Former Oakland Raiders quarterback and No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft JaMarcus Russell is the new poster boy for the NFL's need to implement a rookie salary cap as soon as the 2011 NFL Draft.
Highly touted at LSU in 2007, Russell was a big physical specimen with a cannon of an arm who was highly productive—to the tune of a career quarterback rating of 147.9 in college.
After getting picked No. 1 overall by the Raiders, they rewarded their new franchise quarterback with a six-year, $68 million contract, with $31.5 million of that guaranteed.
Sadly, after three years in the NFL, Russell was cut by the Raiders after leading them to a 7-18 record while under center—not the type of career start a young and promising arm should have.
The NFL needs to stick posters of Russell up all over their offices as a reminder that a rookie salary cap is needed so the "bust" label can be lessened due to smaller amounts of money being invested into these young players who may or may not succeed at the NFL level.
Russell is being heralded as the worst bust in NFL history by many at the moment, even more so than Ryan Leaf, who has held that infamous title since he was drafted in 1998.
The easiest solution is to look at the NBA and their rookie salary cap setup.
By comparison, both NBA and NFL rookies get a similar base pay structure, but the killer is all the guaranteed money and/or signing bonus money that is paid out almost immediately upon a rookie signing his new deal in the NFL.
In the NBA, a rookie is guaranteed his salary for the first two years of a minimum three-year contract. After those first two seasons, the third year is a team option where the player can be given another year, or the team can drop the player and cut him off their roster without any penalty to his salary cap.
Also, if the option is picked up for the third year, the team can then option the player for a fourth year too, but an approximate 25 percent increase is added to what the player's third-year salary pay was.
This allows a team to keep a young, promising player for a fourth season and give him extra cash for a job well done in his first three seasons of play at the professional level.
All this method does is prevent the possible "bust" label due to a high amount of guaranteed money and encourage a rookie to hustle and develop himself into a better player so when year five rolls around (or possibly sooner depending on the player and team), it will be time for a big payday contract.
NFL officials need to look closely at this method or something similar, because it not only saves teams a ton of money on young and untested players, but also allows extra money for veterans to get a bump-up in pay since they are more likely to deserve it than a rookie.
Veterans are more important to the character and culture of a team, both on the field and in the locker room, and they need to be rewarded for their dedication and hard work more than the young fellas.
Is the NFL listening?
Let's hope so.
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