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League, union sharply disagree on rookie wage scale, too

DeMaurice Smith, Kevin Mawae

The discrepancy between the league’s and the union’s view of the size of the slice of the pie that the players collectively receive isn’t the only issue on which the NFL and the NFLPA disagree.  The two sides also disagree on the rookie wage scale.

Or, as the union now calls it, the “veteran wage scale.”

Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reported earlier today that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith explained in a memo to certain players that the rookie wage scale proposed by management would affect players with three to five years of experience, or as Smith put it “the core of our membership.”

The league proposed a system including five-year deals for first-round picks and four-year contracts for players drafted in all other rounds; the union wants maximum deals of four years in rounds one through three and three years in rounds four through seven.

“This wage scale would have a very dramatic effect on league salaries when you consider the number of players that would be subject to its terms,” Smith explained in a memo to the members of the Executive Committee and the various player representatives, claiming that 60 percent of the league would fall under the terms of the league’s proposal.

But here’s the reality.  Roughly 60 percent of the league already falls under an unofficial rookie wage scale, which after round one pays players reasonable amounts about which the NFL rarely complains — especially when a mid-round pick becomes a star.  The issue here is the amount of money paid at the top of the draft, and that’s where the focus should be.

It’s not just about eliminating the windfall for unproven rookies, but also about redirecting that money to rookies who outperform their salaries and finding ways to funnel money that is wasted on busts like JaMarcus Russell to the retired players who made the game what it is.

There can be no doubt that it’s in the best interests of the league, the teams, and the current members of the union to ensure that unproven players don’t continue to get inflated contracts, the growth of which continues to outpace the increase in pay for veteran players.  The union, in our view, is resisting much-needed change simply in the hopes of scoring a concessions from the league, and possibly because powerful agencies that pocket three percent of the first-round rookie contracts don’t want to lose their cut of the windfall.

Employed at one of those firms as an agent is the son of NFLPA chief outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.  (Just sayin’.)

This should be the easiest problem for the two sides to fix.  In a cap-driven system, a rookie wage scale does not undermine in any way the total money available to players.  Indeed, every dollar taken away from unproven rookies is one more dollar available to proven players.  By ensuring that tens of millions won’t go to players who never contribute to the betterment of the game and by also ensuring that rookies who achieve greatness immediately get compensated for their efforts now, the pie can be carved up fairly for everyone.

But first the union has to ignore any and all self-interests clouding the process and commit to taking actions aimed for the good of the game, and for the good of the current members of the union.

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49 Responses to “League, union sharply disagree on rookie wage scale, too”
  1. natelan says: Feb 10, 2011 7:16 PM

    I’m a huge fan of the NFLPA and support most of their causes in the CBA debate, but rookie wages absolutely must come down.

    No rookie should make more than a proven veteran. It’s just that simple.

  2. j0esixpack says: Feb 10, 2011 7:19 PM

    I view this as simple posturing by the union leaders – even if there’s something they agree with the League on they’ll act like it’s the biggest deal in the world….

    Ultimateley they’ll make a “concession” to get the League to make a concession to them

    Do they think they’re fooling anyone – least of all the fans?

  3. waitingguilty says: Feb 10, 2011 7:20 PM

    Yet another example of how the players best interests are not being served by “De” and Company.

  4. bigtrav425 says: Feb 10, 2011 7:26 PM

    This is one thing that NEEDS to happen……..bottom line

  5. pftareraiderhaters says: Feb 10, 2011 7:28 PM

    you know what i say, enjoy getting a real job players. Then when you come to your senses and are not all about the greed and want to get real…then play

  6. toe4 says: Feb 10, 2011 7:37 PM

    Dear NFL and NFLPA,

    Just get it done.

  7. jstrizzle says: Feb 10, 2011 7:38 PM

    I always think that if they implement a rookie wage scale and keep the salary floor then the teams money will have to go somewhere. Wouldn’t that money mostly to go to veteran players that have earned it?

    I guess that is what I thought was the biggest issue with the overpaid rookies from the veteran’s standpoint.

