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No performance-based pay for guys who did a lot at little salary

Arian Foster, Champ Bailey

While perusing today (after nine days I’d finally gotten it back from Florio Jr.) the January 10, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated, featuring a svelte Vince Wilfork on the cover, I noticed at page 20 a quote from Texans running back Arian Foster regarding the gifts he plans to give the five linemen who helped him become the NFL rushing leader.

“They all make more money than me,” Foster said.  “A lot more.  I’ll figure something out.”

As it turns out, the gap this year will be even bigger.

In past years, Foster could have funded the gesture with performance-based pay, a system for supplementing the compensation of players with low salaries who spend a lot of time on the field.  Undrafted in 2009, Foster had a second-year base salary of $395,000.  His role as the Texans’ workhorse tailback would have resulted in a significant check for his on-field efforts in relation to his pay.

Under the performance-based pay system, a player obtains an index, based on the total number of plays in which he participated, divided by his total compensation.  The players having the highest index numbers (i.e., those who worked the most for the least) received the largest slice of each team’s allocation under the program.

Last year, Vikings center John Sullivan picked up an extra $397,555, based on the fact that his salary was $385,000 and he started every game.

But last year was the last year of the program, thanks to the rules of the uncapped year.  As a result, neither Foster nor any other player will receive the benefit of a program that paid out $109.5 million after the 2009 season, and more than $600 million in eight years.

If Foster had known about this wrinkle (and it’s possible that he did), he could have told his linemen during the season that he’ll give them each 10 percent of his performance-based pay, if he emerges as the leading rusher in the league.

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14 Responses to “No performance-based pay for guys who did a lot at little salary”
  1. Glenn says: Jan 17, 2011 1:26 PM

    i’m not saying he deserves to be the highest paid RB but if the Texans were smart about this they’d re-work his contract. He deserves to be paid.

  2. bobulated says: Jan 17, 2011 1:27 PM

    I understand it was part of the “poison pill” to get a deal done before the uncapped year but it still stinks for guys like Foster who outperformed much higher paid RBs. It also adds another slice of acrimony for rank and file players towards ownership whether it’s deserved or not.

  3. clownpuncher says: Jan 17, 2011 1:27 PM

    Why should NFL owners and the union want to actually pay the people who produce. Its better to keep throwing money to the Russel’s and Haynesworth’s of the league.

  4. skeeterladeeter says: Jan 17, 2011 1:27 PM

    Who can feel sympathy for an athlete with a $395,000 salary who feels underpaid?

    Boo hoo. Swallow your pride, you get paid what you get paid.

    Sometimes I feel as if the impending lockout may be good for the league, at least by humbling the egomaniacal players and owners.

  5. 23chameleons says: Jan 17, 2011 1:31 PM

    While everyone appreciates a “thank you”, maybe it’s the linemen that should be offering gifts of thanks to Arian Foster. Since David Carr, it’s been the Houston offensive line that’s been the glaring weak link in the team. Maybe it was who was running the ball and not who was blocking that truly made the difference.

    Not sure what approach they’re gonna take to fix the secondary but signing Asomugha and drafting a big ‘ol nose tackle or stud pass rushing LB would go a long way. Can you hear me Rick Smith ??!!

  6. jaltreality says: Jan 17, 2011 1:52 PM

    @skeeterladeeter: Why, because you don’t get paid that, so you’re bitter? Why should he get paid less than what he’s worth, especially given the reality that he in two years or so he may be so injured that no team will give him much at all, and his career will be effectively over.

    It’s amazing to me that “fans” consistently side with the billionaire owners as opposed the players that entertain you week-in/week-out, deal with injuries and, like Arian Foster, get paid a relatively modest sum.

  7. clusterpuck says: Jan 17, 2011 1:59 PM

    @skeeterladeeter

    So I guess you would be ok if all of your co-workers made 5 times your salary even though your work production was as good if not better then all of them?

    I didn’t think so.

  8. ekash7 says: Jan 17, 2011 2:01 PM

    Texans r gonna wear this guy out before he can get any money. It seemed like he touched the ball on every play. Hopefully they could get him a new deal

  9. david7590 says: Jan 17, 2011 2:06 PM

    Your kid had an issue of SI with Vince Wilfork on the cover for nine days? You’d better have a talk with that kid before it’s too late.

  10. beastofeden says: Jan 17, 2011 2:21 PM

    He should have been a better running back in college if he wanted better money in the league

  11. biggerballz says: Jan 17, 2011 2:21 PM

    @ jaltreality hey 400k isn’t chump change, for most people who make 50k a year that would 8 years of work! So if foster works for 3 years at that he would make 24 years worth of salary that a well off regular joe makes. So yeah I rather side with the billionares who put down millions to make the game possible and give guys like foster a chance to play. Boo hoo I only make so much money, ask butkus how much he made in his day and he’d punch you in the face. Now that’s football, this is just becoming touch football where these ballerinas complain they are underpaid.

  12. dbellina says: Jan 17, 2011 3:18 PM

    2010 Draft Round 1 pick 9 CJ Spiller Bills
    Stats
    2010 74 carries 283 yards 3.8 avg 0 TDs
    5 year $25 million dollars

    2009 Draft Round 1 pick 12 Benie Wells Cards
    Stats
    2010 182 carries 779 yards 4.3 avg 5 TDs
    5 year $16.7 million dollars

    2009 Draft UNDRAFTED Arian Foster Texans
    Stats
    2010 327 carries 1616 yards 4.9 avg 16 TDs
    $395,000 this year

    This is why I have a problem with unproven rookies getting these huge contracts (even though Wells and Spiller’s contracts aren’t that outrageous.) Look at Jamarcus and Hayward-Bay and all the other guys that get HUGE deals and end up sh*tting the bed. There needs to be a limit to what a rookie can make until he shows that he is worth the money (i.e. Sam Bradford.)

  13. commoncents says: Jan 17, 2011 3:20 PM

    I thought it was one of the better programs the NFL had. It certainly beats the salaries paid to first rounders like leinhart, who never played but pocketed over 40 million.

  14. jaltreality says: Jan 17, 2011 3:49 PM

    @biggerballz: Why even compare them to everyone else making 50k a year? This average Joe shtick makes no sense. The reason they get paid more is because:

    1. Their careers are generally over sooner than the average American’s.
    2. People want to watch them on TV. No one wants to watch you do whatever you do for a living on TV.

    You have no problem sitting down in front of the boob-tube and watching actors and actresses get paid millions to act out fantasies for you, but when a player wants to get paid more, it’s such a crime. “Shut your mouth and be thankful.” Hopefully that happens in your job too — they’ll give you a pay cut, compared to your fellow employees, and then tell you “well, the average employee in India gets paid $1.50 an hour! So shut up and just be thankful you get paid as much as you do!”

    By the way, owners who put down millions do so to make a profit, which as their franchise worth steadily climbs it is clear they are successful, not out of the goodness of their hearts. Which is fine, they are entitled to it. But why does everyone ALWAYS apply the “be thankful with the money you make” argument to players, and never to the owners?

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