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The first (and last) rookie wage scale poll

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We’ve done several lockout-related polls, and the outcome has shown much more support for the owners’ positions and interests than would be expected from the average fan.

It’s time to do one on the rookie wage scale.

On Monday, we obtained a copy of the memo breaking down the respective positions of the league and the players.  As to the critical question of paying first-round draft picks, the owners want the first 32 players selected to be required to sign four-year contracts, with a team option for the fifth year.  For the first eight players in round one, the fifth-year pay would be 150 percent of the average salary of a starter at the player’s position, with a floor of $6 million and a ceiling of $12 million.  For the next eight players in round one, fifth-year salary would be 125 percent of the average starter, with a guaranteed minimum of $5 million and a limit of $10 million.  For the second half of round one, pay in the fifth year would be the average salary at the player’s position, with no minimum pay figure.

The players have proposed instead as to the first 16 rookies picked a fifth-year option salary based on the average pay for the 10 highest-paid players at the position. For the second half of round one, the players have proposed an option-year salary based on the average pay for the 20 highest-paid players at the position.

Since the problem the league purports to be addressing relates to the payment of gigantic amounts of guaranteed money to rookies who never earn it, we continue to be confused by the league’s reluctance to reward in year five a player who has earned his pay in years one through four.  It makes us think we’re missing something.

So we’ll leave it to you to let us know whether we are.  Cast your vote in the poll pasted below.

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49 Responses to “The first (and last) rookie wage scale poll”
  1. tomsd1 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:21 AM

    The singing bonuses for the Rookies have gotten waaaay ridiculous – and it’s mainly the agents who want to keep these huge contracts.

    Hey – if they are that good after say three years – a smart owner will tear up the contract and sign them to an extension.

    That’s what Al Davis used to do back in the OAKLAND Raider Glory Days of the 70’s and early 80’s. Before they left for LA LA land.

  2. airraid77 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:22 AM

    the player proposal much to you agas, make have a rookie cap pointless.

  3. tomsd1 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:22 AM

    er – that’s signing bonuses :)

    Rookies used to sing in training camps – but not sure if they make them do that any more.

  4. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 12, 2011 9:22 AM

    “We’ve done several lockout-related polls, and the outcome has shown much more support for the owners’ positions and interests than would be expected from the average fan.”

    That’s because the “average fan” isn’t dialed in to the fine details of the sport. “Drive by fans” or “fair weather” fans would be more accurate of a description.

  5. giveseanpaytonhisjuicyfruit says: Jul 12, 2011 9:26 AM

    I’m indifferent on this because either way you’re gonna have draft busts who don’t deserve the money they’re paid or you’ll have veterans who have a solid 1-2 years and cash in on a huge contract and perform like turds the rest of their career.

  6. Richard Dickson says: Jul 12, 2011 9:29 AM

    The players’ plan seems to assume that a top 16 player who makes it to Year Five is automatically worthy of being paid the average of the 10 best starters at his position. There are plenty of rookies who last five years but aren’t worth that kind of money.

  7. nickrocksff says: Jul 12, 2011 9:29 AM

    Anybody crunch the numbers to see what they actually amount to?

    Are they that far off?

  8. tonyinjax says: Jul 12, 2011 9:32 AM

    I like the signing cap. I like 4 years with an option. I disagree with capping it. Their skill levels will dictate how much teams are willing to spend – the league shouldn’t do it.

  9. chc4 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:32 AM

    The fact that your polls are more skewed towards the owners position is a great selling tool for your advertising sales staff. Shows that we aren’t as stupid as the population at large.

  10. jw731 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:34 AM

    Well…The rookie wage scale thing has worked out so well for the NBA…Aren’t they in a lockout as well?…

  11. claydefayette says: Jul 12, 2011 9:37 AM

    The top guys shouldn’t get near the amount of money that they once received. However, guys in the later rounds salary should be boosted with this money. Therefore all the owner’s apples aren’t in one basket and the players still get the money to them.

