Madden: Players, owners "have to" fix rookie pay scale

Whether it’s Sam Bradford or Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, the first pick in next month’s NFL draft will instantly become one of the highest-paid players in the NFL, with a contract guaranteeing him close to $40 million.

John Madden says that’s out of whack and needs to be fixed.

“Everyone feels that needs to be corrected,” says Madden, the Hall of Fame coach and former broadcaster, in a wide-ranging interview with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “It just got slanted the wrong way, and I think they have to bring it back. This is the bigger question: If you take it away for the rookies, then who do you give it to? Do you give it to the owners where they make more money? Do you give it to the veteran players who are deep in their career? Do you give it to the retired players? Maybe you give it to the fans — think they’ll get any?”

Madden, who has the ear of Roger Goodell in his role as “Special Advisor to the Commissioner,” is certainly correct that a system that gives unproven Top 10 draft picks more money than almost any veteran makes is in serious need of being fixed. I’d like to think that re-slicing the pie so that veterans get a larger share and rookies have to prove themselves before getting that share would be something the owners and the players’ union can agree on.

Ultimately, Madden says, finding areas where the owners and players can agree is vitally important.

“The game is so good right now, and any place where it’s not real good we are working to make it better,” Madden said. “I just hope they don’t screw it up.”

57 responses to “Madden: Players, owners "have to" fix rookie pay scale

  1. wouldnt giving more money to the “veterans” end in more “veterans” being cut to save cap room? I guess that would free up money to pick and choose who you give the rediculously inflated extensions to after you see them play for a year or two but I don’t see where it will solve the problem of lazy asses like Russell…will just prolong them from becoming lazy asses for a year or two…you can’t change the mental makeup of someone…they either have heart or they dont

  2. He’s right. They are fighting over OUR money and all we’ll get out of it is higher ticket prices.

  3. Give it back to the fans via lower ticket prices/ parking prices/ refreshment prices etc… It would do alot toward filling stadiums every Sunday once again. Every year prices get higher and these days it’s a significant invesment just to take the family to 1 game let alone a whole seasons worth. I haven’t been to a game in a couple years now simply because I can pretty much take a vacation to Disney with the family for around the same amount of money as taking them to a game. The costs associated with going to a football game are certainly out of whack these days.

  4. I like how Madden says “we” are working to make it better, but that “they” might screw it up. My kind of guy.

  5. Assuming there will be a cap/floor again, it’s clear the money will go to veterans. If there is a rookie pay scale, then they should be free agents after 4 years. So, if they prove themselves, they can get the big second contract without waiting five or six years.

  6. Of course they need a rookie pay cap. The first overall pick is a hand cuff to a ridiculous undeserved contract. God forbid your team ends up drafting the next Jamarcus Russell.
    Start it at $100,000 and go down from their.

  7. Ultimately the NFL and the players union need to see some of that money go to improving the health and retirement benefits. Anyone can see what a black mark it is to see the NFL and the Union skirt this issue.

  8. most of the veteran players make too much anyway. cut ticket prices. definitely needs to be a rookie minimum salary.

  9. Yeah, what a concept. Give it to the fans.
    How about lowering all those outrageous prices?
    Fortunately future generations will have a much lower standard of living anyways, so all this nonsense will take care of itself and the average American won’t be able to afford this insanity.
    “Where’s my inheritance, Dad?”
    “Well Son, remember all those football games I took you to when you were young?”
    “Dad, can you pay my college tuition?”
    “Well Son, it cost the Browns a lot of money to draft Brady Quinn, so they had to raise ticket prices.”

  10. The draft should be illegal anyway, that way no one has to pay the #1 pick a certain slotted amount, you just offer the player you want a job and salary.
    There are a lot more guys like Chris Johnson or Brandon Marshall who have performed like a top 10 pick should but get back up or average starter money.
    To make it fair to both the rookies and vets, let players make what they are worth in year 2. As long as a “contract” can be torn up anytime like an ACL on fieldturf players should be paid what they are worth every year not what they had to sign as a rookie.
    If there is a draft, every player should be a restricted rookie free agent. the team that drafts them can pay them what another team would or get a future pick.

