Goodell makes case for rookie wage scale

The biggest difference between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his peers arises from the fact that, in our view, Goodell hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a fan of the sport he runs.  And so he thinks and communicates like a fan, especially when talking to other fans.

After he finished calling out draft picks on Friday night from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, he held court for an extended period of time with a throng of fans near the ESPN broadcast platform.  On Saturday, Goodell talked to a group of fans at the draft who won a chance for a sit-down with the Commish, and he spoke about the issue of rookie pay in a manner that surely will resonate with everyone who hears his words.

Except the rookies and their agents.

“I love [Rams quarterback] Sam Bradford, and I hope he’s great, but he
probably made somewhere between $40 and $45 million the night before
last,” Goodell said.  “He has not even hit
the field yet and that’s a guaranteed contract.  So if Sam Bradford
can’t play, what good does that do any other NFL player?  As much as I
like these young rookies, and I do think they’re terrific, it’s crazy
to give someone who hasn’t proven themselves on the NFL field $45

“I think over these three days, we will give $600 million in
guaranteed money to these rookies that you’re hearing their names.  $600
million.  And if let’s just say half of them don’t make it and the money
is equivalent to this, that’s $300 million out the door.  It doesn’t go
to veterans, it doesn’t go to owners.  It goes to somebody who couldn’t
play the game.  That’s wasting money.”

He’s right.  Now that the draft is over, we can focus on the fact that history tells us roughly half of the players picked will indeed be busts.  And so roughly half of them won’t live up to the huge contracts those taken at the top of the process will receive.

It’s an issue on which the NFL and the union appear to now agree, and a deal likely would be reached on this point if/when a consensus can be established as to the broader issue of pay and benefits for all players.  Still, there’s a strong sense in league circles that 2010 will be the last year of the “free money” — and any rookies who don’t like what they’re offered in the coming months and who contemplate sitting out the year and re-entering the draft should keep that in mind.


42 responses to “Goodell makes case for rookie wage scale

  1. This interview was ran on TV two days ago, and your just now getting around to posting it here?
    I couldn’t agree more with the commissioner. The rookie pay scale has gotten out of hand, and allows some players to take advantage of the system. Just look at JaMarcus Russell as a prime example. After getting payed like he did, some guys just aren’t going to have the motivation to work as hard as you have to in order to succeed at the NFL level. This needs to come to an end, and the sooner the better. You should have to earn it. The owners are just throwing away money with a lot of these players.

  2. Good job Goodell, stand up for the Veterans.
    People watch football for Peyton Manning and Tom Brady’s passion to win games by any means.
    For the colorful characters who make the game fun like Ochocinco and Jared Allen.
    Without Floyd Little, who made less in his career than Bradford will make in his first year, there wouldn’t be an NFL. There would be no millions to spend or fans to watch the game.
    Bernie Kosar, Jim Brown, Archie Manning, Laary Csonka, Ronnie Lott, Earl Campbell, Walter Payton…..the list goes on and on and on…..
    These college player’s don’t deserve money that should get paid to players who have earned it.
    Not players who haven’t earned anything yet.
    Maybe they should set up a refund system, if you don’t perform you give money back. If they do that Jamarcus Russell owes the Raiders about 36 Million by my count.

  3. I’ve always wondered why the Union ever fought this. Keep the salary cap the same, lower the rookie $$ and the veterans all get paid more. Seems simple and much more logical. The union should have supported the veterans by making this change years ago.

  4. Is a Rookie wage scale going to result in more top QBs refusing to sign with the bad teams at the top of the draft and trying to force their way to better teams? I see that as a probable outcome from a wage scale. Top players will no longer be able to get a ‘risk bonus’ for being taken at the top of the draft so the ‘penalty’ (greatly lower bonus/salary) for forcing their way to a team with a lower draft pick will not be very high.
    It would also change the ‘Value Chart’ to require more compensation for moving into the top ten of the draft. Since teams won’t be paying huge contracts to top ten guys (which tends to make teams want to move down) teams holding those picks can ask for more to give up the spot.

