Rookie wage scale takes center stage when talks resume


We reported on Saturday that the NFL and the players currently are at a stalemate regarding the contours of a new rookie wage scale.  Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that, when the lawyers reconvene on Monday, “the biggest issue remaining on the ledger is the rookie salary system.”

Breer outlines the key sticking points, the most important of which is the league’s insistence on five-year deals for first-round picks, and the players’ preference for four-year contracts in round one.  He explains that one league proposal includes a trigger that would “push[] the fifth year to 150 percent of an average starter’s salary at his position, with a floor of $6 million and a ceiling of $12 million” for the first eight picks.

With the return of the salary cap and a salary floor that is expected to approach, if not exceed, 95 percent of the spending maximum, there’s no reason for the league to demand a system that goes beyond the placement of reasonable limits on the money paid to the top 10 draft picks.  In fact, the presence of a slim gap between spending maximum and spending minimum arguably makes the entire draft unnecessary.

We know it’s sacrilegious to suggest an NFL without a draft, but why shouldn’t teams that are required to spend almost as much as they’re permitted to spend not be able to spend as much, or as little, as they want on rookies?  Free agency didn’t create chaos in the NFL — and we’re now starting to come to the conclusion that, with a hard cap and a hard floor not far below the hard cap, the lack of the draft won’t impact competitive balance.

Of course, the draft remains an important part of the offseason hype machine, making it highly unlikely that it ever would disappear.  So why not cut it down to three or four rounds?  No one cares about rounds five through seven, and the new dynamics of the salary cap and floor will provide teams with every incentive to spend smartly when signing new players, regardless of whether they’re veterans or rookies.

Again, we doubt that any changes to the draft will be made.  But as the two sides look for ways to put this issue to bed, they need to be willing to be creative, in light of the realities of the new salary floor.

67 responses to “Rookie wage scale takes center stage when talks resume

  1. There should be no new CBA unless there is a rookie wage scale. The teams should not again be forced into a position where they must overpay for unproven prospects, who are often busts. Pay the proven players, and maybe even allow players who stay with a team to earn more (and the team to pay more), if they remain loyal to their team and its’ fans.

  2. What happened to “Once they get the revenue figured out, the rest will fall into place rather quickly”.

    From everything I’ve read, the revenue is pretty much finished if not totally finished.

    Yet here we are with 5 days until July 15th and they still have the rookie wage, right of first refusals, and federal oversight in the next CBA to still figure out.

    Looks like Jerome Bettis got stuffed at the 5 yard line.

  3. Wow, you’re good.

    I didn’t know where you were going with this one, but the mere mention of eliminating the draft will send the posters into hysterics.

    Never mind the explanation that the salary cap/floor system will require all teams to spend within 5% of each other, which is a far surer way to ensure competitive balance than a draft is anyway, most of knee jerkers on here will never get that far or understand the explanation if they do.

    I put the over/under at 50 posts. Pretty good for a Sunday night.

  4. The draft has been slowly disappearing for 70 years and the league has seen a jump in parity with every reduction of the draft and expansion of free agency.

    Love the draft as an event. But it’s easy to make an argument that the current (hopefully soon to be changed) system has hurt teams with the top picks as much as it’s help them.

  5. 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.

  6. The players are entrenched. The only way a deal is done by the 15th is if the owners compromise. That’s not going to happen.

    This thing is going into August, boys.

  7. How did they get the money split right if they can’t figure out what to pay a rook a little of nothing make them earn the big bucks after a sit amount of years a
    $10.00 per hr wage would do.

  8. If you want competitive balance, you need the draft. Teams like Buffalo already suffer because no free agents want to go there, if you extend free agency to incoming players there will just be a greater imbalance; the Bills will have to pay more for college players than the Cowboys or Steelers, and then they’ll have less money to spend on the rest of the roster.
    You’d also be taking away the whole ‘worst team gets the best player’ parity dynamic.

  9. 4 year max contracts with scaled signing bonuses based on draft placement, pretty simple.

  10. What gets lost in the shuffle is that a rookie can often bring in a lot of money for a team. For example, interest in the Carolina Panthers is far higher than it was a year ago thanks to their acquisition of Cam Newton.

  11. Two things:

    1) I believe that people care about the first five rounds of the draft. Not just the first three or four. It is rounds six and seven where things fall apart.

    2) I also believe that people dismiss without thoroughly thinking through how exciting a rookie free agency period could be. It could be freaking awesome.

    (And this is coming from a serious draftnik who pays more attention to the draft process than I would ever admit to anyone.)

  12. I care about rounds 5-7

    Are they the big names you only hear about up until draft day? No, but some really great players have come out of those rounds.

