Nov
17

NFL Rookie Contracts: Fair Or Not?

Around the NFL there is strong disapproval about the amount of money rookie players are making. In April 2008, Roger Goodell expressed his wishes to change the current rookie contract structure. Goodell flung an interesting idea of implementing a rookie salary cap, similar to that of the NBA. During a press conference with reporters in February 2008, Goodell stated that he and the NFLPA have met and discussed this issue and the owners are interested in following through with the idea of redistributing the money to veteran players who have already proven themselves and their worth. Below are some examples of past NFL veteran contracts and 2008 NFL rookie contracts:

2008 Veteran Signings

  • Bernard Berrian, WR, (Minnesota Vikings): Signed a 6-year, $43.4 million contract
  • Derek Anderson, QB, (Cleveland Browns): Signed a 3-year, $24 million contract
  • Ryan Grant, RB, (Green Bay Packers): Signed a 4-year, $20 million contract
  • Michael Turner, RB, (Atlanta Falcons): Signed a 6-year, $34.5 million contract
  • Flozell Adams, T, (Dallas Cowboys): Signed a 6-year, $43.8 million contract
  • Asante Samuel, CB, (Philadelphia Eagles): Signed a 6-year, $57.14 million contract

2008 Rookie Signings

  • Jake Long, OT, (Miami Dolphins, 1st Overall Pick): Signed a 5-year, $57.75 million contract
  • Chris Long, DE, (St. Louis Rams, 2nd Overall Pick): Signed a 6-year, $60 million contract
  • Matt Ryan, QB, (Atlanta Falcons, 3rd Overall Pick): Signed a 6-year, $72 million contract
  • Darren McFadden, RB, (Oakland Raiders, 4th Overall Pick): Signed a 6-year, $60 million contract
  • Glenn Dorsey, DT, (Kansas City Chiefs, 5th Overall Pick): Signed a 5-year, $33 million contract
  • Vernon Gholston, LB, (New York Jets, 6th Overall Pick): Signed a 5-year, $32.5 million contract

After looking these contracts over, it is insanely hard to believe that Jake Long, an unproven NFL tackle is making more than Flozell Adams, a 4-time Pro Bowl veteran tackle. How is Darren McFadden making more than Ryan Grant and Michael Turner both of whom played excellent roles on their respective teams last year?

Seeing as the attendance of rookies at training camp is so vital to the success of the player, it pained some to see 2007 1st overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell hold out of camp until September 12th when Russell was signed to a 6-year, $61 million deal with $29 million guaranteed. One cannot help but wonder if the reason why rookies get paid so much up front is to prevent another “JaMarcus Russell hold out.” The NFL owners are not crying poor, so Goodell’s battle is not one of finances but one of fairness. Do not think for one minute that rookies believe that the amount of money being paid to them is sane. In an interview with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, he stated: “I’ll take it. I see both sides of the argument but I’m going to take the (current) argument now.”

A great point made by the late Gene Upshaw was that the rookie contracts only help those free agent veterans who are up for new contracts. What Mr. Upshaw means is that, for example, lets jump into the shoes of an 18-year-old girl who is negotiating with her parents about buying a car. The teen, so paradoxically calm, says: “But, Mom! Angie got a BMW and she’s only 16!” This is a perfect parallel to the situation in the NFL. Agents of veteran free agents can go to negotiations armed with the contracts of these rookies. Whew, no wonder why teams these days want to stay clear of early first round picks. As a future NFL agent, I cannot help but disagree with not being able to pay rookies these huge contracts.

Roger Goodell is not wasting any time on this matter so look to see some headlines fairly soon.

  • Ryan Ballard

    The rookie salaries are outrageous. Although, there are at least a couple players that I know of who are living up to their rookie salaries, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. There is an easy fix for this…MAXIMUM ROOKIE SALARIES. Goodell needs to implement his plan prior to the next rookie draft. The NHL does it, but that’s probably a bad comparison because the NHL was forced to do it by its financial woes. NHL Rookies signing in 2009 can make a maximum of $900,000. What is a reasonable maximum rookie salary for the NFL? Considering the recent rookie contracts, reasonable would probably be somewhere around $3M or $4M per year. Agree? Disagree? I’m certainly not an expert on NFL contracts, so I’m looking to learn something here.

  • http://www.sportsagentblog.com Dominic Perilli

    Ryan,

    You and I are in the same boat regarding the level of expertise. It is really hard to gauge a player’s worth when they haven’t played a single down in the NFL but $3-$4 million sounds reasonable for a rookie. Donovan McNabb will make $7.46 million this year; JaMarcus Russell will make $3.7204 without the option bonus, with it he will make $23.6204 million! Keep in mind that an argument can be made that Russell’s option bonus is making him all of this dough for 2008.

    -Dominic

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