Stalemate arises over rookie wage scale

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Thanks for nothing, Arthur Boylan.

As the U.S. Magistrate Judge who presided over the labor talks like a referee and then decided to leave the stadium with the ball inside the five starts his vacation, some believe that the process can continue without him, given the threat of the looming loss of preseason revenue.  We’re not so sure that’s the case.

A source with knowledge of the dynamics of the negotiations tells us that the league and the players are at a stalemate on the issue of the rookie wage scale.

Per the source, the owners still are pushing for five-year contracts for first-round picks.  But that approach would make it harder for truly great players to be properly compensated before making it through five years with enough left in the tank to justify a big contract.  That would actually make it better for great players to slide into round two, since the players would be eligible for free agency, or at a minimum the franchise tag, after four years of play.

The league’s general concern is valid.  Too much money flows out of the system when top-ten draft picks become busts.  Also, the magnitude of those contracts possibly contributes to a player becoming a bust, by causing him to become complacent or by making him believe he doesn’t have to listen to teammates, coaches, or anyone.  But the league seems to be trying to leverage that concern into a solution that goes much farther than it needs to.

Making the league’s position even more confusing is the apparent reality that the salary floor will creep within five or so points of the salary cap, forcing teams to spend money.  So why do they want to lock up first-round draft picks to subpar contracts?  The league would likely contend that teams will have no choice but to extend truly great first-round picks before their initial contracts expire.  While that may be true for quarterbacks and high-profile skill position players, the men who toil in anonymity easily could remain anonymous until they finish that fifth NFL season.

Regardless of how it all works out, it needs to work out before the lockout can end.  And while few dispute that a rookie wage scale needs to be put in place, the league needs to be fair and reasonable on this point, or much of the money that would be redistributed via a rookie wage scale will be lost once preseason games begin to be canceled.

But it will be hard for anything to work out until Boylan comes back.

If the league and the players would like to prove us wrong on that, we’d have no complaints.

49 responses to “Stalemate arises over rookie wage scale

  1. You’d think he’d put his vacation on hold for a couple of weeks. But hey, who cares about the fans right?

  2. I don’t blame Boylan for taking a vacation. These clowns have had since March to get a deal worked out, only taking it seriously in the last few weeks or so. I wouldn’t put my life on hold either.

    That said, maybe Boylan’s taking his vacation rather than staying to help hammer out a deal is a sign the two sides are farther apart than originally thought?

  3. So the league thinks they can’t tell if a player is worthy of a new deal after three years?

    Other than knowing what you have, there is really no reason to fairly compesate players after their initial short contract. Given how few years NFL player are in the league, 3 years should be a no brainer. If it drives up the cost for a player, than so be it. It is far better to spend big on a player you know can play, than spend big on a player who has never played in the NFL.

  4. 5 years is B.S. The huge contracts before a guy steps on the field need to go, but if a guy comes in and plays at a high level right away he should be compensated right away.

  5. So make the fifth yr a team option yr based upon number of plays played. Make it financially beneficial to the player.


  6. Seems to me that there is a relatively easy solution here. Give 1st round picks the option of signing 4 or 5 year contracts. The 4 year deal lines up on a sliding scale with the contracts for the 2nd round pick on with no or little room for additional incentives or guarantees. The 5 year deal has a premium on yearly salary average compared to the 4 year deal(say an additional 10-20% but that’s negotiable) with additional latitude for the agent to negotiate incentives and salary guarantees. Basically the player has to choose between the ability to reach free agency a year earlier or take the perks of accepting a deal with an extra year on it. The only concern I see with this is that agents could push rookies to take 5 year deals so they get a larger commission because to know that rookies often change agents before their 2nd deal anyway.

  7. How about this compromise – the top 50% of the 1st round picks or the top 10 or 15 picks get signed for 5 years – everyone else gets the 4 year deal. The top picks are going to get the most money as it is – they should be willing to wait one extra year for their free agency.

  8. What dummy ever said the negotiations were at the 5 yard line, huh?

    And who also said this magistrate is so critical to the negotiations? He is just an observer – about as green in these matters as is another rookie – Judge Suzy.

    As for what Agents want – who gives a shxx. They are a whole lot more of the problem than the solution.

    And you can postulate/offer ideas all you want – but fact is -the Owners just picked off a pass and ran it back 75 yards and are now up by 21 with time running out in the 4th quarter.

