Going Up: NFL Salaries
The past two NFL off-seasons have changed the financial make-up of the NFL for years to come. The 4 signings that have significantly changed the checkbooks for the present and future of the NFL are Steve Hutchinson, Nate Clements, Dwight Freeney, and Cory Redding.
Last off-season, Steve Hutchinson signed a tremendous 7-year 49 million dollar deal, which made him the one of the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. What made this contract so popular was not whether he deserved it or not (because he did), but it was the first time an interior lineman was paid like an all-pro tackle. Hutchinson’s signing paved the way for Eric Steinbach, Derrick Dockery, Leonard Davis, and Kris Dielman. These were the 4 best guards on the market this off-season, and without the signing of Hutchinson the previous off-season, these players contracts would have been a lot lower. The market value of the guard position has changed dramatically in less then 2 years time.
Two of the more recent signings (Nate Clements and Cory Redding) will also have a significant impact. While Redding’s impact won’t be seen until next off-season, Clements’ signing had an instant impact [In-Depth Look At The Nate Clements Deal]. As the NFL off-season kicked off, the signing of Clements as the richest defensive player in history sent ripples through the league that can still be felt. The contract affected the signings of Dre Bly, Asante Samuel, and Dwight Freeney. Dre Bly forced a trade and then demanded a pay day. Bly’s market value has soared, and the Clements deal has been the main obstacle in the Asante Samuel signing. Asante believes that he is on par with both Clements and Bly and deserves to be paid like them. The only problem for him is he is a member of the Patriots.
The biggest impact has been seen in the contract Dwight Freeney was recently given. He leaped over Nate Clements as the highest paid defensive player, but most importantly he is being paid quarterback money. His salary is now the fourth highest in the NFL (higher than both Tom Brady and Drew Brees). This sets the bar very high for the top defenders to be paid like the top offensive players. Interceptions and sacks are high on a team’s priority list, and teams are now willing to dish out the big bucks. I believe the two players that this deal significantly impacted are Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman. Both are sack artists and considered in the top 5 best defensive players in the league. Peppers is a free agent next season and many expect him to top Freeney’s contract and become the new highest paid defender.
The future of NFL contracts is looking bright. No longer is it only the skill positions and offensive tackles making the big bucks. Every position now has high value and you should expect contracts to soar in off-seasons to come.