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NFL and NFLPA Unveil Their Rookie Salary Proposals

I haven't been updating the site with a ton of collective bargaining agreement stories. For one, I'm not really following it as closely as I should, as i've been focusing on draft stuff. Two, I don't think the lockout is going to impact the 2011 season, as far as time missed. I just can't see the league being dumb enough to screw something this good up. The NFL has always been an "11th hour" league. While something might not get done by the March 3rd "deadline", I think something will get done in enough time to ensure nothing drastic to the 2011 season.

Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post has some of the details on what he called "The Rookie Sacrifice."

Brandt has said quite often that rookies are going to be the "sacrifice" offered up in CBA negotiations. I think most will agree, instantly making a player who's proven nothing at the NFL level the biggest contract in team history is fruitless. As Brandt writes, the misnomer is "rookies make too much," when in actuality most rookies don't make a ton of money. The first twelve or so picks in the first round gobble up the vast majority of the big contracts and realistically after the 10th pick or so, the salaries tend to take a sharp nosedive.

Below are the outlined proposals for both the NFLPA and the NFL with Andrew Brandt's thoughts on each point, and I include his thoughts instead of mine because he's much more clued into the situation than I. I can give my opinion, but I feel more comfortable presenting you all with someones who's more informed than my own..


  • Maximum contract length of four years for players drafted in rounds 1-3; and three years for players drafted in rounds 4-7. This would allow players to hit their leverage points in free agency sooner. Current maximum lengths are up to six years for picks 1-16, up to five years for picks 17-32 and up to four years for all other rounds. Most teams, as I did with the Packers, negotiate five-year deals for first-round players and four-year deals for all others.
  • A Cap on incentives and escalators.This gives ownership cost certainty and protects against the "exploding escalators" found in so many contracts of high draft picks.  However, after the first round, most incentive and escalator packages are reasonable in the current system.
  • A setting of the 2011 Rookie Pool to the level of the 2009 Rookie Pool. This re-sets the rookie compensation system to the last year of the Salary Cap, 2009.
  • A savings in rookie compensation of $200 million, which would be funneled to three areas: veteran player compensation, rookie compensation for extraordinary performance, and increased pensions for pre-1993 retired players (the time where pension gains were made for players).
  • Injury guarantees, protecting players in the rare case of career-ending injuries. There are no skill guarantees (protecting players if released for skill reasons) in their proposal. This is a meaningful give on behalf of the union.

NFL - A true "wage scale" similar to the NBA system of no-negotiation.

  • Mandatory length of five years for players drafted in the first round; mandatory length of four years for all other draftees.  Unlike the present system, these lengths would be non-negotiable. The lengths would buy out a year of unrestricted free agency from first-round picks and a year of restricted free agency from other draftees. The NFLPA suggests these contract lengths will reduce the market value of 60% of all NFL players. However, as it currently stands in the NFL, the vast majority of drafted rookies are under contract for at least four years, so the change would not be drastic.
  • Pre-defined bonus and salaries depending on draft position. This is a major request and would eliminate the need for player agents to negotiate for players and also the workload of team contract negotiators and Cap managers. Naturally, agents are imploring the union to not allow for a no-negotiation process for rookies.
  • Incentive and escalators tied to All-Conference level of performance.  This requires, depending on position, true elevated performance beyond the current level in most contracts.
  • No renegotiations or extensions of the rookie contract until after three years of the contract. The present rule allows for renegotiations or extensions after two years of rookie contracts. This locks a player into his rookie deal no matter what performance in the first two seasons of his career.
  • Signing bonuses payable in prorated amounts and subject to annual forfeiture (recovery) by the teams.This is part of the NFL’s ongoing quest to retrieve bonus money for bad behavior and insubordination, something lost in the last CBA and recent arbitrations (Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress).
  • Minimum salaries for each year of the contract at levels below the current levels in 2010.
  • No guarantees of any kind – skill or injury -- in any rookie contract.

As one example, the last pick in the first round, under the NFL’s proposal, would make a non-negotiated $1.5 million bonus with minimum salaries on a five-year deal. His $300,000 in prorated bonus would be subject to forfeiture for violation of team policies or negative behavior.  The last pick in the first round in 2009, Evander Hood of the Steelers, received guarantees of $6.1 million,  a difference of $4.6 millionfrom the owners' present proposal.

And one last copy/paste job from Andrew Brandt to kind of give you a visual example:

Financial comparisons

Here are three examples, with the 9th, 19th and 41st picks in the Draft, comparing to the actual picks in the 2009 Draft (the 9th pick was BJ Raji of the Packers; the 19th pick, which I negotiated, wasJeremy Maclin with the Eagles; the 41st pick was Darius Butlerof the Patriots).  Amounts are in millions (M):

Pick           2009 contract               NFLPA proposal*           NFL Proposal**
9                22.5M/5 yrs                   18M/4 yrs                      8.6M/5 yrs
19              12.5M/5 yrs                   10M/4 yrs                      6.7M/5 yrs
41              4.325M/4 yrs                 4.3M/4 yrs                     4M/4 yrs

*Assumes 35% playtime in one year
**Assumes 40% playtime in two years

There is almost $10 million of difference (and one year) between the two proposals at the 9th pick in the first round. However, there is only $300,000 difference between the two proposals at the 9th pick in the second round. Thus, some reason for optimism, as the proposals become much more in line once past the first round.

I suggest you read the article in it's entirety. Brandt does an excellent job in breaking it all down and even offering a solution. I'll give him the traffic and force you to read the solution, but I just wanted to point out some of the big sticking points and differences on what I feel is the biggest hurdle in the current CBA negotiations.