Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rookie Salaries Are Out of Control

by: Strategerie

Hey, Gene Upshaw, rookie compensation will kill the NFL. There, I said it.

Draft Day is the biggest day on the NFL calendar next to the Super Bowl. I’m starting to wonder, though, if Draft Day should be sponsored by the gaming industry. After all, it’s the day that owners hand over millions upon millions of guaranteed dollars to young men who’ve never stepped foot on a NFL field. It’s a proven fact that fifty percent of the draft choices whose names are called at Radio City Music Hall will never make the NFL. Let’s just say that the odds on Draft Day are not with the house.

Mr. Upshaw’s comments over the weekend to the Rookie Symposium indicate he has no willingness to even entertain the fact that things have reached the tipping point. The top four players of this year’s draft are costing the respective franchises that drafted them a guaranteed $124 million dollars combined. They don’t have to play a down to collect. In the meantime, veterans who’ve proven themselves repeatedly in game situations are making nowhere near those numbers. To say that the fight to get an updated collective bargaining agreement before 2011 will be long and bloody is an understatement, but one of the major sticking points will have to be rookie compensation.

To Continue on, click...

Mr. Upshaw commented on Sirius NFL over the weekend that he will never agree to any kind of rookie compensation standardized deal. After all, these players should be “getting what they deserve”. Mr. Upshaw, what might that be? What exactly have they done to “deserve” Jake Long’s $57.75 million dollar contract, thirty million dollars of which is guaranteed? I’m not picking on Mr. Long. He’s free to make as much money as any team’s willing to pay him. At the same time, those working in the business world would NEVER pay a new hire more than someone who’s a proven performer, would they? Why does the NFL think this is a good idea?

I’d like to mention a couple of other issues surrounding this knotty little problem. First of all, I asked Michael to send me the excellent post Chris Sullivan wrote a couple of weeks back about the first round of the 2005 draft. It’s located right here if you’re interested in taking a look. How much value did the teams involved realize from those ten players? Were they worth the expenditure in the end? How many other first round draft picks have washed out or blown up over the past ten years?

While we’re musing about money, let’s talk NFL fans. There was news last week about the new personal seat licenses being sold to Giants fans. They range in price from $1,000-20,000.00. There’s lots of franchises doing the personal seat licensing thing, isn’t there? The game tickets are also quite pricey. I guess it’s all about what the market will bear, but at the same time, how much longer can the league continue to raise ticket prices on fans who work hard for every dollar they fork out on football tickets? Don’t they “deserve” the opportunity to attend an NFL game without taking out a second mortgage on the house?

To say that I’m getting a football education from Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan at Sirius NFL is an understatement. They’ve been talking about rookie compensation for awhile now. I know Mr. Upshaw listens to them. It seems that perhaps Roger Goodell might need to invest the $12.95 a month to listen to what they have to say as well, because they’ve stumbled on the solution. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it’s not going to bankrupt anyone. Furthermore, it frees up an awful lot of those guaranteed dollars for those who actually earned them – the veterans.

One of Tim and Pat’s callers suggested the following a few weeks ago. The first pick in the first round would be signed to a two-year contract, with option for a third year. The first pick is paid two million the first year, three million the second year, and if the team in question chooses to exercise the third year, they’re paid four million dollars. The player is then a restricted free agent. He can make a deal with the team he originally signed with that’s more lucrative. After all, he’s now a proven commodity, instead of a hypothetical. If that’s not going to work for them, they’re always free to play in the CFL, aren’t they?

What are the downsides? Let’s see: Agents won’t make as much money. Young men fresh from college will have to prove themselves in the league to get the huge contracts they’re now being handed before playing in a single game.

The upside: Veteran players will be given the compensation they’ve worked for. Teams aren’t saddled for years with a player (and his salary) that just didn’t work out. Fans don’t end up paying the price for a draft decision gone bad.

It’s time for a change. We won’t get a CBA without give and take on both sides, and it’s time for negotiation on both sides.