Gonzalez lobbies for players to be paid by production, not position


Retired, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was paid well during his NFL career.  He believes that he should have been paid even better.

Gonzalez argues in a column posted at the CBS Sports website that NFL players should be compensated based on their production, not their position.  He points out that, in sports like baseball and basketball, significant production should trigger significant pay, regardless of the position a player plays.

Gonzalez ultimately argues that the NFLPA should make pay for production not position a “top priority” in the next CBA negotiation.  If that happens, the owners will welcome that discussion.

Per a league source, owners have wanted the system to shift for years.  Currently, the market is set by position, with some average players at a position deemed to be critical (like quarterback) paid more than they would get in a pure meritocracy.  And rookies get paid based strictly on when they were drafted.

Take Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, for example.  Does he really deserve $22.5 million this year?  Or did he benefit from a system that values quarterbacks and forces teams to pay the one they have because it may be too hard to find another as good as the average one they fear losing to another team?

The fairest system would provide a minimum salary for every player and would create a giant pot of money to be distributed by an independent panel that would consider statistics and film study and other stuff that the league and union would agree upon.

Whatever the system, the teams will find a way to work it to their advantage.  They always do.  And of all the potential systems, one that ensures only the best players will be paid the most money would be the best framework for the league — and possibly for the players.

44 responses to “Gonzalez lobbies for players to be paid by production, not position

  1. Sorry Tony it doesn’t work that way playing a TEAM sport…there is a dollar value associated with position… Does a FB get hundreds of thousands more if the RB hit 1500? What if that same TE only catches 40 balls all year but is compensated from year before..how about the union agreeing to a 2 year with club option then you get your compensation… It’s called earning it!!

  2. How on earth would this work with a salary cap?!?!?

    Also; if people want performance related pay they can get their agent to negotiate it into their contracts

  3. Sounds like a dumb idea. If Cutler isn’t worth 22.5 million don’t pay him. Sounds like a discussion for the owner’s meetings.

  4. Some teams do reward players by their production and contribution. Larry Fitzgerald is making what some would consider QB money as is Megatron. Tony is right and most fans would scream their heads off if they were responsible for performing the duties and responsibilities of a manager but were paid as a clerk. The NFL needs to come into the light and begin operating like a Fortune 500 company and hang up their antiquated methods.

  5. If an organization wants to deem a player a franchise player, why not make his salary the average of the top 3 players on that team? If you’re one of the most important players in a franchise, why shouldn’t you be paid like one of the best players on that team?

  6. I’d say it’s the owners faults anyway. Handing out these big, long contracts and for what. Pay an average qb like Cutler all that money maybe they should save some money to build their own stadiums instead of relying on the public to pay for them.

  7. This sounds like an interesting idea in terms of determining a dollar amount for franchise tag situations. Maybe a formula considering position as well as stats could be developed. Other than that, a player should be paid whatever the open market dictates.

  8. Are players not already paid based on production? Isn’t the current system telling us that a QB “produces more” of a given win or loss that other positions? As the league has evolved, a team must be able to pass and defend the pass in order to win. Who gets paid the most as a result? QB, WR, LT, DE/OLB, CB right? If the league evolves again the value of these, and all other positions will change as they “produce more” of a given win or loss. Look at what has happened to RB, run stopping LB and S positions.

  9. I agree with Tony (and said so on the last Jimmy post).

    Pay for production, not position. It’s criminal that Jimmy can only earn 9.5 million because he plays TE when he EARNED more than that. If he was on the open market, he would command 12 – 13 easy.

    Make him the highest paid TE Loomis. At 12 million.

  10. Quarterbacks should be paid based on dimensions
    They bring to the table. Matt Ryan or other non running quarterbacks should not be paid Aaron Rodgers money.

  11. How exactly do you determine a guard or center’s “production”? Tackles can at least be judged on number of sacks allowed, but interior linemen don’t have any real set metrics. Solution? Don’t pay the O-line! Woohoo!

  12. Maybe the government should adopt Gonzalez theory of paying for production. 99% of government employees would be paying the taxpayers.

  13. What tony seams to miss is that people are paid for production, but production at one position is just not always as valuable as another. 55 catches and 700 yard should get you paid at TE, 55 catches and 700 yard at WR is pretty middling. In the same way 25-30 home runs from a shortstop should get you $20mill a year, yet if you play first base it’s good but not $20mill a year good.

  14. I agree with Tony G. to a certain degree, but he argued it lazily and poorly. First off, by pay for production, I believe he meant salaries based off past production, not variable based off future production. If Gonzalez compared his top tight end salary to elite wrs of his day, I think he’d get more sympathy. In 2002, he was given a 7yr $31M extension making him the highest paid TE. Then you have receivers like Laveranues Coles and David Boston getting 7 yr deals worth $35M and $47M respectively. Gonzalez was the better receiver and should have been paid as much or more than those guys.