  11. Amen to that Brotha…
    The fact my team pays Matthew Stafford $26.9 million next season…
    Where Peyton Manning will make alittle over $21 million from the Colts isn’t fair…
    Rookies and Sophomores don’t derserve to be paid $5 mill more then Peyton Manning…
    I don’t care how the contract was written…

  12. I think they are on the right track with the idea mentioned.
    Maybe present a Rookie Salary Cap (keep it fairly low of like 1 Million), and only allow a certain amount the first year and then allow an increase the 2nd year of say 100%, and then a possible contract release based on performance by the 3rd year if certain performance levels are not met. Either way in the 3rd year they are “UnCapped” and can choose to stay with the team if the team does not cut them.
    That would give incentive to perform as a rookie and an out for teams so they don’t get stuck with a crap player for an outrageous amount… and in addition reward Veterans.

  13. Rookie Pool 2012:
    1/4 to 2012 rookies
    1/4 to vets
    1/4 to retired players – union matches
    1/4 to reduced ticket prices for fans

  14. People have been paying lip service to this idea when it’s been abundantly clear to anyone with at least one function neuron in their brain for years. I have a feeling it’s going to be a big bone of contention during the CBA negotiations, but I’d hope the vast amount of player would realize that it’s in their best interest as well to cap rookie pay, because unless they’re in the top 5 or so picks, they’re losing out on potential salary money.
    This is really a system that benefits such a few amount of people, the rookies who do get picked at the top of every draft, and the super agent that represents them. That this hasn’t been changed thus far is mind-boggling.

  15. florio help me out on this (i know he didn`t write the piece). there is no possible way if the protest is large enough via agents, rookies, people generally against a rookie cap….etc that you can do anything about it. the owners need to talk amongst themselves (colude) and find a proper scale. i am a lefty and pro-union but this is a big concern. its really hurting the game. esp for teams like the bills. march madness on a samsung 42 inch led hdtv, my wife and her sister looking like sluts, a huge pot of AUTHENTIC meat sauce bubbling on the stove and a new bottle of crown royal….its the simple things in life boys, the simple things.

  16. Lots of folks like to bag on Madden for his tendency to talk a lot and toward the end of his broadcasting career there were several times I thought, “This dude is a couple pancakes short of a stack”.
    That being said, I don’t think I have heard anyone mention “giving that money to the fans”.
    It’s funny, we (the fans) pay in all this money, which the league promptly hands out to undeserving rookies. When the time comes to fix all of this, the only person touting the fans’ interest is a washed up ex-coach/broadcaster that everyone was convinced had went senile.

  17. Yes, get rid of the draft. Rookies sign for max of , oh say, $10,000 a game check seems more than fair, with which ever team they choose. Just like when they pick a college.
    After their first season, they become restricted free agents that need to be tendered accordingly.
    Wouldn’t this be fair to players and teams alike?
    After all, there are only 200 plus guys picked in the draft. Twice that many sign as FA’s.

  18. I find it stunning that the vets haven’t made this a priority. Sure, some of them have benefited from the huge rookie payday, but most have not. It has to be emasculating, to some degree, seeing an unproven rookie make many times your salary out of the gate. And by the time you’re eligible to get that big pay day, you’re probably considered too old to get that big check.
    And there is NO WAY the owners are “giving” that money back to the fans.

  19. My stance on the rookie wage scale has to do with the fact that about 5 or 6 of the top draft picks make more then what the franchise tag is worth!

  20. Anyone who thinks the fans will see one penny of whatever might be saved on reduced rookie pay is smoking some superb stuff.
    The chances of the fans seeing any of this money is about equal to the probability of Charlie Manson being released on parole before he dies. 0%.
    The only way the fans will see reduced prices on anything is when stadiums are less than half full and Broadcast rights decline by 40-50%.
    The NFL isn’t in business to serve the fans.