  12. touchdownroddywhite says: Jul 12, 2011 9:39 AM

    I’ve been in support of the owners more so than players because they were the ones seemingly making offers, and players were the ones seemingly trying to ruin the competitive edge the NFL holds over other sports.

    That being said, I think the owners are being a bit stingy on this. If the 5th year is an option, and you don’t want to pay the average of the top 10 players at that position to keep a specific player the 5th year, then let em go. Guess not enough owners have trust in their personnel teams and think they’ll have to let go of a ton of 1st rounders who aren’t worth the average of the top 10 at their position.

    @Chapman_Jamie

    I’m pretty sure I’m no “fair weather” fan, but when you threaten FA and the draft, I’m never going to support that side.

  13. vmannj says: Jul 12, 2011 9:42 AM

    What your numbers show is that the owners are placing more emphasis on slotting the draft choices. According to the owners, if you’re drafted in the first round, in year 5 you’ll be paid anywhere from the price of an average starter (probably $3-$5M for guys drafted after pick 25), up to $12M.

    The players are saying, if you make it to year 5 without an extension, the first half of round 1 will be paid like a franchise player. The 2nd half of round one, slightly less.

    I’m sure there’s a compromise to be found. Now, here’s the big question in the whole deal…how many first round picks will make it to year 5 without a) being labeled a bust and getting released, or b) earning their stripes and getting an extension? I’m guessing very few worthy players will make it past year 3 before extension talks begin.

    I’m not picking sides on this issue. Please, just keep plugging away until this deal gets done.

  14. blester01 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:45 AM

    Both sides are setting up the sport for long term failure. The Fed isn’t going to be able to continue printing money forever.

    Rookies should be given a minimum base salary and then have a lot of incentive clauses. So they get paid to produce and win. The more wins and stats, the more money you make.

    It makes no sense to pay a rookie QB millions of dollars in his first year when he is holding a clip board.

  15. buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 9:49 AM

    It is funny how this country scream socialism when we want to supply health care to our citizens but when it comes to athletes we forget all about our American ideals.

    Sorry but to support the owners here is to be worse than a soiclist. You are trying to dictate what a person can make as a salary. People act like its their money they are paying them with.

    Sorry but we shouldn’t be allowed to hinder a negotiation between the player and the team period. Since we will there is NO WAY you can force them into 5 year contracts. You guys nuts. Hitler one of your heroes too? The average NFL career is too short to force these guys into long contracts if they can’t negotiate that first deal.

  16. purpleman527 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:49 AM

    You don’t have “Neither proposal” as an option.

    Neither proposal appears to resolve the problem of round 1 picks making huge dollars compared to proven veterans.

    Take the average salary of the top 25 players at their respective position. Then use a 110% of the average for the first pick. 108% for the second, 106% for the third….etc. Using 25 players allows for a lower average, where a proven veteran who is starting on the low end of the pay scale, is factored into an unproven rookie’s first salary.

    Make it a three year deal with options in the 4th and 5th year, in order to pay the players who have lived up to their first round status. The difference normally spent on the rookies would go to the veterans who have earned it.

  17. qj1984 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:50 AM

    I still believe the amount of money the 1st round picks will make is to much. With a rookie wage scale I was hoping to see the wealth not only spread to the vets more but also bump the salaries of those guys in rounds 2 through at least 5. But it sounds more like they are getting the shaft.

    I am not worried about the pay of first round picks. With teams being forced to spend all or most of the cap, many of those guys will not reach year 5 anyway. Teams will hand some of them bigger deals just to meet that quota.

    So, I agree with the owners. Its hard for some of these guys to admit they were wrong and give up on their draft picks. This system also will not account for the Carson Palmer’s of the world. Guys who start off looking like they are headed for the HOF and then end up mediocre at best.