  8. therealjimmysmith says: Feb 10, 2011 7:43 PM

    Easy solution. Install a Rookie Wage scale. The owners cave to the union’s four year max contract demand and in exchange, the owners get a 60-40 split of the savings of the rookie scale, with the rest diverted to the players in the form of higher minimum salaries and an increased salary cap.
    It’s a win-win. The only losers are future Jamarcus Russels

  9. natelan says: Feb 10, 2011 7:47 PM

    pftareraiderhaters says:Feb 10, 2011 7:28 PM you know what i say, enjoy getting a real job players. Then when you come to your senses and are not all about the greed and want to get real…then play
    ************************

    I don’t blame you for wanting a lockout. The Raiders would probably have their best season in a decade if they have to use scab players, or if there is no football played at all.

  10. packattack1967 says: Feb 10, 2011 7:49 PM

    Good breakdown Mike and I largely agree. A top QB bust for instance can set a team back for years (thankfully hasnt happened to us in a while) I think even the players would agree that a more performance based system is better for all concerned.
    (agents would not)

  11. sbs0311 says: Feb 10, 2011 7:51 PM

    This is another snow job by the NFL owners.

    So a 6th round pick gets 4 years? Which means the next big time surprise star player gets jerked around by his team for 3 years because there’s no urgency to give the players a new deal.

    The Union is 110% percent right here. If they are going to agree to drastically lower the pay some of these rookies get, then they have to get to FA sooner so the star players get their worth.

    The NFL wants to RAISE the commitment for 3rd through 7th round picks by a YEAR. This is the Restricted Free Agency Year, which, for many players, would be lowered to a mid to high six-figure salary rather than the $1-2 M players can get right now through restricted free agency tenders.

    The next ownership proposal will call for RFA after 4 years and UFA after 5. Greedy bunch they are.

  12. paulnoga says: Feb 10, 2011 8:00 PM

    The Owners are only stalling for the CBA to end on March 4th. Judge Doty is a thorn in their side they will end before a new agreement is reached. Everything else is window dressing. Doty is the main player in this mess.
    After March 4th, Doty will never be part of any discussion.

  13. crazimitch says: Feb 10, 2011 8:09 PM

    Beer, Beer, Beer!

    Just sayin’

  14. jc1958coo says: Feb 10, 2011 8:12 PM

    for all the people that think rookies deserve less than veterans! two words albert haynesworth and sam bradford! that is the GM and OWNERS fault! is it right, no but it isn’t that simple! get rid of the 4 year free agency rule, see how many franchise you have then!!

  15. jc1958coo says: Feb 10, 2011 8:14 PM

    who signs the free agent wanabees the OWNERS,trying to get an upper hand !!! can’t have itboth ways!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. realitypolice says: Feb 10, 2011 8:17 PM

    5 years is not a “rookie wage scale”.

    A five year veteran is typically half way or further into his career.

    I’m all for players not getting the big paycheck until they’ve proven themselves, but it doesn’t take 5 years to figure out who deserves to get paid and who doesn’t

  17. radrntn says: Feb 10, 2011 8:19 PM

    @ NATELAN

    EP AND MAYBE YOU GUYS COULD BRING RYAN LEAF BACK…LMAO AT YOU RINGLESS.

  18. awdlmd says: Feb 10, 2011 8:19 PM

    The rookie wage scale is a good idea but five years is too long for it to be in effect. That’s the majority of most players careers. Their play should start dictating their salary sooner than that.

  19. palinforpresidentofnorthkorea says: Feb 10, 2011 8:30 PM

    De Baby,
    It’s all over dude and YOU are “What’s for dinner?”

    Make an offer the league can live with or you will be locked out or stuck with the last, best and final offer.

    Congress is showing no signs of getting involved.

  20. realitypolice says: Feb 10, 2011 8:46 PM

    All of you people coming down on the league’s side here are acting like the union doesn’t want a rookie wage scale.

    What they don’t want is slotted contracts that last FIVE YEARS. Is a five year veteran a rookie?

    Why should a player in his 5th NFL season, when most players are at least half way through their careers, still have his salary being determined by where he was drafted 5 years ago?

  21. tmb333 says: Feb 10, 2011 8:58 PM

    The players have options just like all of us. If they don’t like the pay they are free to go utilize their free college degree or they can go to the UFL or CFL.

    The same people that support the players union are the same ones that think the UAW et al or bad. Rich envy.

    The owners should take a stand and tell them this is the way it is going to be….like our bosses would….and if the players don’t like it they are free to quit.

  22. rcali says: Feb 10, 2011 9:24 PM

    All the potential first round draft picks who are just going to be playn’ for the check have to be getting nervous.

