What If: NFL Player Salaries Were Strictly Performance-Based

Kenny CruteCorrespondent IJune 2, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 26:  Members of the 1968 Jets touch the Lombardi Trophy during halftime festivities celebrating the 40th anniversary of the team's win over the Colts in Super Bowl III during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets on October 26, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jarrett Baker/Getty Images)

The pending talks between the NFLPA and owners has everyone who loves professional football concerned. It should, as the two sides appear to be far apart on even the smallest issues.

The major concern, money, made me think of possible solutions to give to those who sit at the bargaining table. One key point to this idea; make player's salaries and incentives performance-based.

The first step in this process would be to have an independent council, preferably arbitration folks, set benchmarks for base salaries. These baseline numbers should reflect minimums for position, and years in the league. Once the minimums are established, the council should then set performance bonus standards by position.

Some examples could be the number of games started, number of games played in, or the number of plays participated in during a game. Some advanced benchmarks could be completion percentages, catches, rushing yards, touchdowns scored, etc.

Each year, a player's base salary would be guaranteed, with four years the maximum amount of time be signed with a team. The owners would have the flexibility to lock up key players for up to four years, while players would retain the ability to earn as much as they could, based on their performance.

The base salaries would be paid out during the course of the season, with the performance bonuses to be paid after the season.

What would having a performance-based system do for the league?

First, it would eliminate the need for a salary cap. It would also eliminate the need to continue to raise ticket prices for owners. It would provide true transparency between the two sides. Players and agents could no longer "hold-up" a team for more money, and teams could not over-charge for tickets or amenities.

Rookies entering the league would be paid on their performance and not their potential. The true benefit would be for the fans. We all know how well players tend to play during a "contract year". In a performance-based system, players would play that way every year.

I know I have over-simplified things a bit here, but working a system like this could be done. It is also not unreasonable to think that a system like this would be fair to all. How many of us get the chance to tell our employers that we want more money, or we won't come back to work?

How many jobs do you know of that will pay you even if you stink to the high heavens? While we're at it, we should make the owners share in this as well. If a franchise performs poorly, it should affect their share of television revenue as well.

This may not be the ultimate answer in what is shaping up to be a bitter fight between labor and ownership, but it could be a start. Imagine, players competing every Sunday for wins, the love of the game, and for money. Sounds like fun.