Ndamukong Suh isn’t the only player who got a $20,000 fine today for an illegal hit during his team’s preseason opener.
Mike Lockley, a rookie linebacker for the Jaguars, has been fined $20,000 by the NFL for a hit on Patriots wide receiver Taylor Price in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s preseason game.
Both Suh and Lockley were called for personal fouls after engaging in the kinds of dangerous hits that the NFL is trying to reduce. So it makes sense that they were both fined.
But the NFL fining Suh and Lockley the same amount is, frankly, ridiculous. Lockley is an undrafted rookie just hoping to make the Jaguars’ regular-season roster at the league-minimum salary of $375,000, which comes out to $22,000 a week for the 17 weeks of the regular season. The league has effectively docked Lockley a full game check.
Suh, on the other hand, will make $60 million over the five-year contract he signed with the Lions last year. The total value of Suh’s contract works out to more than $700,000 a week, so a $20,000 fine is chump change to him.
The good news for the Lockley is that the NFL won’t fine him unless he actually makes a roster and has a paycheck to dock. But if the purpose of a fine is to act as an incentive not to commit penalties, it’s foolish for the NFL to treat players equally when fines are handed down, even though the impact of those fines will be anything but equal.
A much better policy would be to fine players a certain percentage of their salary-cap number. Fining players 1 percent of their cap numbers would mean a fine of around $3,750 for Lockley, and a fine of around $120,000 for Suh.
Considering that Suh was unhappy with his $20,000 fine, you can bet he’d be mad enough to rip someone’s head off if he got fined $120,000. But that would be fairer than fining minimum-salary scrubs like Lockley the same amount as highly paid stars like Suh.