Contract Negotiation NFL Players NFL Teams

The Waiting Game: Ending Holdouts

Rookies. Veterans. Doesn’t really matter who you are anymore in the NFL, but if you are unhappy with your contract, chances are you are holding out. The holdout has become a normal occurrence in NFL training camps, and it hurts all parties involved. Training camps are used to build team chemistry, help get new personnel (players and coaches) acclimated into new systems, and help get your players back into game shape. When players who are unhappy with their contracts holdout, especially rookies, they fall behind the rest of the team in conditioning and playbook understanding, damage their relationships with the front office, coaches, and fellow players, and hinder the progress the team should be making in building confidence going into the preseason.

Although I understand the players’ demands and do not blame them for trying to get the money that they think they merit due to performance, $15,000 a day is a hefty price to pay to make a player’s voice be heard. There has to be a better way to deal with the problem of player compensation.

For Rookies

Institute a pay scale similar to the NBA’s system for incoming rookies. In this system, the salaries would be predetermined by the NFL and NFLPA. The first two years of the contract are guaranteed with a team option for the third and forth years, and it sets the price for a qualifying offer in the fifth year. I believe this is a fair system because usually after four years, a team can determine the development and the quality of the player it has drafted.

Adrian PetersonIn cases where players break on to the scene with a great rookie season and have proved they can perform consistently at a high level with another good season (like Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is poised to do), teams should add clauses to contracts where if certain performance levels are met, they will allow a contract renegotiation after the second or third year.

I believe that players who have not consistently proved that they can be top tier players should not receive top tier salaries like many rookies are demanding. Allowing teams to have an option on the third and forth years of the contract saves them from paying out huge, multiyear deals to first round players who bust. It also allows them to keep players who they believe are developing well on their teams. As I said earlier, I believe that the league should only allow contract re-negotiations in the first four years if a player meets performance clauses and proves he can consistently perform at a high level for multiple years that would warrant an extension.

For Veterans

I believe that every veteran player who has proved his worth to a team and shown he can be a productive contributor in the league should be rewarded in such a way. By instituting a pay scale for rookies, teams can make sure that they have enough cap space to compensate the players who have proved themselves, on and off the field, properly.

The same system should be used for veterans in the sense that teams should include clauses that after the first two years, and every year or two years after that depending on the length of the contract, if certain performance levels are met, the team will allow for a re-negotiation of the base/guaranteed salary and performance level incentives for the remainder of the contract, or a complete restructuring and extension of the contract. This again allows players who outperform expectations to re-negotiate their contracts for proper market value and protects teams from having to overpay for players who have not proven themselves worthy of premier contracts. Also for consideration could be a player option clause, where in the final few years of his deal, if a team wishes to pick up an option on a player, the player must also agree to the option or else he can become a restricted free agent.

I think a contract system like the one I described above could help end a lot of the training camp holdouts that we are seeing currently, especially on the rookie end. By getting these players off their couches and back onto the practice field, all parties involved benefit. I believe as agents, it’s our duty to make sure that we negotiate contracts that give our players flexibility and the ability to get what they are worth without having to damage their relationships with their teams by holding out.

Obviously there are always players whose values are difficult to gauge who might warrant a holdout, like the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester. Yet overall I think this system would help keep team owners happy by protecting them from overpaying players who have not earned the salaries they are expecting, and gives players who have truly earned an extension and increase in salary through performance their dues.

Am I missing something? Is there something like this already in place I’m not aware of? Please leave your thoughts and comments below, The Sports Agent Blog Community would love to hear what you have to say on the topic. Thanks!

5 replies on “The Waiting Game: Ending Holdouts”

You can make a good case for Steven Jackson deserving a renegotiated contract. The numbers don’t lie, just take a look at his stats.

Rank Among Running Backs (Based on Rushing Yards)
2004 – 32
2005 – 14
2006 – 5
2007 – 17

I don’t think that his demands for a contract extension are that unreasonable. He’s proved that he is capable of being an elite NFL running back and can perform at a consistent level that puts him in the top half overall of the starting running backs in the league, even when coming back from an injury.

Obviously, the Rams want him back on the field, making an offer to pay him $7 million yearly putting him only behind Larry Johnson, Clinton Portis, and LaDainian Tomlinson in salary. It is said he is looking for $20 million in guaranteed money. It seems like it basically comes down to this: the Rams are willing to pay him as a top running back, but Jackson wants to be paid as THE top running back, which he is not.

Yet, I don’t agree with his decision to hold out this long from practice. He raked up over $100,000 in fines. More importantly, he is missing valuable practice time considering STL is revamping their offense under new coordinator Al Saunders, who wants to make Jackson the centerpiece of the offense. He says that he is working out at home and staying in shape, but missing snaps when your team is implementing a new offense and losing chances to work on timing, routes, blocking assignments, and all the other little details can hamper your progress in picking up the offense and possibly slow your progress into the season.

This is where I think what I proposed would be effective. Jackson would have probably met the criteria set forth in a rookie contract to renegotiate his deal last offseason or at least by this one. Also, if he wasn’t happy with the money that St. Louis was offering him, then he could have the right to refuse their right to pick up the option for the 4th year, making him a Restricted Free Agent, either going to a team who is willing to pay him what he wants, or forcing to Rams to pay a market value to keep him.

Here is another interesting article on the situation that puts a little more perspective on it.

You bring up points many viable points/solutions that go to the heart of the amended 2006’s CBA’s opt-out. The rookie salary scale is an idea that has been thrown around a lot over since this past draft, and would appear to be a step in the right direction as an equitable alternative for the league as a whole.

However, the NFLPA acts in the best interests of the players, and in order for them to give, they’re going to have to get. With regards to rookies, instead of an actual salary scale, I think the NFL is going to simply lower the Rookie Pool Money allotted for rookies, which would in turn, lower their salaries. The Rookie Pool has been set, and it would not be prudent for the NFLPA to make sure that its rookies didn’t leave any money left on the table designated to them. If the NFLMC wants to push this, they are either going to have to allow a greater amount of guaranteed money or shorter initial contract lengths. As an agent, you want to strive to reach the end of your client’s contract as soon as you can, in order to have the opportunity to negotiate a new deal. While renegotiation clauses can be put into a player’s contract as you noted above, any rookie is allowed to renegotiate his initial player contract after his second season in the NFL, regardless if he signed a 5 or 6 year deal (whether the club allows it is a different story).

As far as veterans go (and possibly for rookies as well), it is obviously your duty as an agent to get your client the best contract possible (your thoughts of flexibility in a player’s contract is right on the money). Instead of trying to get renegotiation clauses in a contract, a much more simple and beneficial approach would be to sign a shorter contract for your client (the NFLPA would love to see their agents renegotiate as many contracts as possible for their players). This would allow for accelerated mandatory renegotiation, and if the player has enough accrued seasons under his belt, he can hit the open market and cash in on his hard work and success. Another route that may help out the clubs a little more is to add “Not Likely to Be Earned” incentives into the player’s contract. This is more risky for the agent and player, but would put the player’s ego in his ability to the test. These incentives do not count against the cap until the player actually earns them, and basically tells the player: “You think you’re worth it? Go out their and prove it.” While not the first option for a player to take, it may enter in lieu to some guaranteed money that the club is unwillingly to dish out.

It will be interesting to see what unfolds over the next year or two and many of these issues may become moot, depending on how much the salary cap gets renovated.

Comments are closed.