[Editor’s note: From time to time, agents and other NFL insiders submit columns to PFT for potential posting. Sometimes we post it, sometimes we don’t. In the case of an open letter from agent David Mulugheta of Athletes First to all NFL fans regarding the manner in which players who seek more money are viewed by the public, the ideas expressed by Mulugheta mesh with a sentiment that PFT has articulated many times in recent years. The full letter, with minor edits, appears below.]
Letter to NFL Fans:
So I woke up Friday morning and began my daily routine. My workday starts with reading a few emails, sending a few dozen text messages, and accepting/making more calls than a telemarketer. After an hour or so, I’m usually settled in, which allows me time to scroll through my social media channels. On Friday morning, it seemed that a particular NFL player’s contract negotiations had taken the forefront on my Twitter feed. A
After only a few seconds of browsing, frustration began to set in. As expected and without delay, fans began to lash out against the player. And for what? Pursuing his option to enter into contract negotiations with his employer? Attempting to capitalize on years and years of hard work and after completing his contractual obligations? Utilizing the very little leverage he has against a multi-billion-dollar enterprise? Having the audacity to realize his worth and demand just compensation for his objective productivity on the field?
Do these fans demonstrate the same resentment when their favorite cashier at Walgreens decides to discuss wages with his/her supervisor? Or how about their favorite actor turning down a movie role because it doesn’t include a “pay or play” commitment? I can continue to speculate as to the root cause of fans’ frustration, but I’d rather use this moment to provide some context on NFL contract negotiations.
Far too often we hear that a given player “was offered a five-year, $100 million deal.” Now it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the player will have received $100 million at the conclusion of the five years. Well, if the player were basketball’s Kyrie Irving or baseball’s Bryce Harper, that would be correct. However, unlike the NBA and MLB, the NFL typically does not execute “fully guaranteed contracts.”
In short, fully guaranteed contracts ensure that the player would receive the full amount of his contract, regardless of whether he becomes injured or waived early by the team. However, NFL players don’t have the luxury of signing these fully guaranteed contracts (although not prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are a number of reasons for this; it happens primarily because teams and owners are against them). Rather, upon executing a five-year, $100 million contract, an NFL player can be released for any reason and barred from receiving the remainder of his contract.
That leads to the topic of “guaranteed money” (not to be confused with “fully guaranteed contracts”). Guaranteed money means just that; the dollars in the total contract that the player definitely will receive. Therefore, guaranteed money and other structural points are vitally important when negotiating an NFL contract. The goal is to negotiate as much guaranteed money as possible, while also creating a cash flow that will enable a player to collect as much of the $100 million as quickly as possible, in order to avoid the possibility of getting cut due to diminishing skills, salary cap restrictions, or injury.
In other words, don’t be fooled. One hundred million doesn’t really mean one hundred million in NFL contracts.
Keep this in mind when digesting your daily dose of sports news. For example, when a team claims that it has offered to make a player the highest paid in the league at his position, immediately ask yourself, “How much of that it truly guaranteed?” When you see your favorite player “holding out” or refusing to sign a “record breaking contract,” keep in mind that the reality may not mesh with the inflated, artificial numbers the team has leaked.
Remember, that man has become your favorite player for a reason. He’s passionate about the game and produces, week in and week out. Realize the multi-billion-dollar enterprises are attempting to influence the negotiation process by using the raw emotion of the fan base against the players. Ask yourself, could it be possible the player is asking for a fair “guaranteed” value of his skills? Could it be possible that the owners are leveraging the media in order to coerce players into signing below market contracts?
You’ve never sided with Goliath over David in the past, so why start now?
NFL Agent & NFL Fan