Why the NFL Needs a Rookie Pay Scale

Timothy DudekContributor IMarch 19, 2009

Many teams see the NFL draft as a double-edged sword. Pick the right player, and this very well could be the last remaining piece to a puzzle that has your team playing deep into January.

At the same time, by picking the wrong player your team is held at gunpoint with dreams from fans of what could have been. The ramifications of choosing the wrong player can be seen for years.

The salaries that some of these players receive today without ever playing a single game are becoming absurd. Look at last year alone. Jake Long was the first pick of the draft and instantly became the most expensive left tackle in the league. Teams are dropping million dollar guarantees on young, unproven players that are coming out of college.

The NFL needs to set a rookie pay scale of some sort, like in the NBA. What do the owners and GMs talk about at the meetings during the offseason that this has never happened? You can't tell me that the NFLPA is against this. The NFLPA is all for its players getting more money, but they also know that there is a salary cap and veterans' salaries are contingent on how much money is available.

The older players who are team representatives can't be happy that they have been in the league for 5-10 years and a 21-year-old who has no playing experience comes in and makes more than them. The NBA has it right with rookie pay scales for draft picks. If you're not a proven player, you don’t get paid better than people who have.

There should be a draft pay scale similar to that of the NBA where contracts for the most part are set for the players that are drafted. These contracts should be two-year contracts with a team option for a third. This giving teams the ability to hold on to there talent for three years and be able to dump them off the books if they do not perform as they thought they would.

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A problem that would arise with rookie pay scales are teams might not be able to retain players after they become eligible for free agency. This is easier to solve then you may think, by something along the lines of giving teams another franchise tag or a right to match any offer that a player receives during his first free agency opportunity.  

This would also open the league up to more trade activity. (I am not the only one who thinks that the NFL has way too early of a trade deadline, but that’s another story altogether.)

By instituting a rookie pay scale, No. 1 overall picks would once again be a coveted pick in the NFL. Teams would not have holdouts for rookies that need to get into camp so that they can catch up to the NFL speed of things.

Also, a rookie pay scale would lead a few players away from off-field shenanigans. Many young NFL players say that they feel invincible to the law because of the amount of money that they just received at a young age. Players would have less off-field problems on account of teams are not as invested in a player that they can cut a lot easier because the salary cap hit wouldn’t be by as much.

Will the NFL ever make a rookie pay scale? I hope so, but the answer is it's very unlikely. A pay scale just makes sense. No player should ever walk into his first day of a job an be the highest paid person there. Pay raises are a reward for doing a job well for long period of time.


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