Fully-guaranteed NFL deals would result in shorter contracts

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It’s the annual NBA free-agency frenzy, featuring B-level players getting more money than A-list NFL stars. Among other things, the money handed out to basketball players renews calls for fully-guaranteed NFL contracts.

This year, Chargers left tackle and NFLPA executive committee member Russell Okung took to Twitter to push the issue in an extended thread. While much of what he says is accurate, some of his arguments are unrealistic — including the notion that an “overhaul” of the Collective Bargaining Agreement is possible, given that the players likely won’t go without game checks for a year in order to apply maximum pressure to ownership.

The real question is whether NFL players can secure fully-guaranteed contracts, individually or via the CBA. It’s possible, with one important caveat: The contracts necessarily would be shorter, like the three-year deal Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins signed in March.

That would actually be a good thing for players. Look at the current contract squabble between the Falcons and receiver Julio Jones. With three years of his contract over and three non-guaranteed seasons to come, Jones has to hope the team will rip up the rest of the deal. If it had been a three-year contract, he would have been in the driver’s seat. As he embarks on the back end of a six-year deal, he has few options and limited leverage.

If the Falcons had been required to give Jones a fully-guaranteed deal, the team likely wouldn’t have committed to six seasons. And while some players may prefer the certainty and security that comes from four, five, or six fully-guaranteed years, it’s better to have three guaranteed years only than three guaranteed years followed by three non-guaranteed years, since the player will either be underpaid (and out of luck, like Jones) or overpaid (and out of a job, like former Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh) when the final three years of the deal arrive.

With fully-guaranteed contracts, some players (mainly franchise quarterbacks) would possibly be able to leverage five or six fully-guaranteed years. But what if the player is no longer justifying his pay? Teams would be required to continue to devote cash and cap space to players who aren’t carrying his weight, leaving less cash for players who are doing more to help the effort to win games and chase championships.

Shifting to fully-guaranteed contracts also would force the NFL to deal with the outdated funding issue. Introduced years ago to protect players from potentially insolvent charlatans, the requirement that guaranteed payments in future years be largely set aside in escrow now makes teams less likely to tie up so much money when the contract is signed.

So instead of clamoring for fully-guaranteed deals covering four or more years, players and agents should focus instead on negotiating two- or three-year contracts, getting as much of the amount as possible fully guaranteed. That will give players more opportunities to get new contracts, and it will ensure that players who no longer merit large paydays would be gobbling up cap space that would better go to the players who do.

68 responses to “Fully-guaranteed NFL deals would result in shorter contracts

  1. Julio Jones also got a 12 million dollar up front signing bonus back in 2015. Cousins “only” got a 3 million one this year.

    So with guaranteed contracts, players can forget about that big check when they sign their contracts.

  2. As if any of these would be convicts and welfare lifers understand anything at all about a collectively bargained agreement. All they know is I wants mines.

  3. Jones is a diva who won’t live up to the contract he signed.
    I wouldn’t guarantee more than 3 years.
    Football has too many injury risks to guarantee more than that.

  4. I’m in favoring of guaranteeing contracts. However players need to realize the “market values” are going to shift down dramatically. They will also be paid for current – not past production – since contract terms are going to be shorter. Signing bonuses will likely be gone. It will help teams with clarity and planning in regards to the salary cap.

  5. I don’t like the NBA Model. You end up with the players having too much control. They can sit out for a hang nail. They can just decide they don’t want to play and whine about a minor injury or sit for no injury at all. They can force trades, etc. I’ve always preferred the NFL model. While I do believe the current system should be tweaked with a shift towards the players, I would hate to see the NBA model come to the NFL.

  6. Limit all contracts to one year but keep the cap to avoid an owner buying up all the good players so he could win a Super Bowl.

  7. There is nothing that says a player cannot have a guaranteed contract. All he has to do is not sign a contract that isn’t guaranteed. That means shorter duration and less cash so none of them will risk it. Instead they sign a longer deal with up-front money that they always forget about when they start feeling underappreciated midway through the contract they signed. Placing some sort of mandate in the CBA would be disastrous as it would eliminate any flexibility for the teams. Once older players are not producing but still getting paid there will be a purge of middle of the road veterans in exchange for younger, cheaper and inexperienced players. The league would look much different but the players and greedy agents/lawyers cannot look beyond the short term benefits on a micro level.

  8. revren10 says:

    do they have to give money back when they don’t perform up to the standards of the contract?
    ============================================================

    A socialist doesn’t factor that in.