    My Q: Who is more likely to get a bridge loan if needed? Jerry Jones or 95% of the NFL players?

  9. Well, this will make me dial back my optimism a little.

    Five years for rookie deals is unreasonable. You are restricting earning potential for what in most cases will be more than half of a player’s career.

  10. Maybe they should have put in more than 10 hours a week and his vacation wouldn’t be an issue.

    And for those who have a wife, I want you to imagine explaining to her that you are canceling the vacation to hang out with the NFL…

  11. Considering the owners & players basically took a week off of face-to-face meetings who can blame Boylan. Besides he’s going way beyond the call of duty here as a court appointed mediator. This is all getting so old.

  12. 1st rounders should get 4 year deals max, teams have a franchise tag and the option to actually pay the player what he is worth at any point in the deal or at the end (shocking concept, I know).

  13. this is just lovely, common sense must take over
    stop trying to strong arm and compromise
    weve seen how well the strong arm tactics work…

  14. who is to say that the 5 years is current info. This reeks of old information to keep the labile on and off again articles grabbing attention that has been ongoing. Anyone of any authority saying NFL is currently insisting on the “old” proposal being referenced?

  15. The fans were clearly on the owners side on this situation, this could shift the scales in the players favor quickly. 5 years is insane, if this becomes a huge issue….good luck boys!

  16. Couldn’t they just do 5-year contracts and put “escalators” in the contracts that reduce the length of the contract based on performance?

  17. theblowtorchreview says: Jul 9, 2011 9:28 AM

    They all make too much. But who’s fault is that?

    End of story.

    It;s the fans fault !!

    Let them all go broke!

  18. Haha unbelievable. The issue that should be most easy to agree on is now at a “stalemate.” Who gives a crap about rookies. The “truly great” players will be in the league long enough to get another contract after their five years are up. The crappy players, will not. The way it should be. Instead of the system that is now where all first rounders become multi millionaires when only about 10-15 of them turn out to be any good.

  19. Up until 2011 1st round rookie deals were 5 years with HUGE guaranteed bonuses. If the owners want to lock-up 1st round talent then they can continue paying through the nose. If the owners want to limit pay on rookies then they need to give-up years on that 1st contract. 3 year contracts for all rookies, with unrestricted FA year 4. The teams should get the use of 3 or 4 Franchise Tags each year (at top-3 player’s pay @ that position) for a 4th year to help retain talent ~ but that 4th year should encourage a new long-term contract, NOT squatting on a guy (Peppers-esque).

  20. Owners have to give on this one, because it makes them look like coupon clippers. Everyone loves a bargain, but what they are getting is price certainty for rookies and an end to the risk that comes with making a high draft pick.

    And yet they still want players taken at the end of the first round to be locked up for 5 years? Because they want a 3 time Pro Bowler to play for $2 million a year in the final year of his deal?

    I believe in paying your dues and earning your big payday, but the insistence on 5 years smacks of hazing.

    Owners can say they don’t mind paying a high contract for a great talent, but their position on this issue belies their words. They just love a bargain.

  21. “the men who toil in anonymity easily could remain anonymous until they finish that fifth NFL season.”

    Then that wouldnt be the ones needing their contract re-worked.

  22. I guess there isn’t anyone involved that isn’t an enormous spoiled brat.

    NFL – you know darn well most player’s careers on average are more than 1/2 over at 5 years. Why can’t you be happy with lower initial payouts at a 4 or hell, even 3 year deal, and then compensate the players that deserve it?

    How is this worse than getting stuck paying 60mil over 6 years with 1/2 guarranteed to Jamarcus Russell?

  23. If Kraft can skip out to go to Israel, and Jerry can attend weddings, then Boylan can go on his vacation. Sad that we’re all worried the owners and players can be grown ups without him.

    Speaking of the owners, I’m disappointed with their stance on the rookie wage scale. 5 years is too long, no matter how it works out. Surely it doesn’t take 5 years to realize a guy is a bust, and not paying a star until 5 years later is unfair.

    With all the creative deals they’ve worked in the past with player agents, I’m confused as to why they can’t be more flexible here.

  24. Make top 15 picks 4 years with a 5th year team option, escalating each year, with heavy incentives for out performing their rookie contract.