  18. sfsaintsfan says: Jul 12, 2011 9:52 AM

    How about this as a compromise:

    For the first 16 players picked in round one, the pay in the fifth-year option would be based on the average pay for the 16 highest-paid players at the position with a floor of $6 million and a ceiling of $12 million.

    For the players picked from 17-32 in round one, the pay in the fifth-year option would be based on the average pay for the 17-32 highest-paid players at the position with a floor of $5 million and a ceiling of $10 million.

    The only problem I see is the QB problem where there is only one starter per team. With QB’s I could see a different scale being used. For any QB taken in the first round of the draft, the pay in the fifth-year option would be based on the average pay of the top 10 highest paid QB’s in the league, with no salary floor or ceiling.

    If a team drafts a QB in round one and four years later who they believe their guy is a franchise QB, they can keep that player for a fifth year, but it will cost them top 10 money to do so.

  19. cshearing says: Jul 12, 2011 9:56 AM

    I usually support the players for one main reason: unguaranteed contracts. They really have to make as much as they can as soon as they can in the NFL, especially considering the length of the average career. No other major North American sport has contracts that are not guaranteed, so you’d find me more likely to support owners on some issues in those other sports.

  20. m2karateman says: Jul 12, 2011 9:57 AM

    I support the players on this one. I believe second round picks should be able to make more than minimum salaries, and have some room to negotiate more money as such. As for the fifth year issue, averaging the top salaries for players at their positions seems like a fair deal. If the players aren’t worth it, then don’t opt for that fifth year. Is that such a problem?

  21. cdaws84 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:58 AM

    Im with the owners on this one. To many 1 – 16th pick guys who are good but not top 10 good will use the 5th year option to force teams to release them.

  22. meyerla says: Jul 12, 2011 10:00 AM

    It’s stupid money but you need to forget that. You need to stick as close to a fair free market as you can while protecting the parity of the game. Players shouldn’t be put in a position where the have to take considerably less than a significant number of other teams would give them (not talking about 2 rich owners going crazy). So I think the option should be for a very high dollar amount and the team can always decline that option if the player isn’t worth it.

  23. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 12, 2011 10:05 AM

    I think 3-4 years is probably more fair. That way you can assess one’s talents without limiting their career earning potential. That being said, there MUST be something that we don’t know about going on here for the owners to not be budging on this. It would seem reasonable to take the 3-4 year compromise so there has to be a real explanation as to why they are not.

    And a real explanation isn’t “because they are greedy”

  24. themage78 says: Jul 12, 2011 10:16 AM

    So an Alex Smith to be kept on the 49ers would expect to be paid the average of the top 10 QBs in football? GTFO.

  25. backuppunter says: Jul 12, 2011 10:18 AM

    i think being able to keep a guy for 5 years against his will isn’t right. I agree players, especially rookies, get paid too much but 5 years, some guys are 24 or 25 there rookie year or even older! and if after 4 years a guy doesn’t want to be there do you really want him on your team? The players proposal ensures that rookies won’t get paid like they used to so that is already taken care of. The owners are just adding this on. Some of those guys would probably get rid of free agency if they could. 5 years is a long time to not have a chance to get paid your market value if you so choose. the owners should also be able to get out of the deal without too much trouble if they so choose after 3 years.

  26. semperfi24 says: Jul 12, 2011 10:29 AM

    buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 9:49 AM

    It is funny how this country scream socialism when we want to supply health care to our citizens but when it comes to athletes we forget all about our American ideals.

    Sorry but to support the owners here is to be worse than a soiclist. You are trying to dictate what a person can make as a salary. People act like its their money they are paying them with.