  9. PLAYERS BETTER WAKE UP TO THE FACTS, THEY CAN’T SO THEIR AGENTS WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN TO THEM THAT A “KIRK COUSINS” DEAL IS A RARE THING AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A RARE THING. THE ONLY TIME A FULLY GUARANTEED CONTRACT WILL EVEN COME UP IF AT ALL IS FOR THE QUARTERBACK POSITION. THE OTHER PLAYERS BETTER RECOGNIZE WHETHER OR NOT THEY’RE A QUARTERBACK OR OTHER PLAYERS………………………….P.S. BASED ON WHAT I MAKE I WON’T LOSE SLEEP OVER WHAT ANY PLAYER MAKES!

  10. I’d get with the other owners and go the other route. No guarantees beyond signing roster and workout bonuses. Which you get if you show up and play. I’d put incentives on every player’s deal for position specific goals ( sacks, sacks allowed, etc with high payouts) you want to be paid like an all pro, play like an all pro. Of course I don’t own an nfl team so this is all moot. But I’ve always thought this was the best way to do it. I don’t get paid commission at my job based off what I did last year, I get paid like a rockstar performer if I am one. And if I have a down year, then my wallet takes the hit. Athletes should be no different.

  11. There are too many Haynesworth’s and Wilkerson’s out there to justify fully guaranteed contracts. Once you sign a 2 or 3 year contract knowing the money is there come what may, why bother to push yourself or even try. You might as well unofficially retire on signing.

    And the loyalty that fans love and creates and the bond between fan base and player will cease to exist, because top players will turn in to ugly mercenary types chasing money.

    There is nothing wrong with proving year to year that you should continue to be employed and receive the money us fans ultimately provide to the players.

    This strikes me as another example of certain media members wanting the NFL to implode because they hate that there are billionaires in this world.

  12. With three years of his contract over and three non-guaranteed seasons to come, Jones has to hope the team will rip up the rest of the deal. If it had been a three-year contract, he would have been in the driver’s seat.

    He wasn’t forced to sign a 5 year deal, he could have signed a 3 year deal.
    But then he wouldn’t have received the big signing bonus.
    Can’t hsve it both ways.

  13. I just shake my head when I read things like this. You can’t compare the NFL and NBA payment systems. They have a fraction of the players to pay that the NFL does and the chance of injury is far greater. The NFL guarantees a large amount of player contracts now to the point even if they cut the player they have already paid him more than half the contract in guarantees. The only way you will get guaranteed contracts is if there is a lower base with incentives and an agreement to offer some cap relief to a team who loses a player to injury.

  14. In the NHL contracts are guaranteed and in order to get the good players you pretty much have to give them the max 7 year contracts (8 max if they are on your team already).

  15. It’s amazing how anti-player so many people are. You couldn’t make the NFL because you suck, get over it!

    As to the shorter contracts, that’s a good thing as it lets players receive what they’re worth far faster than long contracts do. At the moment a long contract simply lets a player get paid about right for the first year or two and then the rest is up to the team to exploit.

    Sports contracts will ALWAYS be for past performance due to the inherent difficulty in predicting future success combined with players almost always being underpaid in the initial years of their contract, in all sports.

    This hate for players just blows my mind.

  16. let’s not act like all is gravy in the NBA…those guaranteed contracts sink teams all the time and leave them unable to improve their team because they are stuck with dudes making 20 mill a year who aren’t even good enough to make the starting lineup…i.e. carmelo anthony, he is pure garbage on the court but he’s gonna make 27 mil this year and prob wont even play because he hurts the thunder that much…

  17. Lockport Lax says:
    July 4, 2018 at 1:34 pm
    In the NHL contracts are guaranteed and in order to get the good players you pretty much have to give them the max 7 year contracts (8 max if they are on your team already).
    ……………………………………………………………………………….
    fun fact about the above….not only do they sign these contracts…. THEY HONOUR THEM!!! unheard of, I know

  18. Guaranteed contracts would destroy the game. I watched MLB when I was younger and once they got guaranteed contracts I watched players get their huge paydays and stop trying. Many of them. It was a large factor in why I stopped watching over 25 years ago.

  19. I think that the people on here aren’t anti player, they just don’t want to pay a player based on what he did in the past. It’s not siding with the owners, so much as siding with the team they own that you’re a fan of. Do you really want your team to sign that shiny new WR or QB who was an all pro his last two years and then pay him all pro money when he regresses to the mean or hits the over 30 decline? Of course not, because more likely than not you won’t be able to win a championship. Under an incentive-style deal, lets say brady, rogers, or brees (just to name a few) want to be the highest paid qb in the league. Then it is as simple as going out and out producing the competition.