  5. Goodell’s premise of $300 M wasted is a little short sided, but his point is not.
    Let’s say Sam Bradford is a bust…. He’s still an NFL player, and while he didn’t deserve 40M guaranteed, he was going to get something.. So the “wasted” amount may be 150M-200M.

  6. I blame Paul Tagliabue for this problem ,it became a problem in the 80’s and he didn’t do a damn thing about it.

  7. This needs to be addressed more than discipline for players, even though they are not charged with a crime. Vernon Gholsten and Ted Ginn are perfect examples of top ten drafted players that should not have been paid multi millions. Neither is even a starter at his respective position. A change needs to be undertaken prior to the 2011 draft.

  8. Listen, you do not have to cap rookie wages to save money- YOU CAP THE AMOUNT OF GAURANTEED MONEY. #1 pick 20% gauranteed
    #2 18% gauranteed- etc etc- When you get outside the top 10. The gauranteed money or non roster signing bonus should be paid out at 5%, 2nd rd 4% 3rd 2% etc. You can pay these guys wghatever you want- still promoting fair trade yet- you can only gaurantee a percentage to rookies. Makes the most sense- Agents can still try and get thier guy the most money, but you arent handcuffed by gaurantees.

  9. I am normally opposed to everything Goodell is trying to do to the league, but this is the one area that I absolutely agree with and hope that the NFL gets it right soon.
    If JaMarcus Russell is not enough of a reason to fix this problem I don’t know what it.

  10. Why did he bother with the speech? All he needed to do was take a poster board and write “Reasons for a rookie wage scale” with a picture of Jamarcus underneath and his guaranteed money below that.

  11. Everyone agrees with that. Economists recently took up the issue and wrote a long report on it, pretty much calling it a joke.
    Don’t know how it ever got so bad.

  12. No one is to blame other than the free enterprise system that we all are part of and Agents. Who obviously do a great job to get the most for their clients. That said now it’s time for fairness and order. If the rookie pay scale is made reasonable there may even be monies to pay disabled veteran players more.

  13. As a fan I agree. We need to stop the madness now! Due to current economy, the timing for a change should be perfect. Future rookie contracts should be flexible and structured on learning curves and performance incentives. Proven performers should get the big money.

  14. It would seem that reducing the draft to 2, maybe 3, rounds would reduce the amount paid to unproven rookies and still promote balance between winning and losing teams. The undrafted college and the veterans would then be on an equal footing to negotiate value for experience vs. potential. It would also give the prospects and veterans the chance to go where they had the best chance for success.

  15. No more Gholstons, Klingler, Akili Smiths, Russells, Mike Mamula’s….
    PAY the guys that get it done!

  16. I think the veterans oppose a cap because somebodies got to get the money. The fear is that if the rookies don’t get the dough, the owners will just keep it. And though the veterans don’t directly get money from the rookie contracts, they benefit from their high dollar amounts. Brandon Marshall can make the claim that if Ted Ginn and get this and he sucks, shouldn’t I get more. And many times they do. I think to push the rookie contract cap through owners would need to agree to higher veteran minimum salaries. After all, the superstar players aren’t the ones losing out, it’s the average NFL who can’t get their raise because of a lack of funds. But truthfully, the NFL doesn’t have a lack of funds, just a problem with distribution.

  17. Time for these little snot noses to prove themselves before they make the big hay. Forty million before Bradford takes a snap, insane.

  18. So make rookies FAs and see what they’re actually worth. That’s the problem when you set up an artificial economy as via the draft system – it eliminates the free market. So don’t then complain that the market is broken. The league created this problem and is now whining about it.
    One other thing they could do is cap the length of rookie deals, but the teams invariably want longer deals. Don’t blame the players. It’s the teams that can’t control themselves.