    Sorry but we shouldn’t be allowed to hinder a negotiation between the player and the team period. Since we will there is NO WAY you can force them into 5 year contracts. You guys nuts. Hitler one of your heroes too? The average NFL career is too short to force these guys into long contracts if they can’t negotiate that first deal.
    ____________________________________

    So, you are saying you are a Yankees fan..? lol

    But in all seriousness, the NFL has a salary cap, you can say all you want that it isnt fair to the individual player, but it is fair to each team, and each fan, to make sure every team is operating under the same rules. I can appreciate your interest in free market, and so on, but I also want to know that my team isnt at a disadvantage to any other team. If you had it your way, small market teams would disappear from the NFL, and I am not in favor of that

  27. jonscoit says: Jul 12, 2011 10:30 AM

    This is low-hanging fruit for both owners (who want to limit overall player compensation) and for current players (who have already signed rookie deals under the previous system).

    Rookies are under-compensated relative to expectations. The notion that players are paid for past performance is false. They are paid for expected future performance. Free agent signings are by and large a waste of money in the NFL; the successful teams in the last decade (Steelers, Patriots, Colts) became so by building through the draft and not playing in the FA market.

    If successful teams are built through the draft…and the vast majority of players signed to rookie contracts never experience free agency…then what is this but cost control for ownership?

  28. brucehumbert says: Jul 12, 2011 10:34 AM

    A couple of things are troubling…

    1. We are talking about VERY FEW players – 32 out of a union of 1900+. Seems pretty silly to me to have this issue slow things down as much as seem to have done..

    2. The really good players – regardless of round will be getting extensions BEFORE this even comes into effect. Or at least an offer to extend that they can accept or reject.

  29. sakatak says: Jul 12, 2011 10:36 AM

    I wonder how this poll would have turned out if MF would have left out the last 2 paragraphs. This is why I do not believe in polls.

  30. laeaglefan says: Jul 12, 2011 10:39 AM

    No system is going to be totally fair to everyone. There will always be players who are overpaid, based on their performance, as well as players who are underpaid. There doesn’t seem to be so much of a gap between the owners’ position and the players’ position that a compromise can’t be fairly easily come up with. Let’s play some football!

  31. mediasloppy says: Jul 12, 2011 10:43 AM

    On the 5th year an elite player would receive the average pay of the same position he plays with a cap of 12 million???

    What am I missing? Does that still mean Rookies can sign huge contracts for the first 4 years?

    I don’t get it at all. If there is a rookie wage scale for the first 4 years and then a 5th year with a max of 12 million, I’d say the owners win big.

  32. lostsok says: Jul 12, 2011 10:44 AM

    I’ve been staunchly on the side of the players through this process, but in this instance I think the owner’s proposal is better laid out. It doesn’t truly hurt the players who succeed, but gives the owners some relief if they get a JaMarcus Russell…a player with unlimited ability who simply cashed his first big check and then called it a career.

  33. buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 11:00 AM

    @semperfi24, I am conflicted when it comes to a salary cap. I understand its benefits but if you are going to limit what a rookie can make than they need to be able to get out of that contract earlier. There are far too many injuries in this game to limit this. Sorry but I find it horrendous we would do this to these players.

    I just find it funny that people scream free market than want to tell athletes how much they can make and for how long. It is complete B.S. Just the number of thumbs down tells me people are selfish. It isn’t your money, remember that.

  34. irisht53 says: Jul 12, 2011 11:07 AM

    @ themage78

    Do you think the Niners would’ve have opted to keep Alex Smith or let him go if they had to pay him a 1 year contract worth the average of the Top 10 QBs? If he was let go, do you think ANY team would have offered him any length of contract that would place him in the top 10 paid in the league? From what I’ve heard from most 49ers fans, this deal would’ve been great, as Alex Smith clearly would’ve been handed his walking papers.

    @ buckybadger

    Hitler? Really? First of all, to compare spreading the wealth vs someone bent on domination and genocide is a little far fetched at best. Secondly, if you’re going to try to make a reference to someone who is historically considered a “bad guy”, make sure there is at least some basis for the comparison. Hitler had no desires at all to “share the wealth”, rather he wanted to destroy the oppositon, which actually sounds somewhat like a Capitalist to me (a part from the fact he wanted to literally destroy them, not just financially). Perhaps Castro or Lenin would be more appropriate.