  13. I really thought once the revenue split was taken care of, all the rest would fall into place rather quickly. I underestimated them. I really don’t see why it’s such a sticking points. Players taken that high are usually at positions that take a while to develop. It’s not like playing one more year with the same team is gonna cost you that much money.

  14. The draft is awesome and should not be changed. For this whole thing to be held up over whether or not a 1st rounder is signed for 4 or 5 years is so so so stupid. If the player is great, resign him during/after his 4th year…wtf is the big deal NFL. We know you want 5 years out of them so you can rub more of your wooden nickels together….we get it…but when a player is a stud, they will hold out for more money if they think they are being underpaid no matter what year they are in…fill in the blanks for the endless examples of holdouts. Move on, get a deal done. At this point I hope you stupid ba$tards lose the preseason and pi$$ away $200 million a week in the process. Those of us that read websites like profootballtalk or listen to Sirius NFL radio are already football addicts and you are really, honestly, I swear to God starting to lose your die-hard faithful fans. You guys are such greedy a$$holes it makes me want to vomit!

  15. “So why not cut it down to three or four rounds? No one cares about rounds five through seven, ”

    Really? Tell that tom Tom Brady.

    NFL draft is a must. An absolute must. I’m not a fan anymore if anything ever happens to it.

  16. I’m gonna beg to differ that those later rounds aren’t meaningful–maybe fans don’t care as much, but they’re valuable assets to teams. Aside from the fact that teams find significant contributors in those rounds every year, there is the added “status” to the players who are drafted (let’s face it–to be drafted in ANY round in any sport is a feather in the cap of any athlete–not to suggest they should have 15 rounds or something, but 7 isn’t unreasonable). Those later rounds help grease the wheels for trades, too. I also think that you’re being too hard on the NFL’s position–given that we don’t know what the structure of that rookie cap will look like. For instance, let’s assume there will still be a rookie salary cap on a “sliding scale” (in other words, the rookie cap will be based on how many picks you have and where those picks are in the draft), If it’s setup such that there’s still a significant premium for picks #1-10/15, then demanding 5 years makes total sense (maybe a compromise for 5 years for the top 10-15 picks?). Unless the new rookie cap is such that the difference in $’s between pick 1 and pick 15 is relatively insignificant, that seems like a reasonable compromise. Now if the rookies scale is such that the difference between the salary of the #1 pick and the #1 pick in the 2nd round isn’t that big, then I’d agree the league is being unreasonable. It all depends on the structure of the rookie cap, imho. So without the details, it seems like taking a position on who is “right” is premature.

  17. Iam a die hard football fan! But all this crap that the NFL is putting the fans through is bulls%&t! They are taking us for granted. Even if there is a deal and no season is lost. I think we should all consider boycotting some games and show are hard earned dollars shouldn’t be taken for granted. They are worried about all the money they are going to make. Maybe they should worry about all the money they are going to lose. And show some respect to the people that make them. US FANS!!!!!!

  18. Why you would still want a draft:

    In the draft bad teams pick first so they get the best players. If every rookie was a free agent almost all the best ones would either go to the teams that are either in desirable places to live or traditional powers. Why do you think certain teams are always great in college ball and others always suck?

    Yes a team could chose to wildly overpay to get a hot prospect – but that would leave them with less money to sign other players. Meanwhile an stacked could sign 3-5 first round caliber guys.

    And of course there is also risky that hot prospect the bad team overpays to sign might be another JaHamburger Russell – meaning an unproven rookie would get a huge salary he never ends up justifying, which I believe is why everyone wants a rookie wage scale in the first place.

  19. Grabbing at straws to get a deal done usually ends in regrets down the road …… At this point, both sides may as well play the rookie-wage salary system out & get it as correct & fair as possible …..

    No draft !!! …… That’s just crazy …… Those teams that gained the rep for not paying rookies would have few rookies signing their contracts ….. As a result, the ‘paying teams’ would corner the very best college players & parity goes out the window ….. Besides, the draft is hardly just an ‘offseason hype machine’ ….. Fans actually use it as a tool to evaluate their team …….

  20. So all in all does this mean that once this gets figured out (fingers crossed) we could have a deal by end of week? I think I can speak for everyone we’re tired of the good news then bad then good then bad etc. Here’s to hopefully a deal!

  21. @ realitypolice

    “Never mind the explanation that the salary cap/floor system will require all teams to spend within 5% of each other, which is a far surer way to ensure competitive balance than a draft is anyway”.


    There is no person on this planet that knows this as a fact, including you …… There are many ways for teams to spend within 5% of each other that has absolutely zilch to do with signing rookies …… Your line seems abit knee-jerkish from this angle …….

