Thursday, April 14, 2011

NFL Rookie Wages Set to be Cut

Late Monday night documents were leaked from the NFL offices that outlined a proposed plan by the owners to cut almost 60 percent of guaranteed money paid to first round draft picks.  The plan would free up a total of $1.2 billion by 2016 and that money would be diverted to veterans' salaries and benefits rather than being spent on players that have yet to play a down in the NFL.  Also all players drafted in the first round would have to sign five-year fixed contracts*.

* Players selected in rounds 2-7 would sign four year fixed deals

Making changes to the rookie salary system was a major point of contention during negotiations before the lockout occurred as it should be.  First round picks, especially quarterbacks, get paid way too much money considering they haven't actually accomplished anything.  In almost every other sport there is a maximum rookie contract, or rookie wage scale*, that limits how much rookies can make.  A system like that forces players to earn a big contract rather than simply being handed millions of dollars for possible future production.

* The owners leaked proposal does not include a rookie wage scale as contracts can still be negotiated on a case by case basis

The amount of guaranteed money first round picks receive is insane.  From the year 2000 to the year 2010 the amount of guaranteed money first round players received went up 233 percent.  In 2010 alone $525 million of guaranteed money was included in contracts ($50 million of which went to Sam Bradford, the 1st overall pick by the St. Louis Rams).  That number needs to come down as paying players that young, that much money, before they have ever played a down not only gives them a feeling of entitlement but can also create animosity from veterans who had to earn their contracts.

Here are the last five #1 overall selections and how much guaranteed money they got:

Sam Bradford -$50 million 
Matthew Stafford  - $41.7 million
Jake Long - $30 million
JaMarcus Russell - $32.019
Mario Williams - $27.125

Before the JaMarcus Russell bashing starts keep in mind that there are other quarterbacks who have been huge busts that cost their teams millions of dollars as well, maybe not as the same level as Russell but still. Matt Leinart ($12.9 million), David Carr ($15 million) and Joey Harrington ($13.9 million) are just a few that come to mind.  Think of how crippling those contracts were to their respective teams.

In an interview with ESPN Philadelphia Eagles team President Joe Banner had this to say about the proposal to cut guaranteed money being given to rookies, "From a fairness standpoint, the simple concept to drive this should be that the players who contribute the most to the league should get the most money.  What this system does is ensures players playing well in the NFL and bringing in fans and driving TV [ratings] will get the money that went to players who turned out not to be so good. And that is good for everyone."

The agents for these rookies might tend to disagree with Mr. Banner as this new proposed system would severely hurt the amount of money they would be able to make.  Ben Dogra for example is the agent for Sam Bradford and he no doubt made a ridiculous commission on Bradford's contract with the Rams.  If this proposed system was in place Bradford would have gotten only maybe $20 million guaranteed which would mean Dogra would have lost out on millions of dollars. 

Its not just the agents who would be getting hurt by the proposed new rules.  Veteran players would also suffer if the price to sign rookies was to be lowered.  Some players in the league only have jobs because teams are hesitant to hand over large sums of money to unproven players.  If the average cost of a rookie contract was to drop by the proposed 60 percent and veterans' salaries would go up by 60 percent then teams would be more likely to fill their roster with cheaper and younger players.

Player agent Peter Schaffer put it best when he said, "This will eliminate the veteran middle class because teams can have younger players who are making less and are under fixed contracts."  He also called this proposed system, "scouting insurance" as it protects teams that screw up their first round picks in the draft.

Although it will more than likely get rejected I hope this proposal does become the rule.  I hate seeing rookies that haven't done a thing in the NFL holdout because they want more money.  They should have to earn their contracts as it would make them try harder and you would have fewer busts.  No more guys like JaMarcus Russell getting paid their millions and then not caring or trying.  Players are now going to have to play their ay to the big pay day (totally meant for that to rhyme).

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