  25. A stalemate on this issue is an unfortunate point of contention. Teams certainly don’t want to be saddled with the Russells and Gholstons of the world.
    I don’t have solutions to this, myself. The owners may have to give a little on this, somewhat. Maybe, once this is resolved, on draft day teams will be able to trade the #1 pick instead of it being such a near burden.

  26. rambo08 says:
    You’d think he’d put his vacation on hold for a couple of weeks. But hey, who cares about the fans right?

    Boo hoo hoo.

    I agree that the owners demand for a rookie wage scale while giving absolutely nothing in return to that group of players is preposterous.

    First, IMO any league with a salary cap doesn’t need a draft in the first place. Bad teams could cut their bad players, thereby creating the most cap space to bid on rookies. This way a bad team like Carolina could go out and acquire a a top rookie like Cam Newton AND another top-20 college player or two.

    But since I know the draft isn’t going anywhere, if I were running the union I’d stand firm on this: if the owners want a rookie wage scale I’d surrender it if the drafted players were granted unrestricted free agency after three years, without any franchise or transition tags allowed. This way the good players get fairly compensated after proving themselves, and the bad ones never do.

  27. A stalemate?

    I’m shocked !!

    I mean, a deal was so “close” and they were at the “5 yard line”.

    How could a deal be so close, as reported by NFL “sources”, while at the same time be at a stalemate?

  28. Something doesn’t smell right with this story. I don’t believe this is the cause for the latest stalemate. This was one of the issues since the early going that has been virtually taken off the table as both sides wanted a revamped rookie salary structure. The terms of the rookie contracts has always been a flexible item in prior CBA’s.

  29. I think the years should vary by position. Top RBs come into the league ready to play. Give them all 3yr non guaranteed contracts. WR usually get up to speed in the 3rd year. Give them 4 year non guaranteed contracts. QBs are expected to ride the bench 2 or more years. Give them 5 or 6 year non guaranteed contracts.

    All contracts will have performance bonus escalators to reward the CJs of the league.

    If owners want to lock the players up for longer periods change the contracts to GUARANTEED dollars.

  30. I’m not necessarily saying I agree with it, but this is the argument from the owner’s point of view. Both sides have to agree to an overall revenue split and then the rookie salaries/wage scale flows from that. Part of the revenue split agreement will be an increased salary floor. So the length of the 1st round rookie deals doesn’t affect the total amount going to the players. Teams will still have to reach that salary floor by paying free agents and giving young players extensions. The 5 year rookie deals make investing such a high pick on a specific player, particularly a player that may need seasoning like a QB, more appetizing as you don’t have to worry about losing the player right after he starts to have a significant affect on the team. But any money that specific player loses by having a 5 year deal as opposed to a 4 year deal will go to other players to maintain the salary cap floor.

  31. Owners do need to be careful here… If the season is lost and treble damages are assessed, the players will end up owning a good chunk of the league…

    I’m just sick of this ping pong game…. Anyone know what channel tv UFL is on?

  32. there are a bunch of things about the NFL that are crazy, however rookie contracts are among the worst…

    who wants their team they are rooting for to be handicapped by a Jamarcus contract?

    actually, who wants to root for a Jamarcus when we are all out earning our pay every day?

    these contracts should be entirely performance based with no guarantee… then you will see some exciting rookie football…. finally…

    but that would require both the Players and Owners having a higher IQ and… gasp… giving a damn about us, their paychecks

  33. Why would he change his vacation? He is not employed by the NFL. After dealing with these idiots as long as he has, he should take two extra weeks.

  34. Footballers have the shortest pro careers around, their contracts should reflect that. Sign rookies to 3-year deals, max. No option to renegotiate. If, after 3 years, you deserve a bigger paycheck, you’re free to go for it. If you suck, the team isn’t tied down.

  35. The answer is pretty obvious. There should be a cap on rookie year compensation. After they have proven themselves for one year in the NFL, stars like Chris Johnson should get a big contract.

  36. I am not sure what there is to fuss over here. If the contracts are only 3 years, the team can still retain their rights with a RFA tender and right of first refusal that comes with those tenders. So the teams can control all drafted players for a minimum of 4 years.

    Most of the high draft pick rookie contracts are so backloaded right now that by the time they reach year 5 its actually in the best interest of the team to re-do the deal anyway.

