With Matthew Stafford set to make more money than Tom Brady in 2009, no reasonable person is going to tell you that the NFL's current rookie salary system isn't crazier than a bag of rabid gophers. It is that crazy, at least at the very top.
You know what, though? I'm not sure I want it to be fixed. And maybe that makes me crazier than a sock full of amped-up seahorses, but hear me out. I have my reasons.
First, if there's a problem, let's identify a victim. Who exactly is getting the shaft here?
Is it the owners? Here's a hint: No. It's never the owners who get screwed. That's what makes them owners. Put that handful of rookies aside for a second, and NFL have the sweetest deal in sports. Teams somehow have the right to cut players anytime they please, and are under no obligation to honor the full length of contracts. As long as teams have that right to shred a contract and players don't, I'll not be feeling sorry for the owners.
Is it the general mangers, then? The actual football people charged with building a football team? They'd have a hard time convincing me they were the victims when they're the ones giving out these contracts. If you don't want Matthew Stafford to have $41.7 million, here's an idea: Don't give Matthew Stafford $41.7 million.
The players, maybe? Finally, I feel like we're onto something. And when I say players, I mean veterans who have been around a while and have to constantly worry that their jobs are in danger because a team is not going to pay a rookie what a rookie currently demands and then not play him. I mean the veteran guys who get sent packing because rookies eat up so much of a team's salary cap.
So why wouldn't I want it fixed? Well, I would, but only on the condition that that money somehow gets re-funneled to the veteran players. And I'm not exactly sure how you'd do that.
If the money saved on rookie contracts is only going to help Jerry Jones purchase authentic gorilla-skin seat covers on his yacht, or help Dan Snyder recruit new members for the Coalition for Tree Destruction, then I'm not interested. The owners need and deserve no help. None of them are eating Ramen noodles tonight, you know? They're all doing fine, and they've already get the most one-sided contracts in sports.
So if we can fix it in a way that helps veteran players -- maybe with a dramatically raised salary floor, coupled with the limits on rookie salaries, or maybe with special salary cap dispensations for players of a certain age -- then go ahead and fix it.
But if it only gets fixed to help out the teams, then no thanks. Someone should be raking these NFL owners over the coals, and I'd rather it was rookies than nobody.