April 30, 2008
Rookies in the NFL make too much money. As a player I should
be excited for anyone making a big contract. Good for them, right? For the top
20 draft picks it sounds great to sign a larger contract than guys that have
played in the league for 10 years -- larger contracts than
players that have been in the Pro Bowl at the same position. What's more is
they don't have to lace up a cleat in the NFL and they are already getting
guaranteed bonuses of $15, $20, even $30 million. Right, Rosenhaus?
It's amazing that in such a lucrative business the owners are willing to pay so much for potential. The average guaranteed bonus of the first 32 picks of 2007 was $10.86 million. Of course, some of the players getting paid are going to become great football players, but what becomes the biggest concern year in and year out is how many players really do become great, and how soon.
"It's crazy to guarantee money to people who have never played a down in the NFL," says Todd Yoder (pictured), my teammate and eight-year veteran. "That's the way the system has gotten. If someone has potential to become an elite player you're gonna get more in the first contract than the average Joe Schmoe makes in his entire career."
Potential is where this all begins. Can someone jump a 40-inch vertical, or how many times can they push a bench press? A 4.4 40 can elevate the draft status of someone maybe in the second or third round straight to the top 20 picks. But can it translate to millions of dollars of value on the field?
The NFL Combine is comparable to a strip club with owners and coaches for customers. The better the man looks running around in his spandex the more dollar bills end up on his stage. The funny thing is the onlookers at the combine are probably more excited than the creepy old man in the corner at the strip bar.
I mean, can anyone honestly explain how Vernon Davis adds more value to a football team than Jeremy Shockey or Antonio Gates? His contract certainly says that he does, because he is averaging more money than both of them every year. If Davis can continue becoming a better football player then it might be agreed that he was worth the money.
In Jason Witten's second year he caught 87 balls for 980 yards. Davis caught 52 balls for 509 yards. Both are good stats for a tight end, but Davis is currently making $500,000 more a year than Witten. Even better, Davis made close to $4 million more in his second year than Witten did. A player making that kind of money should be a Pro Bowl-type player.
I fell in the same boat as Witten with my rookie contract -- $600,000 signing bonus and the league minimum for three years. It took me those three years to establish myself as a solid football player in the NFL. Not until then did I receive a large contract -- six years, $30 million. So when someone can jump into the league and earn more than that without playing a single down, it’s hard to stomach.
The point here is that if a rookie in any other profession could step on the scene and make more than someone with a proven track record, the business would turn upside down. Imagine a first year staff accountant making more money than a senior partner simply because his 10 key skills were top in his class. This is basically what's happening in the NFL. Players are making money simply based on the number they were taken. Something with this system needs to change.
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