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NFLPA Not Happy With NFL’s Rookie Wage Scale Proposal

A rookie wage scale has been a disputed item in current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA.  The NFL would like rookie contracts to be based on a wage scale based on the thought that rookies are vastly overpaid and are taking money away from established veterans.  To an extent, the NFLPA seems to be willing to work with the NFL on this matter.  The NFLPA has stated that it will back a proposal that decreases the maximum length of rookie contracts to 4-years in length for players selected in rounds 1-3, and 3-years for players selected in rounds 4-7.  The Association will also agree to put a cap on incentives and escalators in rookie contracts.  However, the NFLPA does not want a slotting system like the NBA employs.  Instead, the Association is promoting a system where rookie contracts are still negotiated on a case-by-case basis.  This would certainly help agents continue to justify their 1-3% off of the rookie contract.

NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith, recently sent a memo out to NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors commenting on the terms of the NFL’s counter-proposal.

Agents obviously are not thrilled with the first bullet point in Smith’s memo. No individual negotiations of contracts at all, would again make it very difficult for agents to justify taking any commissions on rookie deals.  Who is going to front the Combine/Pro Day training expenses then?

Smith emphasized that the wage scale would be 5 years for 1st rounders and 4 years for all other drafted players.  These are longer deals than what the NFLPA has proposed, and threatens to prevent many NFL players from ever hitting the free agent market.  Furthermore, minimum salaries would be reduced.  Smith frames this as implementing a veteran scale as opposed to a true rookie scale.

The memo does a good job at distinguishing the NFL’s proposal from the current NBA wage scale.  The NBA scale only applies to first round selections, is fully guaranteed for skill and injury, is still subject to some negotiation (80%-120% of the slot value), and only lasts three years.

Overall, I believe that the memo is extremely effective.  It is not too long or wordy and certainly gets the NFLPA’s point across to anyone who takes the minimal amount of time to read through it.  Job well done by Smith, but nobody truly “wins” until there is some true progress made by each side in coming closer to an agreement.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

One reply on “NFLPA Not Happy With NFL’s Rookie Wage Scale Proposal”

It will be interesting to see who “wins” this fight, owners or players. It seems like the owners have an uphill battle since they are trying to roll back gains the players already received in the last contract. I’m betting we go to an 18 game schedule (what owners want) but keep most everything else the same (what players want). There’s an informative article about this at

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