Blog Entry

The rookie wage scale issue

Posted on: February 12, 2011 11:04 pm

Posted by Andy Benoit

The rookie wage scale is one of the hot issues in the current Collective Bargaining negotiations. All commonsensical observers agree that it’s ridiculous for unproven rookies to warrant gargantuan contracts (the JaMarcus Russell era confirmed this once and for all). The question is what to do about it.

As Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal points out, a concern the NFLPA has about the league’s proposed rookie wage scale is that if the scale applies to fourth and fifth-year players, middle-of-career veterans could get forced out of the league on the basis of being too expensive (why hire a vet when you can get a rookie for cheap).

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has a brilliant idea (so brilliant that it warrants its own post):

We propose two-year contracts for all draft picks.  After two years, the players become exclusive-rights free agents, which is essentially what they are upon being drafted.

Then, after completing the initial two-year contract, the player can threaten to withhold services as leverage for getting the best possible deal, which is precisely the leverage that unsigned draft picks possess.  Or he can sign a one-year tender that would be based on playing time and possibly other factors, such as Pro Bowls and other achievements and awards.  Or the two sides can come together and agree to a long-term deal based not only on potential but also on two years of performance.

If a player not picked in the top 10 plays at a high level, like Titans running back Chris Johnson did during his first two years in the NFL, he can cash in like he would have done if he’d been a top pick.  If a player picked in the top 10 becomes a bust, like Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the team can give him a one-year tender offer based on the factors that will reflect his substandard performance, or the team can let him walk away.

After the third year, the player would be subject to the rules of restricted free agency, like every current third-year player whose contract has expired.  After four years, the player would be an unrestricted free agent, assuming that the next labor deal maintains a four-year path to unrestricted free agency.

This idea would appease the teams while also yielding the same key rights to players: a crack at unrestricted free agency after four years.

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Category: NFL

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 10, 2012 4:03 am

The rookie wage scale issue

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 8, 2011 10:20 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: February 13, 2011 11:16 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

I don't usually reply to others' comments, but, sorry gforce88, yours made no sense.  What does Ted Thompson have to do with fielding a team of nothing but rookies?

Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: February 13, 2011 7:16 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Yell don't we all agree something needs to be done on both side to end this? as a union member i am all for a guy getting all he can, ( 1st,2nd) but on the what about the guy who starts off slow( 6th 7th) and now playing playing like a #1 he gets low balled his whole career or good portion,while a bust (ryan leaf)sucks up money he didn't earn 

Since: Jan 10, 2007
Posted on: February 13, 2011 7:11 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

oh im sorry that i dont have a myopic view of the problem and didnt only addressed the rookie wage scale.  The fact I was trying to bring up is that there are problems with the way they compensate all players in the league.
In regards to players not proving things at the NCAA level and therefore you cant appropriately factor their compensation is bs.  First off if this was true, then a scale wouldnt make sense either.  There is a value that each player has to each team.  Just cause someone is drafted in the top ten doesnt mean they will perform like that their rookie year or in subsequent years.  A player could play well for two years and then just become terrible and not worth his new contract.
Also, I believe that there needs to be a developmental league similar to baseball.  Where most of the talented players are drafted at 18, can earn money and still hone their skills.  Even though players ultimately make the choice whether to play or not, they really dont have an alternative to the NCAA.  And the compensation there is far less than what they would earn if there was a d-league.  I think this is true in all sports as the NCAA uses young athelete to fill thier coffers with little concern to their longterm health or financial well being.  Thankfully some realize that despite all the sacrifices they have to make to play sports, education is the primary reason these kids are in school.

Since: Oct 3, 2007
Posted on: February 13, 2011 6:06 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

 why don't those teams simply cut every veteran on the roster and sign a roster full of rookie low-round picks and undrafted free agents?  Give me a break.

Ever heard of the GM Ted Thompson?

Since: Dec 15, 2010
Posted on: February 13, 2011 5:05 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Why not have a fixed non negotiable rookie salary scale e.g. (numbers used for illustration purposes only): number 1 pick gets $10m, number 2 pick gets $9.8m, number 3 pick gets $9.5m.......all the way down to undrafted free agents who may get $250K. Likewise, the years will be fixed e.g. 1st & 2nd round; 6 years, 3rd round 5 years.....all the way down to undrafted free agents 2 years.
Then each year the rookie salary scale is adjusted accordingly using some indicator e.g. revenues, vetern salary increase %, etc.
No more holdouts, each rookie will know what his contract is going to be depending upon where he is drafted.

Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: February 13, 2011 4:43 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Two question to Florio's idea, what happens when a draftee sits behind a vetern and doesn't play for the 1st 2 years, then how will the parties come to an agreement? Or what if a player is like Notre Dame QB Rick Mirer, i.e had a good 1st and 2nd years and then became a bust?

Since: Aug 28, 2007
Posted on: February 13, 2011 4:04 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Wow.  I can't believe I agree with something that came from Florio. 

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: February 13, 2011 3:35 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

I think that if the NFL and the players union would attempt to limit the amount that a rookie would make would be challenged vigorously  through the court system. Our court system is primarily based on precedence, the rookies are currently demanding high salaries and getting them with no complaints from the owners.

If this case was to go to court the NFL owners would be in a position of explaining what had changed. Nothing has changed except the owners have decided they no longer want pay the high salaries to rookies.

Who would then get these high salaries currently being paid these first year players. Please do not say the veterans. Except in a few of the skill positions the veterans would mostly be told we are letting you go at the end of your contract. The owners would now have the ability to pay the one and two year  line player at a much lower salary as oppose to what a veteran lineman of 4 years might want.   

Most posters have indicated the average lifetime of a NFL player is less than 4 years, so why pay a veteran lineman or special team player a huge salary, when they have a 2-3 year player on the bench at a rookie salary and can not request a renegotiation of his contract for another year or two.

At present a rookie earns what ever the market for his services would bear. Now through a voice vote or contract the NFL would like to restrict the ability of this rookie’s earning power.

I could even see the sport agents in collusion with each other and tell their clients to sit out the season for the NFL’s failure to pay the rookies as they have been paid over the past years.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or