    A compromise on this could be an option year. Make it so that teams are discouraged from doing it but if they really want to keep that player its an option. Treat it like an extra franchise tag. In the option year the players salary increases significantly. The player can not be franchised in the future (so the team can no longer restrict his movement unless they sign him to a long term deal) and once the option is picked up the salary is guaranteed against everything. In turn the team gets to hold on to a coveted player for one more season without being forced to use the teams actual franchise tag.

  37. Pay them all half a million a year, period. No 4 or 5 year contracts. They are all being over paid. If the rookies don’t want to work for that, then go get a real job.

    Boylan can take a permanent vacation. They’ve all drug out this “process” way too long. Why is a-hole DeMo still involved in any discussions? He screwed the pooch back in March.
    Enough Already!

  38. The rookie wage scale is my NUMBER 1 issue.

    I am SICK of seeing these guys get 30-40 million up front with them having done nothing in the NFL.

  39. If they are going to do the 5 year contracts that need to do away with the franchise tag. It puts more pressure on the ownership to reup the contracts. Why do we have better solutions then the people that are getting paid to do so?

  40. “Per the source, the owners still are pushing for five-year contracts for first-round picks. ”

    In my opinion, no rookie, not even first round picks, deserve that big of a contract. I don’t care if some had a much better college career than the others. That doesn’t warrant them to a much bigger contract than those drafted in rounds 2-6. All of them are rookies and all them deserve to be paid the same which should be no more than maybe $3 million.

  41. The rookie salary should be predetermined like the overall cap. That would keep the agents out of it until the second contract. The NFL can hire a group of league attorneys to help players sign. No holdouts. A salary structure like the NBA has is great. The first 3 years are much less than the 4th and 5th, so the player is compensated if they are doing well. The #1 pick should get a five year deal that is roughly 4 mil, 4.5 mil, 5 mil, 6.5 mil 8.5 mil . This a 5 year 28.5 mil contract that puts pressure on the team to redo the contract, cut the player, or pay him the larger salary for years 4 and 5. It is good money for a player, but doesn’t kill a team if the guy is a bust. Remember, last years #1 got 5 years 86 mil – 50 mil guaranteed. The pre-structured contract I am suggesting gives teams time to determine the value of a player by paying him a reasonable amount in the first 3 years, and then the pay escalates. Teams can always restructure early, and players can always hold out is they are not satisfied. The 32nd player drafted should get 5 years 7 mil compared to last years 5 years 12 mil at that spot. Everything in between is just a grid board, with predetermined salaries. No holdouts, good deal for both teams and players. All contacts after round one should be 4 years in length with predetermined salaries.

  42. isnt the NFL career length average 3.5 years? the number of years should be below 3.5, which I think 3 would be a good number. it actually makes the most sense for both sides.

  43. It looks like the owners are engaging in some over-reach at crunch time, and things should settle in at 4- year contracts instead of 5.

  44. Why not sign the rookie to the $60 million contract. But have years 1 & 2 be cheap, Year 3 jump substantially, then have years 4 and 5 be the crazy numbers?

    Then if the guy is a star he will get paid by the team that drafted him. If he is a dud they can cut him after 2. If he is decent but not worth the massive bucks, they can have some sort of ability to cut him with draft picks due from the team that signs him or of course renegotiate his salary down.

    Maybe not need all that draft pick stuff. After 3 years release or resign to “market value” if you dont want to pay the big bucks of years 4 & 5.

    In that scenario, Jamarcus Russell is cut after 2 years, Matt Ryan isn’t cut at all, and the Lions would have to determine what to do with Stafford after year 3.

  45. So what if the draft picks could be slotted and all get a 2 year contract. This structure would allow higher pay for the 1st round picks and decrement down to the 7th round. This could solve the huge 1st round contracts and would definitely end rookie holdouts. The third year they would become exclusive rights free agents but would either get a new contract, be traded, or get released and go through waivers. If they are not claimed then they become a UFA. Years 4 and 5, they would be a RFA if their contract from year 3 expires. After 5 years the player would be a UFA. The teams could keep the Transition Tag but if they truly wanted to keep a player they had up to 3 chances to lock them up. The compensation for not matching either a RFA or Transition player would be identical to the old rules. The owners should also give up the Franchise Tag.

    Something has to work…Just another suggestion.

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