Enough Already: The NFL and a Rookie Pay Scale

Jon D.Contributor IOctober 25, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 11:  Michael Crabtree, the San Francisco 49ers first round draft pick, watches the 49ers game against the Atlanta Falcons on the sidelines at Candlestick Park on October 11, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

This Sunday afternoon, Michael Crabtree will take the field with the 49ers at Reliant Stadium in Houston and make his long awaited rookie debut. 

While highly regarded rookies tend to have a lot of attention on them as they go into their first games as professionals, Crabtree is receiving quite a bit more fanfare.

Unlike the rest of his first round brethren, Crabtree is making his debut in Week Seven of the NFL season, after a long and highly publicized contract holdout. Rookie contact holdouts are nothing new these days and it is unlikely that they will end anytime soon unless the NFL does something about the way its rookies get paid.

Rookie contract holdouts are harmful to both the players holding out as well as the team that drafted them. Players lose practice time and the respect of their peers and the fans.

The teams are in an even tougher situation, because they often have to succumb to the rookie’s demands because they do not want to have wasted an important draft pick.  Every time an NFL rookie holds out it brings about the question, isn’t it about time the NFL adopted a rookie pay scale, a la the NBA?

It is time the NFL took a look at their friends over in the NBA. The NBA has established a salary scale for first round draft picks, so that no matter where a player is selected, there is an assigned salary to that slot.

Ever noticed how there are never any NBA rookie holdout stories in the news? It’s because of this set scale. NBA rookie players are signed, sealed, and delivered soon after the draft is over. On the other hand, NFL rookies have taken contract holdouts well into the season. The NBA clearly knows what they’re doing and it’s time for the NFL to wise up.

Enough is enough when it comes to these ridiculous rookie salaries. Players are getting more and more money every year and it’s unlikely to stop unless the NFL puts its foot down. 

With players signing contracts that give them salaries of $20-$30 million before even playing a snap in the NFL, it's time to reconsider the way things are done. The NFL needs to develop a pay scale for rookies coming into the league. Give them a set salary for the first few years, and if they are deserving enough, then let them sign that monster extension. 

The way the NFL rewards its rookies before they prove themselves is absurd. Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft, signed a contract worth $78 million over six years, with $41.7 million guaranteed. By comparison, Blake Griffin, the top pick in this summer's NBA draft, signed a rookie contract for just over $16 million over a three-year span. 

The difference between those two contracts is huge, but you did not hear about Blake Griffin wanting more money. He already knew what he was going to get.

So the answer is clear. Excuse me NFL, it’s your league; if there is a problem, you need to address it. Stop turning a blind eye to an issue that clearly needs resolving and put a rookie pay scale in place.