  23. jc1958coo says: Feb 10, 2011 9:27 PM

    if you think your better then the rookies, signup!
    or as jake nicholson says pick up a weapon and stand at post! either way you can’t handle the NFL! but you wussies still don’t think they deserve the $$$$

  24. jc1958coo says: Feb 10, 2011 9:30 PM

    f#ck those f#ck*n owners

  25. joetoronto says: Feb 10, 2011 9:36 PM

    Have the Chargers won the preseason Super Bowl again yet?

  26. realitypolice says: Feb 10, 2011 9:36 PM

    tmb333 says:
    Feb 10, 2011 8:58 PM

    The owners should take a stand and tell them this is the way it is going to be….like our bosses would….and if the players don’t like it they are free to quit.
    ============================

    If you have a job where a boss could treat you like that, that’s a you problem.

    If the company I’m attached to now tried to shove a contract down my throat, I would tell him to f*** off, because their business would collapse without me.

    Just like the NFL would if they tried to use scabs for an extended period of time.

    I’m a businessman and don’t typically defend unions.

    But I don’t see NFL players as union laborers in the classic sense.

    If the UAW walked off the job, the industry could replace them with scabs and barely miss a beat.

    NFL players are specialists. Anybody replacing them would provide an extremely inferior product.

    That gives them more leverage, which they are completely entitled to use.

  27. thatdude32 says: Feb 10, 2011 9:46 PM

    DeMaurice Smith is a wolf in sheeps clothing, he by himself will push this lockout an extra month or two cuz i keep hearin he wants to run for office in the near future his motives are highly suspect

  28. garyman1 says: Feb 10, 2011 9:48 PM

    Look, they obviously need a rookie wage scale when some teams DON’T WANT the first pick in the draft.

  29. tmb333 says: Feb 10, 2011 10:01 PM

    The world can easily exist without the NFL. If the owners hold out, players will cross the picket lines like before. Most can’t manage their money.

    realitypolice says:
    Feb 10, 2011 9:36 PM
    I am glad you have such a high opinion of yourself. Unless you own the company, I am sure they existed before you and will after you are gone. My point which you agreed with is that if you don’t like your deal go work somewhere else. The players have options. They should use them. The owners owe them nothing.

  30. lunarpie says: Feb 10, 2011 10:08 PM

    All the Owners have to say is, “Todd Marinovich, Tony Mandarich, Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell etc….” The list continues every year. Its bad overall for the sport because young college athletes are not mature enough and haven’t done anything on the field to earn the respect of anybody, especially veterans making league minimum. The come straight of college knowing they will never have to work a day in their life. That breeds laziness and in the end, DRAFT BUSTS. Go owners with this one!
    -Raiders Fan

  31. broncobourque says: Feb 10, 2011 10:12 PM

    This isn’t that hard, 5 years or 4 years doesn’t matter as much as making sure the guys who can perform right from the start get paid for that production. Include performance insentives in every rookie contract that ensures this happens and both sides should be happy.

    I know this is all part of negotiations but some of this stuff shouldn’t be that hard and when the 2 sides can bassically agree on something it wouldn’t hurt to build on that instead of dwelling on their disagreements all the time.

  32. juancorsair says: Feb 10, 2011 11:17 PM

    realitypolice says:

    If you have a job where a boss could treat you like that, that’s a you problem.

    If the company I’m attached to now tried to shove a contract down my throat, I would tell him to f*** off, because their business would collapse without me.

    Just like the NFL would if they tried to use scabs for an extended period of time.

    Let’s imagine all 32 NFL teams were research companies competing for fame, fortune and ultimately the Nobel Prize. For the sake of the example, we’ll assume that the worst performing company gets first pick of the graduating research scientists from America’s various universities.

    The top student out of this pool of graduates has demonstrated great lab work, documentation of case studies and seems to have a positive attitude. However, he has zero real world experience working for a commercial research lab (as does each of his respective peers). Now if the worst performing company of this pool hired this unproven graduate for $50+ million dollars salary over the next 6 years ($36 million being guaranteed), and ultimately paid him more than their extablished veteran researchers that drive their projects, I think you would agree that one would have to be a complete idiot to invest heavily in their company.