  22. “Teams like Buffalo already suffer because no free agents want to go there…”

    That should tell the NFL that it’s time to relocate any franchise where players just don’t want to play. When is the last time any fan outside of the Buffalo area was excited to see a Bills game…yet the rest of the NFL is forced to support the Bills. If the rumored 95%+ spending rule is adopted, what is the over/under for the Bills to relocate?

  23. “skoobyfl says:
    Jul 10, 2011 7:37 PM
    4 year max contracts with scaled signing bonuses based on draft placement, pretty simple.”


  24. @thebiblestudent

    Of course players would sign with the Panthers. Do you think teams with established quarterbacks are going to pay the top rookie quarterbacks big bucks? Of course they won’t. And teams with a great linebacking core aren’t going to pay the top linebackers big dollars. It’s supply and demand, of course it would work.

  25. Further, it’s incredible that those of you think players won’t sign with the worse teams forget how many free agents sign with those teams everyone single year. */

  26. Don’t Stop Badger Believin’ says:
    Why you would still want a draft:

    In the draft bad teams pick first so they get the best players. If every rookie was a free agent almost all the best ones would either go to the teams that are either in desirable places to live or traditional powers.

    But how do we know that?

    The NFL has a salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. Wouldn’t the players gravitate to the teams that have the most money to offer?

    People look at the draft as this thing that ensures competitive balance, but does it really? For example, if the draft didn’t exist and they had the cap room the Panthers could would be in a position to pick up Cam Newton AND Marcell Dareus AND maybe even another first-rounder or two. But with the draft, they only got one first-rounder.

    And make no mistake- from a historic perspective the draft wasn’t instituted for the sake of parity, it was to keep the NFL teams safe from bidding wars over the top collegiate talent.

    I love the NFL draft so much that I used to play sick back when it was broadcast on Tuesday mornings so that I could stay home from school and watch it. I don’t really want it to go away. But at the same time those players should be treated with a modicum of fairness. The owners looking for a wage scale AND insisting on controlling the first five years of a players’ career (and perhaps beyond with transiton and franchise tags) is a severe overreach.

  27. I 100% disagree that no one cares about rd’s 5-7 . I love the trades , the late rd steals , even the project players and the feel good stories .
    Maybe just create more roster spots to combat late season injuries and help the owners reach the cap floor . But i love doing my own scoutings and having opinions on everyone from the #1 pick to Mr. Irrelevant . Keep the draft !!

  28. woodyg says:
    Jul 10, 2011 8:32 PM

    There is no person on this planet that knows this as a fact, including you …… There are many ways for teams to spend within 5% of each other that has absolutely zilch to do with signing rookies …… Your line seems abit knee-jerkish from this angle …….

    In the future I will make sure to put “in my opinion” in front of every statement I make so you will be able to figure out that things I post on sports blogs are in fact the things I think, not things that are absolute facts. I apologize for the confusion.

    Incidentally, my post referred to competitive balance, not signing rookies.

    But since you bring up signing rookies, I will explain how not having a draft in a world where every team in the league is spending the same amount of money on salaries would NOT lead the top rookies to go to the same teams every year.

    In this system, the money would be shifted towards proven veteran players because that’s who teams prefer to play. So rookies would need to go to teams where they would get on the field the quickest to develop the resume that will allow them to get that big free agent contract 3 to 4 years down the road.

    So with every team offering about the same thing to rookies, is a top QB prospect going to go to Dallas if Dallas already has an established starter and they therefore risk sitting 2-3 years or to Carolina where he can start right away?

    You would end up with a system where players chose teams where they had the best chance to make an impact in the shortest amount of time.

    For a preview of what this system would look like, look at how the undrafted free agent process works now.

    Top UDFA’s will typically get multiple offers from different teams. They don’t all rush off to the glamour franchises- they go where they have the best chance to get on the field.

    All of this being said- I love the draft and hope it never goes away. I just don’t think football would be ruined if it did.

  29. Simpler would be better. 4 years for the first round seems fine.

    After that, each team has the franchise tag for one player per year and most teams don’t even use it.

    The league is insisting on stuff that may not even be in their own best interests. They may still whiff on a pick like Gholston and a 5 year deal just means the slotted signing bonus is bigger.

    They are better off seeing who can play and then paying their own good players before their deals expire.

    The right of first refusal demands for the teams that refused to sign any of their free agents is laughable. Some owners thought that it would give them leverage for the lockout to not give their own best players a signing bonus before the lockout and now that they are UFA’s they want to slap on a restriction. That’s bogus. What are they going to do when there is poison pill language or are they begging for an anti-poison pill clause too?