  21. It took ’em this long to figure out that the rookie wage scale was “out of whack”…….doesn’t instill a lot of confidence does it.

  22. The problem with all these ideas is that the agents run the union and wont agree ot it. Start a scale where :
    Ist rounders get $1 million 1st year
    1.5 for 2nd and 2 millino for 3rd then become free agents.
    After 3rd year pay them or release them with the team that drafted getting right to match any offer and keep that player so everyone is happy. The player earned his raise and the drafting team doesnt HAVE to loose him by paying and do the same thing for round two and down at a lower scale. prove it before you get it like the rest of the working world. The still young veterans (4th year)who have proved their worth now have the most of the money ,not the rookies
    But again, the agents wouldn`t agree to this!

  23. top 32 picks = 4 year contracts
    2nd-7th round = 3 year contracts
    25% guaranteed
    1st pick 32 Million dollars
    2nd pick 31million
    3rd pick 30 million
    4th pick 29 million
    5th pick 28 million
    6th 27million
    7th 26 million
    8th 25 million
    9th 24 million
    10th 23million
    11th 22.5million
    12th 21 million
    13th 20.5million
    14th 20 million
    15th 19.5 million
    16th 19 million
    17th 18.5 million
    18th 18 million
    19th 17.5 million
    20th 17 million
    21st 16.5 million
    22nd 16 million
    23rd 15.5 million
    24th 15 million
    25th 14.5 million
    26th 14 million
    27th 13.5 million
    28th 13 million
    29 12.5 million
    30 12 million
    31 11.5 million
    32 11million
    After that adjust for 3 year deals and even smaller drop offs,My only worry would be you’d see more eli manning holdouts because its only matter of a few million.

  24. lower the ticket prices, that way we dont have to worry about every other team being re-located to los angeles or toronto or london

  25. Since owners won’t be paying all that money, they should drop ticket prices. They are outragiously over priced. Then you will have more people going to every game. The whole league will make more money just from that!!!

  26. Meh, who cares? (sarcasm alert) As long as they got that horrible and unjust OT rule fixed…

  27. Contracts in football are meaningless with the exception of that portion which is “guaranteed,” otherwise it is a year to year proposition with the owners holding all of the winning cards. The reason top draft choices are paid at the rate they are is because they are “stars” and in bringing them on to the team ownership is selling the illuision that the teams’ fortunes will improve and thus justifying rate hikes.
    However many people associated with football are indeed overpaid i.e. anaylsts, commentators, coaches etc.

  28. Brewster says:
    The NFL isn’t in business to serve the fans.
    …wow. I guess that about sums it up. Well put my man, amen.

  29. Everyone in the NFL is grossly overpaid. everyone, and none of them worth 1/4 of what thier paid. These are lazy, stupid, egotistical, intellectual dummies. You can kiss thier ass, wax thier ring. I know better than that. You can get on your knees and suck celebrity worship. Yea, you.

  30. I think firts year players get paid too much, i agree. But, if you put a wage scale in, then frankly you need to throw the draft out the window, you have to let high school graduates in without going to college, and a player should, like any other job, choose where he wants to work.
    You see, a rookie wage scale could put an end to the most organized (crime) system in the world.
    And when that happens, all those cry baby owners that wanted a salary cap, because they are hurting for money, will probably realize that a salary cap is illegal under American Labor Law as well. fans will keep getting screwed, players paid big, and owners keep becoming richer and still cry poverty.

  31. If you dont like the ticket prices its easy stay home.
    I go to every game and never see half empty stadium seats are full fans are drinking and eating and enjoying.
    Even the third rate jets sell out
    If the fans can not support the team or the team does not want to build what is needed to support the team then the team should move or be sold

  32. What you got here (Circle) Is some Rookies….and over here (Circle) Is a payscale. Now, if you run a route (Line connecting the two circles) to this scale, you got yourself a rookie payscale……….Two Hours later……so then the first round pick will……

  33. “The reason top draft choices are paid at the rate they are is because they are “stars” and in bringing them on to the team ownership is selling the illuision that the teams’ fortunes will improve”
    Very good point. The combination of the hype associated with top picks, along with the problems the franchise can have by failing to sign their picks (not only losing the pick but potentially having trouble with player agents in subsequent negotiations, fan displeasure etc.) has created this unsustainable system. I don’t think current players would have much of a problem with a rookie scale of some sort, but their agents would. While I think the union might provide some give here, I’m not sure the owners would do the right thing, and not try to use it as a wedge between NFLPA and the players.

