The NFL's Lunacy of Rookie Contracts
Matthew Stafford will get nearly $42 million, no matter what he does in the NFL. To compare, during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best overall players in the game today, will make a total of around $32 million. Let's break that down:
An established player who is young and perhaps the best at his position in the game, makes $32 million over two years.
A rookie has $42 million guaranteed, before you even get into the yearly salary.
There is an abundance of stupidity in the last few sentences I've written.
Given the fact that quarterbacks drafted in the first round are often a crapshoot (Akili Smith, anyone?), teams being forced to commit this much money and hoping they turn out to be decent is absurd. There is a salary cap in the NFL already, and it's time there is a new cap on contracts of players selected in the NFL Draft.
A cap fixes so many problems. First, many teams have come to dread the notion of having the first overall pick. Teams have recently looked to trade the pick, but as was the case with the Detroit Lions in April, no one even considered trading up.
While part of the reason is that there was no "sure thing" in this draft class, it is largely due to the fact that teams do not want to get sucked into throwing contracts fit for perennial Pro-Bowlers at kids young enough they are still halfway excited about being able to get a beer at a bar.
Secondly, a cap can prevent a team from investing so much in an unproven commodity and risking their near future. All the busts set teams back, creating more teams that teams can circle as a win three months before they even play.
With this risk gone, there can be more parody in the league, which any objective person will conclude is a good thing.
The third potential benefit is really just conjecture on my part, but I am confident this does happen. What has to be going on in the head of a college aged kid who is handed an eight figure amount of money no matter what happens.
These athletes often have been working towards the dream of being in the NFL, perhaps coming from low income backgrounds.
With their dreams realized and crazy amounts of money falling in their laps, I'd bet some of these guys simply lose some of their drive and motivation.
How motivated would you be to work if someone signed you to a contract where you got $42 million, no matter what you did?
A cap may not eliminate this problem, but it certainly would help curb it.
I would propose that the NFL place a cap on contracts for players taken in the NFL Draft so that they cannot contain more than $5 million in guarantees, and that they may not exceed $6 million a year. I would not limit the length of the contract.
My reasoning is this: Firstly, this rule would only have an effect on 10 draftees, maybe less. With a cap at this level, players would still be motivated to work in high school and college, but those players would keep that motivation in hopes of a mega-lucrative deal later on.
A limit like this would not place so much risk on franchises already struggling (hence the high draft pick to begin with). Teams could get that potential star, and draw fans back to see a "rebuilt" team without having to jack up ticket prices to cover the huge contract.
The NFL Draft and the current methods of paying out rookie contracts to draft picks is sort of like the stock market. While there are many safe and smart picks (late first round picks and their contracts), some are simply like Bank of America, demanding more capital (money), when you have no idea if that investment will make you rich or make you go bankrupt.
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