    If they have agreed to a revenue split, they should wrap this thing up. There is not much time this offseason and there are a slew of players available. Some players will leave their current teams, but many and more will want to get to a familiar camp where they know the system and can be successful.

    It’s come down to this and the owners won’t cut a deal!?! I am speechless.

  30. 4 years with right of first refusal on year 5. No poison pill offers allowed. Done deal.

  31. It’s stupid for both sides to make too much of an issue about this. With the anticipated cash floor, teams are going to have to spend a specific amount on players overall regardless of the rookie wage scale. So, even if the players have to wait an extra year to get to UFA, teams will have to spend that money on UFAs or on extensions for young players. The NFL should be flexible on the $ for a 5th year option(if that happens) because better from the team’s perspective for that money to go to a young player that already knows the team’s system as opposed to an UFA that is potentially older and at the least an outsider. Even if players are UFAs after 4 years versus vice which might be a negative to a particular team that wants to keep a player, the upside is that teams as a whole will be signing younger free agents that are more likely to perform for the length of their second contract instead of having a performance decline at the end due to age.

    From the union’s perspective the argument I’ve seen is that higher rookie 1st round deals can be a driving force for lucrative extensions for veterans. However, there’s a relatively fixed amount for teams to spend overall on players. If the union is arguing that it wants more money to go to the high 1st round picks and for that to be a driving force for more money to go to top-tier veterans then by necessity it is reducing the money available for the middle class of players. The union’s objective should be to maximize the percentage of revenue the players as a total get and to maximize the cash floor. Any other arguments that they make to benefit any subset of players within the union hurts players outside of those groups.

  32. Just saw something on TV saying that they have reached an agreement and that camp starts the 18th. Not sure how true it is though. Have hope though!

  33. “but why shouldn’t teams that are required to spend almost as much as they’re permitted to spend not be able to spend as much, or as little, as they want on rookies?”

    – No one is making these teams draft players. They could just as easily trade their picks for proven players or players with potential, if they feel that strongly about not spending money on rookies. I mean look at the Patriots… kings of the second round pick. They stay away from those high contracts.

    – Taking away the last few rounds of the draft is a punishment to those teams who have excellent front offices and pick players in the late rounds who either contribute or excel… Somewhere Tom Brady is working up some more tears regarding the respect 6th round picks receive.

  34. “So why not cut it down to three or four rounds?”

    The players should be scared to death of that sort of talk. The only hammer the players have is anti-trust and the draft is 1/3 of the anti-trust tripod. Take away the salary cap, franchise tag and the draft and guess what? There is no more leverage for the players.

    The NBA vs. Williams decision seemed to indicate that a limited draft would not violate anti-trust laws. A limited draft would knock out one of the legs of the players’ only leverage. If the NFL ever adopts anti-trust compliant work-rules the NFLPA* is screwed.

  35. The rookie wage scale arrangement should be an automatic one year deal in which first round picks are paid 50% of what the average starter makes. In the following year the team must make a more competitive multi-year offer or lose the player to another team.

  36. If there was no draft… essentially wouldn’t the NFL basically be like college football where the same big name schools are always the top dogs? I could be wrong as I do not follow college football.

  37. If I was the owners I would hold firm on the 5 year deal. At 4 years many Teams are Drafting Kids that the Teams pay a ton of money to while they grow up and learn.

    Once the ones that pan out start to come around and contribute some other Team signs them while the Team that Drafted them did all the work and paid all the money.

    I would also make sure to get those Rights of First Refusals, at least for this year. If the owners give in on the 5 year deal they are not to bright.

  38. Or what’s wrong with a 4 year deal with a club option for a 5th at an inflated rate? And ask Tom Brady, Andy Lee, Michael Turner, etc if anyone cares about the 5th-7th rounds…

  39. The rookie wage scale is my personal number 1 issue. I’m sick of these guys getting so much up front without doing anything in the NFL.

    It’s to the point where no team wants the number 1 pick anymore…so bad teams are hurt even more.

  40. vikescry1 says:
    Hey NFL players, I have (1) thing to say to you. (Jamarcus Russell) nuff said!

    Anything that ends with “nuff said” is likely to be retarded, but this one raises the standard.

    It’s like someone saying “Sam Bradford, nuff said” while pretending JaMarcus never existed.

  41. A rookie wage scale is a tough one. Sounds to me like they are trying to just tweak a broken problem, when now is the time to completely rethink how rookies are paid.

