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.
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.
In 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.
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!