    So how do you figure the current system for paying draftees is a good idea? Paying established veterans that are proven contributors to the team more money is a great idea. However, paying JaMarcus Russell millions of guaranteed money to slack off and get hooked on sizzurp, is not.

  33. tony420 says: Feb 10, 2011 11:17 PM

    Liz Mullen is a total fraud who may as well be the union’s spokeperson.

  34. egls7 says: Feb 11, 2011 12:08 AM

    Thumbs up if you’re optimistic that a deal will be done before the march 4 deadline. Thumbs done if you have doubt

  35. montsta says: Feb 11, 2011 12:24 AM

    Feb 10, 2011 9:36 PM
    tmb333 says:
    Feb 10, 2011 8:58 PM

    The owners should take a stand and tell them this is the way it is going to be….like our bosses would….and if the players don’t like it they are free to quit.
    ============================

    If you have a job where a boss could treat you like that, that’s a you problem.

    If the company I’m attached to now tried to shove a contract down my throat, I would tell him to f*** off, because their business would collapse without me.

    =====================

    yes how will they ever find another guy to post onto football message boards while sitting at his workstation?

  36. seahawkhuskyfan says: Feb 11, 2011 1:02 AM

    You ever think they just need a couple of normal Joes to sit down and get this done. I mean Smith looks like the guy selling hot VCRs on the corner. And the “God’ or “Rog” seems like he would rather be having tea with the Queen. Just two normal guys who work for a living, they could sit down, crack a beer, and have this done in 20 minutes. And it would make sense.

  37. pftequalsgreatjournalism says: Feb 11, 2011 1:09 AM

    jc1958coo says: Feb 10, 2011 8:12 PM

    for all the people that think rookies deserve less than veterans! two words albert haynesworth and sam bradford! that is the GM and OWNERS fault! is it right, no but it isn’t that simple! get rid of the 4 year free agency rule, see how many franchise you have then!!

    ——————————

    I can’t disagree with you that overpaying for veteran free agents is the fault of the management but what the f&^k does it have to do with a rookie wage scale? Poor judgment by management can be abated through a well-defined pay scale.

    This clearly needs to be put in place no matter what else happens but five years of service does not a rookie make!

    I agree with tmb33 – the players will cave eventually because they have no other source of income which is not the case with majority the owners. They had business success – and money – before they bought these franchises…

  38. malgorthewarrior says: Feb 11, 2011 1:10 AM

    While I agree that rookies get paid too much, I question the idea that all that money would go to the veteran players. Everyone is assuming teams will spend that money they save by inflating veteran contracts.

    I would be surprised if that were the outcome. My guess is they will use them to lower payroll overall. That would mean a decrease in total money going to players.

  39. sbs0311 says: Feb 11, 2011 7:52 AM

    The solution here is VERY obvious. The standard has been restricted free agency after 3 years, so the only years that should be dramatically affected are years 1, 2, and 3.

    The new standard should REQUIRE that the 4th and 5th year of these rookie contracts for first round picks have ONE main characteristic:

    1) The contract is automatically voidable after the third and fourth.

    If the player, after his 3rd year, wishes to be on the restricted free agent scale and have the freedom to sign offer sheets that the TEAM may MATCH, then give the player that right.

    If the team wishes to release a first round pick after three years who has not played up to standard, allow them to do so with no cap consequences.

    If the middle ground arises, where the player thinks his salary is as good as he can get for that year and the team deems him worth keeping, he can play under whatever salary the contract says.

    It’s a perfect middle ground.

    For 2nd round picks, use the above formula for four year contracts, permitting players to enter restricted free agency if desired.

    Then, don’t change the system for 3rd round and lower. If they want four years w/the option to void, let them sign it. If they want three years, let them do that.

    But ONLY lock players into a salary for three years. It’s funny, but a third round or lower pick that becomes an immediate star is actually in better position to get paid BIG MONEY than a mid to late first round pick who isn’t getting that super signing bonus.

  40. supashug says: Feb 11, 2011 8:00 AM

    no way they will get this done by August, could be a full year off, idiots

  41. grpatriot says: Feb 11, 2011 8:26 AM

    Players Union need to learn how to “negotiate.” The owners realize that 5 years is a starting point! Why doesn’t the Union??? This is why Kraft said, ” Businessmen could wrap this up in a week!” Offer less, counter offer. Settle in the middle. Both sides feel like they won. Agreement reached, come on NFLPA??? Stop running to the media! Get back to the table and play the game!

