a team) in London, an NFL-sanctioned developmental league can focus on the training of players and, as Vincent indicated, other personnel such as coaches, scouts, officials, etc. The league could also serve as a season-long experimental lab for new officiating rules and technological advancements.
Many agree that a D-League would be beneficial for the NFL, and even profitable. The chances of the NFL creating one seem to be increasing, it's just a matter of when.
For now, it's merely an offseason discussion. Eventually, it could become a reality.