  35. nackul says: Jul 12, 2011 11:19 AM

    I’ve been mostly on the owners side with all this, but I think the players have a good idea.

    If the top 16 players turn into all stars, wouldn’t you be paying them like that anyways? The fifth year option is like having a Franchise Tag, coupled with the real Franchise Tag. That way, hypothetically, you could lock up 2 players and work out a deal later.

    If it were up to me I would cap the first overall pick at 3 million a season, tops. Then just slide a scale down. That would be just enough money to let them feel important and keep them hungry for a huge pay day 4 years down the line. Whatever money that would be saved from giving them less, should be invested back into the veterans. I’m sure guys like London Fletcher would like (and deserve) a pay raise for constantly being a good-great player instead of a bust like Robert Ayers making more than him.

    Worst case scenario if you don’t want to pay out that fifth year option, you work out a new deal or cut your losses and let him walk. I don’t see why this is a huge sticking point for the owners.

    But hey, I’m just the guy on the outside looking in.

  36. nxsteven says: Jul 12, 2011 11:26 AM

    I love when politics and socialism rants make their way in to NFL discussions.

    The whole “it’s not your money. Why do you care?” argument is non-sense. This is a salary capped sport. When player x is making a ton of money, that sometimes means that player y can’t be signed. It’s a conflict of interest to see these guys get huge paydays and it’s, for lack of a better word, annoying, to see a bust-rookie screw a franchise over for a few years or even a decade.

    And no one opposes veterans getting their money. They earned it. But as for a rookie, what have they earned? Why should Bradford be making more than Peyton Manning (one of the highest paid players in the NFL…) before he ever puts on an NFL uniform?

    As fans, we want to see our TEAM do well. No one cares who the player is that’s getting the job done as long as they’re getting it done. Yeah, we all have our favorite players and all that but once they’re gone a new player will take his place and if he performs just as well, we’ll love him just the same.

  37. semperfi24 says: Jul 12, 2011 11:56 AM

    buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 11:00 AM

    @semperfi24, I am conflicted when it comes to a salary cap. I understand its benefits but if you are going to limit what a rookie can make than they need to be able to get out of that contract earlier. There are far too many injuries in this game to limit this. Sorry but I find it horrendous we would do this to these players.

    I just find it funny that people scream free market than want to tell athletes how much they can make and for how long. It is complete B.S. Just the number of thumbs down tells me people are selfish. It isn’t your money, remember that.
    __________________________________

    When it is all said and done, it actually is our money. Think of it this way, if players get paid more, the owners need to charge more. Do you think the owners are going to pay the difference out of pocket? F NO! They will raise ticket prices, raise parking prices, raise merchandise prices. No matter what, the money that the owners give to players, comes directly from your pocket.

  38. PFTiswhatitis says: Jul 12, 2011 12:41 PM

    In regards to the year 5 salary cap I have to lean towards the players. It seems to me that if the player is working out then by year 5 there shouldnt really be a rookie cap in place since he is no longer a rookie. Why not just limit it to the first 3 years? If the guy is going to make it the team knows by the conclusion of that 3rd year.

  39. dspyank2k11 says: Jul 12, 2011 1:07 PM

    All rookies should have incentive based contracts with a base salary. Do away with guaraneed money.

    Dealing out the money would be in a slotting system starting at $25 million base contract over 4 years with incentives.

    Then widdle away at the base contract over the next 7 rounds.

    I think incentive based contracts weed out the crap and reward those who deserve it.

  40. buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 1:11 PM

    @semperfi24, actually ticket prices have very little to do with what the players get paid and everything to do with supply and demand.

    The players could be making minimum wage and the owners would still charge outrageous prices. Why? Because they can. They have teams of marketing people doing research to set their prices at the exact point where they are most profitable. What the players get paid is irrelevant, trust me. The notion its the players driving up the prices is completely false. The owners can pay the players from the TV deal alone.