  34. Let Obama and Pelosi handle it. All the players would make the same salary and the extra money would go to the league to administer programs that will make everything better.

  35. When the best player in the draft doesn’t stand a prayer of going first because the money at that pcik is out of whack for their position something is terribly wrong. Rookies should be given low base rates of pay with reachable incentives to be paid as a bonus after the season. A seventh round rick that rushes for 1000 yards needs to get paid now based on production because the life of an RB is short. 1st round picks get a premium because they are under more pressure to perform and top 10 picks get a little more. Something like this would work.
    All picks get $250,000
    First rounders get another $250,000
    Top ten picks a bonus from $100,000 up to another $500,000 for first pick.
    This money is guarunteed for all picks for the first three seasons.
    Next comes bonuses for participation in OTA’s and training camp. So far you shouldn’t see anyone on a contract that pays more than $2million.
    Finally after the season players should get paid a balance based on playing time and performance. This is where the big numbers should be. A rookie RB who rushes for 1500 yards and 18 TDs should be paid at least another $5mill for that season. A QB who agrees to be sat in order to learn should be paid something extra for putting the tean first.
    Teams should be forced to keep a portion of the cap space free for these bonuses. If any teams bonuses exceed their cap room then they would carry over to the following seasons cap. After three season players should get paid based on future production and teams should have the equivalent of two franchise tags to use while negotiating with players they wish to keep.

  36. At first, I didn’t like restricting the players drafted high but salaries for them is absurd now and they are DESTROYING teams rather than helping them
    When teams DO NOT want to pick high, it is a problem
    The NBA has it right (wow, cant believe I said that) with restricting NBA Draft pay

  37. IF Madden has the ear of the Comissioner, either he’s giving him crappy advice, or this Comissioner isn’t listening, …while everyone BITCHES about how much these rookies are getting in signing bonuses, we’re seeing teams cut older veteran players [because they make more than younger guys], then in the case of Tampa Bay say they may have a hard time selling out their home games this season. IF they cut back on rookie bonuses, does ANYONE think these greedy F’in owners are going to pass this money on to the veteran players? You cut payroll like Tampa, then complain that you might not see out your home games, …don’t you think the two go hand-in-hand? One more thing: Hugified Wang, …FUNNY, some of Florios articles give me gas, as well.

  38. “Let Obama and Pelosi handle it. All the players would make the same salary and the extra money would go to the league to administer programs that will make everything better.”
    I used to say NBC ruined this site. I want to revise my answer; it’s the backwater doucebags who bring politics onto every thead. Get a life, there must be some blog out there that caters to you whiney needs.

  39. It’s going to take one of these “rookies” to beat Brett Favre in the playoffs for the NFL to consider a change like this…
    It worked for OT!

  40. The difficult part is that the salary is also based on position. QB, RB and other hi profile position garner a better salary then say Tight End.
    The best way is to put a salary scale into place regardless of position. Say 2 million per for picks 1-10, 1.5 for 11-20 and 1 million for 21-32.
    Each round has a fair starting point.
    If the team wanted to pay them more then have the remainder of funds be performance incentives. This give the BUST nothing and the future star money he deserves.
    Each deal should b 3 years FLAT. However PERIOD no negotiation necessary. Signing bonuses should be Max $100K.
    The money that is save should go into the players that deserve it.