    Like it or not, receivers like Jimmy Graham and Mike Wallace are paid the big bucks to do the same job, catch passes, eat up yardage and score touchdowns. Why should Wallace get paid more (currently 5yr $60M at $12M per) when Graham’s the better, more productive player? Would you be happy making $75K if your colleague was making six figures doing the same job? What if you did it better?

    The CBA already started on this path by giving all offensive linemen the same tag regardless if LT, center or guard. They need to do the same for WR and TE as well as DE and 3-4 OLB. Jimmy Graham is a top 10 receiver in the NFL and he should be paid as one.

  15. Paying by production could destroy the quality of football. For example, some DT’s job are to attack the ball and in turn they end up having more sacks and tackles. Some DT’s job is to take up offensive linemen, in turn they have less tackles and sacks. So how do you measure the production in that? You would probably end up with more players free lancing, more players complaining and it may take away from the integrity of the sport due to players thinking more about their stats than their team.

  16. A TE who puts up 16 TDs should be paid for his production and I believe that was the point Gonzalez was making. TEs are at the bottom at the payscale behind kickers yet many (like Gonzalez and Graham) are as productive when it comes to making TDs as any receiver. In today’s league there are so many hybrid players that the leagues classification (caste system) only serves the owners allowing players to be paid not for their merit but according to a scale unless an organization feels like paying more. Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham are both specialized players and should be paid as such. It’s only when a team gets into a financial bind, has failed to plan ahead and throws the franchise tag on one of these players in the hopes of having their cake and eating it too, that this all becomes a controversy. Even Sean Payton acknowledged this, there is no classification for “hybrid” player so they get tagged according to an outdated classification.

  17. They’re already paid by production. Some T/E’s make millions, some make close to the minimum.

  18. Coaches and agents know how to properly valuate and grade lane clogging interior d-linemen. Haloti Ngata wasn’t given a 5yr $61M contract to sack the QB.

  19. mostly agree w/ TGonz.. BUT you have to evaluate that production in context of position (i.e. TEs are not covered by top defenders like WRs so you can not judge them equally)

    related issue – you also have to evaluate individual player responsibilities…..Dick Sherman does not travel and has huge help unlike the real top CBs.. yet he was just paid as a top CB

  20. baseball is a terrible reference

    baseball does not pay by production at all, but rather by past production and potential; money is guaranteed so a .200 hitter can earn huge dollars with little production

  21. OK, players….since getting paid by position is so hard to understand, this is very simple

    go ahead, get paid by production

    but if you get paid like the #1-5 guy at your position, then the next you perform in the middle pack, you should then get a 2nd year salary AVG of those mid pack players. otherwise, it sounds like one heck of a deal for the players

    JG is a TE, Tony G was a TE, I think they just need to reevaluate the tag. increase the money to TE’s and value them like WR’s. then the problem is solved without giving the players waaaaay too much

  22. Great in theory but won’t happen, especially in a full contact sport. What would a receiver make if he lays out for a pass and gets taken out at the knees and tears an ACL?

  23. Maybe Tony Gonzalez knows something about playing TE, since he’s probably the greatest TE of all time.
    By his comments he acknowledges that Graham is underpaid compared to the top WRs.
    The arbitrator gave Goodell and the Saints the decision that they wanted, but they live with the consequences. The franchise tag should be destroyed and let the free market decide which team the player wants to play for. If another team is prepared to pay Jimmy Graham $5M+ more than he would receive by being franchised, why can’t he be allowed to sign elsewhere.

  24. So in other words Gonzales wants an incentive based system.

    Funny in the past players have only wanted that when they “over perform” but complain bitterly if they play poorly and the team wants to cut their salary back.

  25. I totally agree with Tony here. As I understand his position, if a great player has an off year, we should pay that guy on par with other scrub players who have bad years.

    Or is he only saying production should count when a player exceeds his bare minimum expectations?

  26. Well you could probably stop calling it a team sport. I could see this turning your locker room upside down. Certainly more fist fights. “Why you keep throwin him the ball all the effin time. I’m open too man.” You get the drift.

  27. Graham is only worth what teams are willing to pay.

    Paying “by production” makes no sense in a team sport.

    Should we pay a superb blocking fullback less than the RB that he springs free?

    Every player has a certain worth to a team and it’s up to the team to decide what to pay the player.

    This whole issue stems from the practice of “franchising” a player. That practice should stop.

    Make the player an offer and he can either accept or go to another team. Easy peasy.

  28. #88 is my all-time fav player…while he was playing. now i can go without the “in the next cab” 2 cents, which is, what, 7 years away??

  29. Also, Tony G should absolutely play for the Chiefs this year…and next year and the year after that.

  30. So if they DON’T produce, do they have to pay some of their $ back? You can tell these players have absolutely NO business sense. If you get increases based on production, the opposite needs to happen as well when a player does not produce.

  31. How does Tony suggest that “production” for players at Guard, Center or Nose Tackle be measured? How about a long snapper?

    Nice idea in theory but ‘production’ is subjective.

  32. If players are paid by production then all of the Raiders will be playing for free.

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