    I’d suggest limiting every rookie contract to three years. That is more than enough time for a team to evaluate the player’s real NFL potential. Each team would have right of first refusal to resign their rookies after year three. (they’d be automatically restricted free agents) The good young players get their big payday then. The ones who don’t pan out become free agents, or insurance agents.

    In this way, no team will be on the hook paying exorbitant money to unproven rookies.

    re: eliminating or downsizing the draft. That is unworkable. The bad teams need dibs on the best college players to maintain competitive balance in the league. Otherwise, the NFL becomes the NBA, and fans will lose interest in the game just as fast. I haven’t watched an NBA game in over a decade.

  42. Getting rid of the draft could be terrible. It would just cause the rich to get richer. Can you image if a top 5 team had a legitimate chance at getting the best overall pospect in the draft every year. The only position that I can see work itself out is qb, but superbowl champ couldnt use the help of the top lt or rush end avaible in the draft to try and repeat everyear, and how many rookies would take less money to play for new england vs buffalo?

  43. While I agree that the salary cap/floor could shorten the draft, say to 5 rounds, the draft does protect teams from themselves. For example, without the draft the Titans would have been free to make an offer to Cam Newton, if they didn’t get Newton, how would they ever be able to convince Jake Locker that he’s the guy they really wanted. The same would be true if Peyton found out the Colts were pursuing a top QB prospect, a guy they would have no chance for in the draft. If the Colts didn’t get the guy, Peyton would be able to command any dollar amount he wanted.

  44. Am I the only one who thinks having a salary cap and salary floor within 5% of each other will more likely result in stiffs being overpaid to reach the floor than in even distribution of talent?

  45. If this whole thing is really stuck on rookies getting 4 or 5 years then the owners should be shot. At the same time I am not a fan of a”minimum level of spending” being that high. I don’t think its fair that if a team is wise with its money and is 10% under the cap would have to over pay a player just to get to the cap floor. We just saw in the NHL Teams giving insane amounts of money to average players because they had to spend money to get to a floor like that. I am more in favor of a 80-85% cap floor.

    That being said making rookies stick to 5 years is way to much. I think rounds 1-2 should be 4 year deals with the rest of the draft being 3-4 deals depending on what the teams want to do. I also think that there should be some kind of sloting system so that a 1st pick next year only gets a slight 2-3 % raise over a 1st pick this year. I also think that a player who was drafted should never EVER be alowed to make more than the top 10 highest players at their position. This deal we had where top picks would be the highest paid with out playing was a joke.

    To get rid fo the draft would be foolish. Besides the fact that the draft is fun for the fans and probably brings in quite a bit of money for the league. It is the best ay to farm out talent. It is one of th things that keeps the league as competative as it is. When your bad you get first shot at the next crop of talent. Allowing a bad team to get good in a much quicker way than even the NBA witch uses a silly lottery system that imo is stupid.

    The only thing that MIGHT be cool about not having a draft is you might get more home town players. As a kid from Dallas might be more willing to sign with the Cowgirls. But even that doesnt out weight the strengths of having a draft. The NFL has proven that the “any givin Sunday” rule is the biggest money maker in sports. The NBA should take a look at running things like the NFL during their lockout. In all reality the NFL is the best run league we have. Its why I don’t understand why we had a lockout at all.

  46. 4 year deals for first round draft picks, 3 year deals for 2nd-7th round picks. Restricted free agent after 3 and total free agent after 4.

    The ONLY thing the NBA does well is the slotting system for rookie contracts. If the NFL went to a slotting system, every rookie would be signed in 90 seconds. Every slot would go up by the same % that the salary cap went up by every year.

    The teams are being greedy if they want 5 year deals for first round picks. If you want a rookie long term, sign him to an extension towards the end of his 3rd year. I don’t see the tags going anywhere, so if you can’t get a guy extended, franchise tag him in years 5 and 6 if you really need it.

  47. Forcing rookies to play on one team for up to 6 yrs (5 + franchise) seems unreasonable, especially if they may only be paid market value in that final franchised season.

  48. I think that having a first round pick under contract for five years isn’t unreasonable, particularly for top ten picks. The teams are making a significant investment in a commodity that is not yet proven. Based on the fact that only about 25-30% of first round picks actually play to a level in their career that earns them that level of income, the teams should have the ability to keep them at a reasonable pay scale for five years IF they do work out for them. Besides, contract salaries are usually backloaded anyways, so the player will likely be looking at making a pretty decent salary by that time.

    The real heart of the issue is the guaranteed money and signing bonus’ that rookies get. It’s out of control and needs to be reined in. If the teams aren’t forced to give ridiculous bonus money, and instead can show that money as salaries (which can be avoided if the player doesn’t work out by simply releasing the player) then things would be reasonable.

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