  41. Reading all the posts I can see how hard it will be to construct a fair rookie pay system. Every sugestion (including my own earlier effort) has holes.
    Some of the basic principles as I see it are.
    Top picks are payed so much that it excludes some positions from being drafted high.
    Teams don’t want top picks and trades into the top ten are rare.
    The pressure on top picks to perform burns some out quicker than if they had time to ease into the league (Swap Aaron Rogers and Alex Smith in the 05 draft and would we get the same result – probably not).
    Lower picks who do perform get locked into ultra low salaries and often have to go to extreme lengths to get paid what their worth.
    It’s hard to imagine a system worse than the current one.

  42. They need to start paying the players, all the players, for what they do instead of paying them for what they are expected to do.

  43. I can agree with a Rookie payscale… Why pay a guy $35 million in guarantees, when he hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet? Then after the guy fails, the team’s out a ton of money…

  44. # buzzbissinger says: March 27, 2010 10:12 PM
    “Let Obama and Pelosi handle it. All the players would make the same salary and the extra money would go to the league to administer programs that will make everything better.”
    I used to say NBC ruined this site. I want to revise my answer; it’s the backwater doucebags who bring politics onto every thead. Get a life, there must be some blog out there that caters to you whiney needs.
    # aj says: March 28, 2010 9:13 AM
    Hey buzz, before you call anyone ‘backwater,’ you might want to learn how to spell.
    Actually, misspellings or not (my spellchecker counts 3), his point is completely valid. This is, not
    Seriously, this topic had nothing to do with anything political. buzzbissinger is right, there are plenty of forums for that garbage.
    I come here to read and think about football, and every post has some joker who just has to bring his misplaced BS in here.

  45. I still can’t help but laugh at the people who actually believe that what money they save on the rookie cap is going to be going back to the veterans. That money will go right back into the organization and no where else.
    The only good thing about a payscale is that it gets the player into camp as soon as possible. The owners want to roll back salaries dramatically so they can keep whatever they can for themselves and give a mere pittance to the retired veterans that they should be taking care of in the first place.
    Most of you seem to be under some impression that the players support a payscale but that’s completely wrong. The marginal talent might but the ones who have the talent don’t want it because the current system helps set the bar for them and a payscale only lowers it. If anyone is going to benefit, it’s going to be the owners but not the 52nd or 53rd guys on the roster.
    An NFL contract isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on. Ownership expects the players to live up to the full terms and YET, they will demand that the players modify their contracts to help them out with the cap and if they don’t, they’ll cut them and move on, even if the player has more than exceeded the performance on the field.

  46. swig69420 says:
    Amen to that Brotha…
    The fact my team pays Matthew Stafford $26.9 million next season…
    Where Peyton Manning will make alittle over $21 million from the Colts isn’t fair
    I just can’t help but laugh at this one. You do realize that Peyton got over $35 mil several years ago when his base salary was $535,000 and his signing bonus was $34.5 mil?
    BTW, the numbers that I’ve seen on Stafford is far different from what you’ve said (USA Today confirms the $3.1 mil for last year so I don’t doubt that truth behind the rest of the numbers):
    2009 $3.1 million
    2010 $3.875 million ($395,000 base salary plus $3.48 million option bonus proration)
    2011 $4.65 million ($1.17 million base salary plus $3.48 million option bonus proration)
    2012 $5.425 million ($1.945 million base salary plus $3.48 million option bonus proration)
    2013 $6.2 million ($2.72 million base salary plus $3.48 million option bonus proration)
    2014 $6.975 million ($3.495 million base salary plus $3.48 million option bonus proration)
    Source of info:
    BTW, it might be possible that the $26.9 figure is a salary cap number. Manning made $14 mil last year but his cap number was $21.4 mil. There is a roster bonus that will add $9 mil to his 2010 total, which takes it to $16 mil but still $10 mil short of what you’re talking about.

  47. Some people act as if the top rookies making big money is a recent phenomenon but with the exception of a few years, this has how it’s always been since I’ve been around. Really, raise your hands if you believe that a lot of veterans were making $400,000 when Joe Namath signed his first rookie contract. Now, here’s the amazing thing: during the years that they didn’t have competition for rookies, what savings that they saw went into the owners’ pockets and none of the veterans ever saw it.

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