Matt Ryan's Deal Raising Red Flags Regarding Rookie Salaries?

Eddie GriffinSenior Analyst IJune 2, 2008

This news isn’t new, but it fell on the back burner with college football previews taking most of my attention. Matt Ryan has signed a six-year, $72 million deal (with $34.75 million guaranteed) with the Falcons, the biggest step yet for the franchise that is looking to get past the Michael Vick era.

But am I the only one raising an eyebrow about the deal? I know when you’re dealing with the No. 3 pick, the first-QB taken in the draft, and a client of Tom Condon (who also represents No. 1 pick Jake Long, Peyton and Eli Manning, and several other No. 1 or first-round picks, including Brady Quinn), you’re going to be paying some serious bucks. But to make him one of the league’s highest-paid players right out of the gate? That makes me scratch my head just a little.

This isn’t to say that someday soon, Ryan could warrant every penny of that contract, because he just might. But for a franchise that’s coming off of all of the drama that surrounded their former star-QB, it’s a hefty investment, especially considering the one they made in Vick not all that long ago, one that they no doubt have a great deal of regret about right now, unless prison has turned him into an accurate passer.

Ryan likely won’t get in any off-field trouble, but he could be a bust. Then again, Glenn Dorsey could be as well.

It does show that Atlanta has a lot of confidence in their new QB, because you don’t just throw around that kind of money, right? RIGHT?

More than anything though, it makes you wonder if there should be a cap placed on rookie salaries. It also opens up another can of worms in relation to agents and the impact that they have on salary inflation, but whatever way you shake it, $34.75 million is a lot to give a guy when he hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL. To make him the league’s third-highest paid player is like giving CEO-level money to an entry-level worker.

The NBA has a nice system in place that limits a team’s initial investment over the first few seasons. If the player blows up and becomes a star, he’ll get a big money after that first contract. If he ends up in the developmental league or in Europe, minimal harm is done, outside of all of the losses from the unsold jerseys.

Now, the elite of the elite, like LeBron James, get millions from endorsement deals (Ryan signed one with Nike, who used to have Vick on their payroll) as well, so it’s not like they’re living on scraps. However, limiting what they’re given right off of the bat is one way to help them learn how to manage their money, and not just because it allows them to hire a damn good accountant.

Maybe it’s the physical toll that the game takes that merits such high salaries right off the bat, but there’s a difference between high and exorbitant. I’m not just talking about Ryan, but about all of the other rookies that go from Ramen to riches in a flash. It’s almost like saying, “Okay, we paid you, now go earn it,” and not the other way around.

Which one is it for the Falcons and all of the other teams paying big bucks to their potential new stars? Ask me again in three or four years.