The reason NFL rookies got the money they did prior to the previous labor deal (1970-2008) was to discourage the formation of a competing league, and the obligatory anti-trust lawsuits that would follow.
Each time in pro football history when NFL rookie's pay went below a certain tipping point, the NFL became vulnerable to a new league and one would pop up and start competing for players. This happened with the AAFC in the 1940’s, the AFL in the 1960’s, the World Football League in the 1970’s, and of course the USFL in the 1980’s.
The result of each competitive league has been the overall increase of player salaries, especially that of rookies.
The NFL has had many opportunities to push for a rookie pay scale in the last forty years and has declined to do so. It is only with the recent rise of ridiculous rookie contracts in the last few years that they felt they had to do something.
But it is a balance – the lower the pay for 1st round picks (these are the most sought after players by a newly established league wanting to make a splash) the more likely that there are rich people out there who see creating a new league to be financially viable.
See the history of players such as Joe Namath, Billy Cannon, and Ron Mix.
Past history shows that most times the owners of teams in a rival league are guys that have been shut out of the process of being NFL owners for whatever reason and often their real goal is to force the NFL into a merger or settlement of some kind.
This happened with the AAFC and the AFL.
The point of all this is that I believe that the current deal with it's rookie pay scale will invite the formation of a competing league. A league that will be able to easily outbid the NFL for 1st round draft picks since they will not be bound by a agreed upon scale.
You might also want to check out: