With the new CBA, the NFL and most veteran players got what they wanted. Unproven rookies no longer get gigantic sums of money before showing that they deserve it.
But what of the draft picks who show they deserve it?
Under the new labor deal, their rights are tied up for a mandatory four years, with no opportunity to renegotiate until they have finished three full seasons. (Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski got his new deal after two years because he signed his rookie deal under the old CBA.) First-round picks potentially have it even worse, since teams have the ability to hold their rights for a fifth year, at the transition tag number for the first 10 and at a lower amount for picks 11 through 32.
Then, in year six, the first-rounders can be slapped with the franchise tag.
So when the truly great players finish three years of truly great play, and if their teams don’t acknowledge that with a significant offer on a long-term deal, look for more and more of those players to hold out.
A league source with extensive experience negotiating rookie and veteran contracts predicts that the league is on course for a rash of holdouts by fourth-year players, starting in 2014 — the fourth year of the contracts given to the first set of rookies picked under the new labor deal.
From Cam Newton to Von Miller to A.J. Green to Patrick Peterson to Julio Jones to Aldon Smith to Tyron Smith to J.J. Watt (and that’s just the first 11 picks), proven players who were grossly underpaid via the new rookie wage scale will want their money. And if they don’t get it, some of them will stay away until they do.
That’s one of the reasons why, in our opinion, Robert Griffin III preferred going to the Redskins at No. 2. If he becomes the first franchise quarterback of Daniel Snyder’s tenure as owner, Snyder will break open the vault in 2015. In contrast, the Colts — who twice forced Peyton Manning to play every snap of multi-year deals — may be inclined to make Andrew Luck wait a full five years before rewarding him.
It’s a real dynamic that will find teams facing unhappy players on an annual basis, once the rookie wage scale begins to take root. And it’s hard to disagree with the players. If the goal was to keep money away from players who never do anything to earn it, the players who do should get the same kind of money they would have gotten under the prior labor deal.