Players breaking bank thanks to new CBA, rookies

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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If you are an NFL player, immediately do the following:

Get on a plane, train or hop inside your Lexus. Head to Washington. Best possible speed. Go inside the offices of the National Football League Players Association. Brush by the secretary. Find DeMaurice Smith. Wheel him around in his chair and kiss him. On the cheek. Mouth. Ring. Whatever your comfort level. Just kiss him.

Because based on the massive monies average to good players are receiving in the early stages of free agency, players owe him a great deal because veteran NFL players are going to earn more cash than ever before.

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There is no other way to say this: players are making huge bank. An absolute killing and it will probably only get exponentially better as free agency continues.

"This is a good time to be a player or an agent in the NFL," said one high profile agent, "none of us should go hungry."

The agent estimated conservatively that free agent salaries might climb 40 percent this year over last. That sounds way too high for me but the way things are going who the hell knows.

Case in point: Santonio Holmes was re-signed by the Jets to a multi-year deal worth a total of $50 million. Now, he won't see all of that money since the entirety of NFL deals aren't guaranteed but almost half of that money -- about $24 million -- is in the form of a guaranteed signing bonus.

Holmes is a good receiver (not great) and part-time knucklehead but that's Jerry Rice money.

Matt Hasselbeck received a three-year deal worth $21 million. Will he see all of that money? No. But he might see a large chunk of it, and though I like Hasselbeck more than others in the media, even I don't think he's worth that kind of cash.

Other eye-opening deals reported Wednesday: the Panthers keep DeAngelo Williams with a five-year, $43-million deal that features $21 million in guaranteed money, and defensive tackle Barry Cofield and the Redskins agreeing to a 6-year, $36 million deal.

Those all come after Carolina's Charles Johnson -- again, good but not great -- signed a new deal to stay with the Panthers that included a $32 million signing bonus. This is just the beginning. Some of the salaries I'm hearing coming down the pike for other players will be just as jaw dropping.

What's happening here? It's simple. Some of the money that was supposed to go to rookies is now going where it should: to veterans. That was one of many brilliant moves by Smith in negotiating with the owners. You're going to see players who never made a Pro Bowl bringing in $10 to $12 million a year.

The average player will become a rich player, a good player will be a highly paid one and a great player will be mega-rich.

Football salaries will never be like baseball or basketball -- never, that is, until the NFL players fight for guaranteed contracts -- but the league is creeping in that direction.

The salary cap will increase over the course of the new collective bargaining agreement. Revenues will increase which means salaries will rise. This will only get better for players especially since owners in the near future are mandated to spend all of their cap money.

This is the best time to be an NFL player. More safety. More health benefits. More stability than ever before and perhaps most of all, mo' money.

So, players, go give Smith that kiss as soon as possible.

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