  19. Man, after college, I expected to be made an offer to work for a company, and be paid more than everyone who was hired before me.

  20. oh my friends, lets not get to excited about this idea of a rookie cap. why?….because we live in the united states of america and any lawyer worth his salt would protest this actually happening as soon as a client pays him to do just that. as a worker you are intitiled to make as much as someone is willing to pay you. boo-hoo for the poor billion dollar owners that make dumb decisions through hiring bad incompetent people to run their little “hobbies” i have zero interest in hearing how this is destroying the nfl. do we need to find away to pay the proven vets more than the rookies? yeah, its called get a better lawyer. thats just the way it is.

  21. You tell em Rodg!
    Each round should have a set price associated with it – not the Top 10, or the next 10, etc – but each round. Like all players in Rd1 get $1 mil/yr for their first 3 yrs, then the team has a right to re-evaluate and update the contract. Rd2, maybe $700k, etc.

  22. The draft value chart does need change but the top few picks are just insane to get up there the cost to move up should be lessened to be honest.

  23. I’m all for a rookie wage scale. But is it really going to mean more money for the veterans? I have a feeling the owners will be pocketing that extra money.

  24. Even tho Goodell is and has been like a Nazi since he started with all the rules etc,altho most of them came from a bigger Nazi in Tagliube (sp?)..this is one thing he is 100 percent right on with this thing.there is no if,ands or buts about this this thing NEEDS to happen for the good of the game and the players futures after the game

  25. Employee productivity incentives. It’s what drives our manufacturing and professional services sector—why not the NFL?
    Highest producers get paid the highest salaries. Simple but made complicated by the owners egos and collective bargaining agreement.

  26. There’s a perfect system already in place. Do like the NBA and have a scale. The #1 pick gets a set maximum and so on. They can play or not. The NBA doesn’t experience ANY holdouts. They all sign within two weeks of the end of their draft. It’s as simple as that. With that said I also believe that if you are going to cap the rookies (which is a great idea) there needs to be a minimum that the team owners have to spend on players. In other words the owners shouldn’t just pocket the money that is saved by any rookie cap. Force them to spend the money on proven talent.

  27. Hey Godell, maybe you should talk to David Stern. I’m not a huge NBA fan, but you gotta admit: When it comes to rookie salaries, they got it right!

  28. this issue has needed to be addressed for quite sometime.i am all for a certian amount of guaranteed money but over the years this has gotten way out of hand.quite honestly i have been shocked at the way a very well run business like the nfl has allowed this to get this far out of hand-wasted money hurts any business and the nfl is no different when it comes to make these unproven players earn the big contracts and start weeding out these players that sign these big contracts before they take the field and then they don’t want to preform,it robs the fans the teams & the league.

  29. the fact that, in our view, Goodell hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a fan of the sport he runs. And so he thinks and communicates like a fan, especially when talking to other fans.
    You’re kidding, right?
    What fan wants to be forced into paying for 2 exhibition games just to get season tickets or for any single game that involves their most bitter rival?
    What fans like their home games moved to London or Toronto or Mexicot City?
    What fans like being told that one day, he hopes to deprive this country of hosting the Super Bowl just because he believs that he can dominate the world from London?
    What fan lkes being thrown out of the seats that they’ve owned for 20 years because the owners decided that they couldn’t live with $200 mil in revenue and they have to keep up the the Joneses?
    Really, what does he have to say about REAL fan issues, Mike?

  30. So if rookies getting paid big money and ending up busts is a good argument for a wage scale, then I guess by that same logic big-contract free agent busts like Adalius Thomas and Javon Walker prove that there should be a veteran wage cap too? Why don’t we just let the commissioner’s office set the wage on every contract players sign?
    I’m totally fascinated by the extreme groupthink on this issue.

