NFL: Rookie Salary Cap is Long Overdue

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NFL: Rookie Salary Cap is Long Overdue

Orlando Pace has seven Pro Bowl selections and six All-Pro selections. Walter Jones has eight Pro Bowl selections and seven All-Pro selections. Chris Samuels has five Pro Bowl selections. 

They are among the elite players at their position. The highest paid tackle in the NFL?

Jake Long, who has yet to play a down in an NFL game.

Who did Long overtake as the highest paid tackle in the NFL? Pace, Jones or Samuels?  Nope.

Joe Thomas.

Thomas made the Pro Bowl in his first year, but only after replacing Buffalo’s Jason Peters. When Thomas signed his deal following the 2007 NFL draft, he was the highest paid tackle in the NFL.

If irony existed in the NFL, its name would be Jason Peters.

Peters, the player Thomas replaced in last year’s Pro Bowl, was an undrafted free agent.  He became a starter in 2005 after beating out former first-round pick Mike Williams, who was last seen on the Jaguars’ injured reserve list in 2006.

What do Long, Thomas, and Williams have in common? They all got paid a ton of money before doing anything in the NFL. Thomas seems to have worked out, but Williams was a bust. 

Which will Long be?

NFLPA head honcho Gene Upshaw is opposed to a rookie salary cap of any kind.

In his weekly “100 Words” column at the NFLPA, his April 28th address is pretty clear shot across the bow of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for having the nerve to even discuss such a thing during this year’s draft.

As it stands now, the NFL pays based on projected talent, not actual production. Try applying this system of compensation to any other industry, and the ridiculousness is evident. 

Imagine a lawyer, fresh out of college, being paid more than the senior partners of a law firm, or a first-year teacher being better compensated than a tenured professor. You can’t because it doesn’t happen. Outside the NFL, even in other major professional sports like the NBA or NHL, it doesn’t happen.

Upshaw cites the short career length of the average NFL player for keeping the existing system, but the logic fails when extended beyond the first round. As more and more guaranteed money gets allocated to the Cedric Benson’s of the NFL, the Marion Barber’s must produce far above their draft position to get their fair share.

With Upshaw’s tenure coming to an end soon, maybe the next union leader will recognize the insanity of eating up valuable cap space on untested boom-or-bust rookies over established veterans. Perhaps even the rank and file of the NFLPA will take a principled stand and establish a slotted compensation system.

That rank and file would be Jason Peters, Marion Barber and others like them, whose contracts are at the mercy of the likes of Mike Williams and Cedric Benson.

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