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49ers Crabtree Has Team Feeling Crabby

Jason CriggerContributor IAugust 7, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with with San Francisco 49ers #10 draft pick Michael Crabtree at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

It's one of my favorite lines from any movie:

"Why make trillions when we can make billions?"

Now while Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame didn't quite get the monetary denomination right, he showed that greed can sometimes get the best of us.

And just when you thought the Michael Crabtree holdout couldn't get any worse, it did.

According to an ESPN.com report, the former Texas Tech standout's adviser and cousin David Wells said Crabtree was preparing to sit out the entire '09 season if a deal could not be worked out.

Wells said even though Crabtree was drafted 10th overall by the San Francisco 49ers, he felt his client should be signed to a contract worth "market-value".

This scenario seems to come up every year as NFL mini camps get underway in late July, and while many aren't nearly as bizarre as Crabtree's, it has many calling for a change in the way NFL rookie contracts are handled.

For instance, '09 number one overall draft pick Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions signed his first contract to the tune of $41.7 million in guaranteed money; all of this without even playing a down in the NFL.

To put that in comparison, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, entering his sixth year not to mention a Super Bowl MVP under his belt, just signed a contract Thursday worth $35 million in guarantees.

Why is it that rookies are making more money than All-Pros and Super Bowl MVPs?

It would be easy to blame the players, but can you really place blame on someone when they are fresh out of college and they are getting substantial amounts of money thrown at them?

Not to mention, NFL contracts are as guaranteed as the local weatherman's forecast. Owners and general managers can, at anytime, terminate a player's contract—albeit with a cap hit—without having to pay anything other than the guaranteed money the player is owed. Whether it be to poor performance, or a career ending injury, today's NFL player can be disposed with the blink of an eye.

It's obvious the current rookie structure doesn't make sense, but fortunately help could be along the way as the current collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to end in 2011.

That will be the time for the NFLPA and owners to work an format similar to what the NBA has when it comes to rookie contracts.

Currently, the NBA's rookie contract structure calls for the player to receive a two-year contract with team options for the third and fourth seasons.  

In '05, NBA number one overall pick Andrew Bogut earned $3.6 million in his first year; a pedestrian amount in comparison to Stafford's deal.

By establishing a rookie scale like the NBA's, it would put less pressure on new NFL players from having to play immediately like a Hall of Famer.

It would also lessen the cap hit a team would have to take in case their top picks prove out to be busts.

All in all, it's time for players to have to go back to a system where they earned their paycheck for their performances in cities like New York and Dallas, not Athens or Lubbock.

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