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Fourth-year holdouts could be more common under new rookie wage scale

Cam Newton AP

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.

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17 Responses to “Fourth-year holdouts could be more common under new rookie wage scale”
  1. roastmeforbeingacardsfan says: Jun 14, 2012 12:43 AM

    Come on don’t make Griffen seem greedy. He was going to get forced to go wherever he was going to go. If the colts got him they wouldn’t trade him. They needed a qb. It’s obvious washington wanted him so they wouldn’t have traded him either. Griffen didn’t have a say on this.

  2. theashleyguy says: Jun 14, 2012 12:59 AM

    I know the salaries are all relative and that somehow we have entered Bizarro World when we talk about professional athlete salaries, but let’s keep something in mind: Griffin III is going to earn in excess of $20 million for his first four years. If he produces, he will earn even more. But let’s not feel too sorry for him.

  3. yssupasigninnamnotyep says: Jun 14, 2012 1:09 AM

    The Colts twice forced MegaHead to play every snap? Are you frickin’ kidding me Florio?

    Where do you get this stuff? Like MegaHead didn’t WANT to play every snap? After all these glorified Manning stories about what a great leader he is and how he plays every down and doesn’t want to leave the field and you blame the Colts for giving him untold millions of dollars? On top of all the endorsement money?

    These guys and their families will be set for life if they play their cards right…if they don’t, then tough sh!t.

    Really tired of people making excuses for professional athletes who can’t handle their good fortune…enough already.

  4. redwingfan1234 says: Jun 14, 2012 1:58 AM

    And so… the rookie wage scale works. (unless you’re the increasingly rare first round RB)

  5. granadafan says: Jun 14, 2012 2:02 AM

    I fully support the rookie wage scale as it’s absurd fora rookie to come in unproven and be near the highest paid in the league before even taking a snap. However, it send as if newest rookies are getting screwed by having to play under low wages (NFL wise) for longer years considering the short career span.

  6. johnnycash19 says: Jun 14, 2012 2:20 AM

    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
    ———–
    I like that they cannot hold out for more money until they have 3 seasons under their belt.

    Is there anything in the CBA that allows that for veteran players as well? MJD for instance, would he have to complete a certain number of years on his contract before he holds out for more? Or is it strictly for the rookies?

  7. adonisberg says: Jun 14, 2012 2:36 AM

    In other words PFT bussiness will booming come 2014 ala Drew Brees.

  8. southcakpanther says: Jun 14, 2012 5:48 AM

    Good thing for Cam that my Panthers always reward their own with large contracts if the player performs. Sometimes they do this to a fault, but they do it none the less.

  9. hugejazz says: Jun 14, 2012 9:38 AM

    The rookie wage scale was long overdue. Until then teams were, in reality, forced to pay huge based solely on college career and potential. Now, players who have proven themselves will get their money. Those that don’t won’t.

    And no matter what, the scale will always be tilted toward the team, not the player. I think the average NFL career span is about 3 1/2 years. If their big paydays come at year 4 then many of these players will never see the big payoffs at all. On the other hand, players that perform beyond their first contract will be getting paid for actual performance and not potential.

  10. claydefayette says: Jun 14, 2012 9:45 AM

    Make the first two years of a rookie’s contract low but guaranteed and if he outperforms his contract he should have the right to arbitration. If a player drafted high sucks, then he can continue to make the same amount of cash until the contract runs out.

  11. bhindenemylines says: Jun 14, 2012 9:45 AM

    johnnycash19 says:
    Jun 14, 2012 2:20 AM
    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
    ———–
    I like that they cannot hold out for more money until they have 3 seasons under their belt.

    Is there anything in the CBA that allows that for veteran players as well? MJD for instance, would he have to complete a certain number of years on his contract before he holds out for more? Or is it strictly for the rookies?

    ————————-

    Any player can hold out anytime they want. It is a bargaining tactic outside of the CBA. It is essentially a one man strike.

    The point of the article is that prior to the new CBS high draft picks didn’t have the leverage to hold out because they had already been paid $20-50+ million.

    Now, after three years, if RGIII has lead the Skins to the playoffs a few times and been among the league passing leaders, instead of getting paid the last year of his rookie contract he will have leverage to demand more. Thus, he will hold out.

    And Jemarcus will be laughing all the way to his investment guy’s office.

  12. onereasonableman says: Jun 14, 2012 9:58 AM

    I really think the union should have negotiated a one year limit on the franchise tag. Give one year to get the player signed then if not, let them walk. Big mistake.

  13. gordyb7 says: Jun 14, 2012 10:37 AM

    I don’t care about high-achieving multi-year veterans holding out for more money. If they deserve it, pay them.

    The problem pre-CBA was ROOKIES holding out for more money. You picked a guy in the first round and there was a 50/50 chance he’d miss significant time in his first NFL training camp, which really sucked. So his development was set back and there was a ton of drama about “when’s he going to show for camp?”

    I’m glad that problem got fixed.

  14. godofwine330 says: Jun 14, 2012 12:07 PM

    I cannot blame the players if they hold out. They get cut if they underperform for a year, even if they had a nagging injury that the team knew about. Players essentially sign 1 year contracts that they must live up to but the team does not. I do not understand why less violent sports like baseball and basketball have guaranteed contracts and a much more vicious sport such as football only has the signing bonus.

    Great! I got X millions up front now but if they cut me a year into the deal after an ACL injury suffered in the last game of the season. Now I cannot find a team because I am still 3-4 months away from being healthy, and if I wait until I am healthy who is going to sign me after a year away from the game? Football players risk injury on every play and every chance they take could be their last chance at a deal. Some, like Drew Brees took a chance and got hurt, now he never will take than chance again.

  15. covercorner says: Jun 14, 2012 2:11 PM

    Why do fans call players that want more money greedy, but the NFL and individual teams are not considered greedy when they want more money from cities and states to build a new stadium?

  16. peytonsneck18 says: Jun 14, 2012 7:43 PM

    why not make the player play out all the years in his rookie deal until it is up? if yr still putting up stellar numbers after 4/5 years then u deserve to get paid, IRG3 is already looking for his next big contract after one year cause the redskins and media are hyping him up as a football GOD, akili smith 2.0, aka the black david carr

  17. jgedgar70 says: Jun 18, 2012 12:57 PM

    I’m not worried about Cam. He will want his money if he keeps playing like he has, and the Panthers will pay him. I don’t see him rejecting a $25 million contract because RGIII or Luck or Eli gets a $28 million deal. As long as he’s near the top and the Panthers are title contenders, he won’t hold out. And not even the Panthers brass is dumb enough to low-ball him just for the hell of it.

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