  42. paul82461 says: Feb 11, 2011 8:56 AM

    How about we just get rid of the union once and for all !! Let your agent negotiate your contract, if you dont like it dont sign it. Most players make more money in their contracts than some of us make in a lifetime. Get to work and quit crying about the millions you make.

  43. FoozieGrooler says: Feb 11, 2011 9:27 AM

    How can they “cap” you under a rookie wage scale for 5 years when you’re no longer considered a rookie after one year?

  44. crubenst says: Feb 11, 2011 9:34 AM

    Length of the contract makes a huge difference for the players despite the salary cap. We know each new contract brings a large signing bonus which can applied to future years cap. Thus, actual money paid in a given year can far exceed the cap and players getting their hands on money today is worth a lot more than getting it a year or two later, especially considering the large sums of money the bonuses tend to be.

  45. kingmj4891 says: Feb 11, 2011 9:57 AM

    How about they try this its too simple

    Round 1-3 Sign 3YR Contracts but Teams have 5YR exclusive rights to the player.

    Rounds 4-7 Sign 3YR Contracts but Teams have 4YR exclusive rights to a player.

    Undrafted Free Agents Stays the Same
    Restricted Free Agency for First 4YRS in the league

    Unrestricted Free Agents After 4YRs you are a UFA unless you were drafted in rounds 1-3 then it is 5YRS. Players drafted before this are not under these rules but the same old rules.

    Keep Franchise Tag but add not player maybe Franchised more than two years in a row and half the sum of the Franchise Salary is payable upon the player signing the Tag to ensure some sort signing bonus.

  46. alanschech says: Feb 11, 2011 11:23 AM

    Am I the only one out there that doesn’t care how they resolve it? Billionaires arguing with billionaires about who gets a couple of bucks really doesn’t impress me. Frankly, as a football fan, I don’t really care about the issues. So a rookie might have to make a little less the first couple of years. Boo hoo. Try working 8 hours a day answering phone calls for chump change. Try working a line and Mickey Ds. Stop quibbling and get a deal done. It shouldn’t have taken this long.

  47. sudzy11 says: Feb 11, 2011 12:32 PM

    I agree that there needs to be a rookie wage scale. However the lock up period should only be 2-3 years. 5 years may be a negotiating tactic by the owners but it is probably just more greed on their part. Use a guy for 5 years at less than market rate. And 98% of the players probably wouldn’t see a 6th year.

  48. CKL says: Feb 11, 2011 2:11 PM

    kingmj4891 says:
    Feb 11, 2011 9:57 AM
    How about they try this its too simple

    Round 1-3 Sign 3YR Contracts but Teams have 5YR exclusive rights to the player.

    Rounds 4-7 Sign 3YR Contracts but Teams have 4YR exclusive rights to a player.

    Undrafted Free Agents Stays the Same
    Restricted Free Agency for First 4YRS in the league

    Unrestricted Free Agents After 4YRs you are a UFA unless you were drafted in rounds 1-3 then it is 5YRS. Players drafted before this are not under these rules but the same old rules.

    Keep Franchise Tag but add not player maybe Franchised more than two years in a row and half the sum of the Franchise Salary is payable upon the player signing the Tag to ensure some sort signing bonus.
    _________________________________
    This is pretty close to what I have been saying for awhile elsewhere except I believe that the Franchise Tag does get abused too much. My change to your thoughts would be that a team cannot franchise tag a player more than one time ever…one year total. Some teams have been using the thing to tag the guy over and over and that is completely against what the tag was supposed to be about. It is SUPPOSED to be a temporary measure while they work out a new deal or a 1 year deal to help the team transition away from the guy. If the player goes to another team, they would be allowed to FT the guy once also.

    And I hate unions and usually side w/ the owners (and no I am not rich, I have never been above middle class) but this time each side had legitimate beefs IMO.

  49. edgy says: Feb 12, 2011 12:24 PM

    Yes, AVAILABLE but not necessarily GIVEN. Sure, they’ll save money and they COULD give it to veterans but as the owners have said, an unspecified amount of this would go to the retired veterans and that’s really all that they’ve guaranteed. They have said that they’ll necessarily give any of what’s left over to the veterans and a lot of teams may even move closer to the floor and keep the money that they’ve saved.

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