    Also people on these boards complaining about what athletes make have no basis for their argument. We are spending our free minutes here talking about them. We spend our spare cash on them and we spend our Sundays watching them. We are the ones driving up the demand. You can’t feed the machine and than complain that the people benefiting from it are making load of money.

  41. possiblecabbage says: Jul 12, 2011 1:12 PM

    The problem I have is that “based on” as in (“fifth-year option salary based on the average pay for the 10 highest-paid players at the position”) is vague. Does a QB picked at #15 get paid a top 10 QB salary if he plays well enough to earn a fifth year? This would be, in many cases, too much.

  42. buckybadger says: Jul 12, 2011 1:12 PM

    @irisht53, the Hitler comparison is harsh but if someone came to your job and told you how much you can make and for how long you would be making some harsh comparisons yourself. It doesn’t matter what the amount is, people should have the freedom to negotiate their deal. If you want to force something like this down their throat you HAVE to give them an out.

  43. wiscobob says: Jul 12, 2011 1:35 PM

    Clay Matthews was picked 26th; if a player like him got drafted next year under the owners proposal he would have to wait till his 6th year to get a fair contract or franchise tagged.
    With no more huge money contracts, the guy drafted in the 1st round is sort of getting punished for his hard work.
    The option should start in year 3 for 1st round picks; year 4 for 2nd and later; and should not be allowed to be followed up by the franchise tag the next year.

  44. rcali says: Jul 12, 2011 3:40 PM

    Doesn’t seem like this is fixing the problem. Still over rewarding college players, not NFL players.

  45. ICDogg says: Jul 12, 2011 4:55 PM

    It sounds like they’ve agreed on the first 4 years so this is really a relatively minor argument.

    I tend to agree with the players on this fifth year, but I think they can probably split the difference.

  46. jadtb93 says: Jul 12, 2011 6:49 PM

    I agree with you ^^^^^

  47. blester01 says: Jul 12, 2011 9:49 PM

    @ semperfi24 & buckybadger: You both are correct, but are talking about two different things.

    First, badger is correct that NFL’s salary cap (as well as NCAA limiting the # of scholarships in college football) is pure and simple socialism. The NFL also shares revenue, which is another socialist construct. When exercised properly, socialism works well in capitalist structures and is not “evil” as some people make it out to be.

    Second, semperfi is correct about the wage scale. The salary cap is completely separate issue from the wage scale. One limits how a team spends its money on personnel, another limits how much individuals can negotiate with their employers.

    On a side note, I find it completely hypocritical that very conservative owners, like Mike Brown, support a fixed wage scale. If you believe in free markets in your political ideology, then practice them in your business.

    I think what badger originally wrote is correct in that Americans tend to be hypocrites about socialism. They don’t want the Federal govt to provide a minimum standard for health care or provide caps on banks that just helped destroy our economy, but are perfectly willing to support a similar construct in their favorite sport – even defending that it works successfully like semperfi did.

  48. finsfrontofficeisajoke says: Jul 12, 2011 10:08 PM

    In my opinion, the whole 5th year option argument stems from the owners’ greed. If a player is playing at the level, in year 4, that you were hoping for when you drafted him, why wouldn’t you want to pay this man some money? If you want 5 of the most valuable years of a player’s career, you have to pay for it. If he’s not working out well enough to justify the huge pay increase, then don’t exercise the option. Simple economics.

    You want insurance, without reward.

    You want to have your cake and eat it, too.

    Sign the deal, you penny-pinching, sport strangling, back-alley-deal-making hogs.

  49. dennis2488 says: Jul 13, 2011 5:30 AM

    i agree with the owners. players shouldnt be allowed to make whatever somebody wants to pay them, that would be un-american. these greedy players get to enter the draft instead of having to freely choose where they want to play and then they force this poor owners into paying them $15 million a year for 6 years. the owners should be the only ones allowed to make as much money as possible because that’s american capitalism.

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