Teams that offer short-term, guaranteed deals could create an edge

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As NFL players pine for fully-guaranteed contracts, nothing currently stops any, some, or all of the 32 teams from offering them. Given the inherently competitive nature of the league, teams that are willing to assume the lead in this regard could, in theory, attract better talent.

With the labor deal four years from expiration and the NFL unlikely to agree to guaranteed contracts across the board, why shouldn’t a team consider making all of its contracts fully guaranteed? World travels fast among NFL players; if one team took the lead in this regard, that team would potentially have its pick of free agents unless and until others follow suit.

Of course, the Management Council may frown on this practice. Ultimately, however, it’s not their call — unless the league wants to risk a collusion lawsuit.

So consider it, bad teams that hope to become good and good teams that hope to become great. One-year, two-year, or three-year deals, fully guaranteed at signing. For all free agents.

Although other teams may quickly copy the practice, the advantage that comes from being the first could be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home — or winning a Super Bowl and merely making the playoffs.

17 responses to “Teams that offer short-term, guaranteed deals could create an edge

  1. To fully guarantee a contract, it means they will:

    a. Be shorter duration (as you referenced in your article


    b. Will be of less money. Shorter contracts limit an ability to give more money up front in the form of bonuses. Also, when calculating the budget a team operates on, they currently assume that most deals will not pay out at 100%. If they are guaranteeing contracts, it means that to stay within their operating budgets, the contracts will have to be of lessor value (people who are “overpaid”, cut, etc – will still be paid)

  2. “Although other teams may quickly copy the practice, the advantage that comes from being the first could be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home — or winning a Super Bowl and merely making the playoffs.”

    Other teams might not be quite so quick to copy the practice given the disadvantage could be the cap crunch that would come with the inevitable bad guaranteed contracts that they could no longer get out from under. A lack of cap space could also be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home — or winning a Super Bowl and merely making the playoffs. Just ask any Saints fan.

  3. That is basically what all big contracts are now anyways. Long term deals with the first two years essentially fully guaranteed, then, while the remaining years are essentially a year to year situation, they also provide higher base salaries so either an underperforming player gets cut after their two guaranteed years, or they play out their contract with high base salaries. You really need to let this guaranteed contract thing go for a couple days.

  4. There’s already a team doing a modified version of this. They’re from Washington and they’ve focused on signing their starting QB to a series of fully guaranteed 1-year contracts.

    I hope when/if Cousins signs a long-term deal he gets: 1) a guaranteed percentage of the salary cap, 2) a fully guaranteed contract for each year, and 3) no off-set language. Make ’em pay, Kirk. Make ’em pay!

  5. Not happening.

    But keep talking about it, wasting your time. The only way fully guaranteed contract happen, of any length and term, is if the players strike, hold out and make it a priority they will not relinquish in the next CBA. That would likely take missing half if not a full season of checks because the owners know by lessons from Baseball and Basketball, what an albatross a fully guaranteed contract that goes bad can become for a team’s salary structure. Is it collusion or just good business? That would depend on which side of the argument you are positioned.

    The players don’t have the resolve. Thus, fully guaranteed contracts aren’t happening. Harp on it all you want, it changes nothing.

  6. Did you ever wonder why you seldom hear players complain about nonguaranteed contracts? It’s because they would make less money. Teams can spread signing bonuses out over 5 years. If teams had to guarantee contracts, players would make less money.

    At one time no part of an NFL contract was guaranteed. Players wanted guaranteed money. Owners didn’t want to pay a player big money and then see the player pull an Albert Haynesworth. Big contracts for players who don’t work out for their team would cripple the team under the salary cap. So they compromised. It really looks like a win for both sides.

    Most times a team isn’t going to cut a player after only 1 or 2 years, so the player will pretty much be guaranteed those years by default. Spreading the bonus out over 5 years allows the team to pay the player a larger sum of money without crippling the team financially in the short term.

    If you want to pound the table for the players, then maybe you should champion for having no salary cap.

  7. Make 1 year guaranteed contracts the norm & players will be pining for the way contracts are done now.

  8. I have to believe Ernie Adams has already done the math and rejected it if the Patriots aren’t doing it yet.

  9. NFL teamss have absolutely no reason to fully gauruntee a deal. Look no further than Albert Haynesworth. The sport would devolve into guys only playing hard in contract years. The days of guys playing through minor injuries would be long gone. It would turn into baseball. Break a nair, 15 day DL.

  10. Who, besides Tom Brady, gets every dollar guaranteed? Who is the best bargain at his position in the NFL? If you want security, it will cost you. Brady makes more money off the field than he does on. The Patriots logo and Patriot for life carries with it a better marketing tool for him and his TB12 brand. If players had the same motivation as Brady, they would be doing deals like him. Other than that, it’s bad business for a team and for a player.

  11. NFL owners collude!!! Perish the thought!! Another factor that allows the owners to get away with collusion is the ill- equipped players association. Not only did they fail to recognize that the owners were
    secretly holding down the salary cap in the last year of the previous
    CBA, the union then waived any right to seek damages when they signed off on the new CBA. This enabled the owners to avoid federal
    Labor charges on collusion and to avoid millions of dollars in fines and

  12. Screw the guaranteed contracts. Too many injuries and behaviour issues
    Players should be seeking a minumum 65% share of revenue. Owners have few expenses such as no minor league system.

  13. There are several fundamental flaws with the push for guaranteed contracts. First, it is important to note that with a salary cap and with the fixed profit breakdown provisions of the current labor agreement, player costs are fixed. Therefore, “guaranteed” money does not come out of the pocket of the owner, but rather out of the pockets of other players. Second, all NFL players are not created equal. If the CEO of Walmart gets a $5M pay raise, one could correctly say that “Walmart employees” got a $5M pay raise. However, I am certain the employees of your local Walmart would not be celebrating. In the same way, something that benefits elite players would certainly not benefit the “rank and file”; that is NFL player who earn close to the league minimum.

    As a first order approximation, the amount each NFL owner pays in player salary is fixed every year. For him, how those player costs are split up does not matter. This leads to the most important point to remember about guaranteed NFL contracts: the guaranteed amounts come out of the pocket of other players. If some NFL superstar is earning $12M a year sitting on a couch, that money does not come from the owner. It is money that would have otherwise been spent on other players (remember salary cap and salary floor) on the team’s roster. So in essence “guaranteed contacts” is a code word for the NFL players who earn the least subsidizing the superstars of the sport. Baseball, without a salary cap is different. In the NBA, with much smaller rosters, “superstars” have a greater influence in the union. In the NFL, it is highly unlikely that players earning close to the league minimum (who make up the vast majority of the union and hold the most votes) will be willing to reduce their salaries so people who are not even on the roster can be paid.

    It is important to remember that in the NFL (unlike the NBA) rosters – and therefore the union – is dominated by players who are earning relatively small salaries. A player who is earning $700,000 a year has far more in common with the fan in the stands than he does with the QB or the superstar on his team earning 20 times as much. Is that player willing to reduce his salary from $1.5M to $1.25M (salary cap remember) so someone who isn’t even on the roster can get his “guaranteed” $15M? I really don’t think so.

    There is a simple reason the NFL has never had fully guaranteed salaries: the players don’t want them. Sure, the superstars do, but the power in the union is with the “rank and file” players who dominate the rosters and dominate the union votes. And they are not going to take a pay cut so superstars can earn more money.

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