  31. Here’s a thought about next year’s rookie wage scale: Will it embolden some teams to play hardball in negotiations with this year’s picks? For example, Cleveland could offer Joe Haden a deal far below that of last year’s pick and use the reasoning that they could have gotten him much lower. If they won’t budge on the offer, Haden’s options are either to sign a smaller deal or hold out and sign a much smaller deal next year. And all it takes is for one team to try this before others start following suit.

  32. The NHL figured this out five years ago. The salary for a rookie is capped at a maximum of $850,000 per year for the first three years and then they fall into different restricted tiers.
    The numbers are irrelevant. The fact is the system works and is unchallengable. It wasn’t even one of the major points for the players during the lock out as the current union base agreed that the bigger money should be going to the vets.
    Maybe the NFL can keep talking about this for another five years.

  33. fishfan39 says:
    There’s a perfect system already in place. Do like the NBA and have a scale. The #1 pick gets a set
    There’s a big difference: the NBA system is meant to get the players into camp and NOT to deprived them of a good wage while the NFL owners want to bring these guys down to as close to the rookie minimum as they can.
    The commish talked about how they were going to put out $600 mil in guaranteed money this year but he doesn’t say that it’s ALL going out this year, which he knows is a lie but if he doesn’t say it, many of you will assume it and he can have plausible deniability.
    Take a look at the salaries of the rookies and you’ll find that they are mostly comparable to what the NBA does. In MOST years, all rookies, drafted or not, sign for the NFL minimum for their first year and a signing bonus that ranges from non-existent to real money. After that, they get money based on production while the top of the class get guaranteed money that – wait for it – they may or may not collect because they exceeded the terms of their contract and it gets torn up and they work on NEW guaranteed money and flush away the old guaranteed money.
    People point at JaMarcus Russell but his contract was the exception and not the rule. When Oakland took him, they put an AKA-47 in his agent’s hands and were held hostage until they signed him after their first game. The contract he signed was NOT the typical contract and it was heavily loaded in the second year and that trigged big money then and in the third year. If you look at the contract of Brady Quinn, who also held out but nearly as long, it was more like what rookies got and his failure on the field hasn’t translated to a lot of money coming out of the Browns’ pockets.
    Most of you gravitate to the REALLY BAD contracts and point to them as perfect example and yet, you overlook that MANY MORE FAVORABLE contracts that are signed every year. It’s not like every rookie doesn’t perform or earn their contract;. In fact, in some positions, like running back, that’s when they earn it the most. A perfect example is one of Florio’s favorite punching bags, LT. He earned every penny and then some of his rookie contract and far exceeded the work of many veteran running backs and yet, after 9 years, he’s been forced into restructuring his contract and then let go. Tom Brady can expect to be well paid but LT’s biggest paydays are over..
    Anyone who believes that the owners are going to magically turn this “found” money over to the veterans is naive because they’ve never done it in the past. Hell, they’ve had to be embarrassed in public by people like Ditka to go back and help the old veterans that they’ve abandoned after their usefulness has passed. What little “found” money that they give back will be offset by the money that they decided to keep for themselves.

  34. I heard this the other night on ESPN and I think its the most well though and concise argument to date for a rookie wage scale. Goodell proved why he is the undisputed leader of the NFL as he should be, because he was able to sum up the whole rookie pay scale problem in 1 sentence which these so called experts, writers, blogers, and analyst couldnt do in months of writing story after story.
    That 1 sentence by Goodell will do more for changing how rookies get paid then every other oratory , column, or blog combined.

  35. I am curious how much the players give in to this b/c they agree with it YET they will need to act like they are against it so the NFL will give them something for it.
    Everyone wants it as the #1 pick has now become more of a burden than a blessing, which is ridiculous
    Bradford getting as much money as he will get is laughable

  36. route36west…..
    actually my explanation is the best one afforded on this blog.
    Sorry bud…

  37. I don’t think wage scales in other sports are comparable. Football players put their bodies through more crap than any other athlete and the duration of their careers reflect it. They only have a short amount of time to get paid.

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