  20. “The league would look much different but the greedy players and agents/lawyers cannot look past the short term benefits on a micro level”.

    What about the greedy fans who want their football as gladiator style entertainment? You know the type, the “we want old-time football” crowd. They’re not interested in the athletic competition, they just want to see the blood and guts. They’re the same uneducated people who think that player salaries have any relationship to ticket, parking, and concession prices.

  21. For most players it’s not about the actual amount they may receive over the course of a deal, it’s about the number that they can claim it is and the prestige and reputation they believe comes with it. That’s why the 3 year guaranteed deals will never work.

    A good metaphor is when a player purchases a Mercedes. He’s not doing it because he read the consumer reviews and spec sheet, he’s doing it for the prestige.

    Teams appreciate this mentality as well, because it allows them to offer “100 million dollar” deals that are actually worth much less.

  22. There are no performance standards in NFL contract. The idea that players should have to return money when they don’t meet expectations is baseless and foolish.
    The contracts values are a result of a free market, something you knuckle draggers profess to love but don’t actually embrace. When a team decides to sign a player they are acquiring the right to his services and preventing any other team from enjoying the services of that player. That’s the foundation of these agreements; they aren’t tied to performance on the field, and therefore the players have no moral obligation to return a single cent if they fail miserably.
    And as for signing bonuses, the players will stand to make more than through guaranteed contracts than signing bonuses. So Kirk Cousins only received a 3 million dollar signing bonus, he’s due to receive 28 million between September and December over the next three seasons. Which would you prefer?

  23. Players could still get 6 year fully guaranteed contracts but its going to likely be at a severe discount compared to current contracts (to account for the potential decline or injury in later years).

    Shorter contracts allow for the most potential upside for players. Really players who want to but on themselves should have 4-5 year contracts with 3-4 years guaranteed amd the final year being a guaranteed player option with players being able to become UFAs to maximize leverage.

  24. Most NFL contracts are basically 1 year contracts with a series of (one-sided) options, any way. Not all, of course. Depends on bonus/guarantees. As far as people pointing out the obvious as far as large signing bonuses going away: OK, but how do you think Bobby Bonilla is doing today? Yeah, time value of money and all, but if you want to argue that players are bad at managing large sums of money, then I guess it would be better for them to get it spread out more evenly.

  25. A free agent can demand a fully guaranteed, albeit shorter, contract, just as Cousins did. There is no need for a new collective agreement to do that. Right now many free agents are signing one year deals, so shorter contracts are already around. Center DeMarcus Cousins also signed a one year deal with the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it is actually better to sign short term contracts for everyone. A player who signed a lucrative long term contract only to be cut after 1 or 2 years often end up out of the league because other teams think that they are total busts. Byron Maxwell is a good example. He was traded, then cut and nobody would even give him a call, except his old team Seattle

  26. genericcommenter says:
    July 4, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    Most NFL contracts are basically 1 year contracts with a series of (one-sided) options, any way. Not all, of course. Depends on bonus/guarantees. As far as people pointing out the obvious as far as large signing bonuses going away: OK, but how do you think Bobby Bonilla is doing today? Yeah, time value of money and all, but if you want to argue that players are bad at managing large sums of money, then I guess it would be better for them to get it spread out more evenly.

    Too bad that’s not true. The length of a player’s contract helps the team amortize the upfront money, signing bonus, the player is given. That’s hardly one year’s worth or one-sided.

  27. joshgordonsbong says:
    July 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm
    Lockport Lax says:
    July 4, 2018 at 1:34 pm
    In the NHL contracts are guaranteed and in order to get the good players you pretty much have to give them the max 7 year contracts (8 max if they are on your team already).
    ……………………………………………………………………………….
    fun fact about the above….not only do they sign these contracts…. THEY HONOUR THEM!!! unheard of, I know
    ____________

    Regarding honoring contracts – that to the Devils. Kovalchuk left them high and dry just after signing a huge contract. He moved back to Russia.

    The NHL also has a buyout option so if the player is underperforming, the team can cut him and pay him his full salary without it counting against the cap.

  28. firstdownbrowns says:
    July 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm
    sooner or later they will all be like Cousins. working yr to yr contracts. as they say watch what you wish for.
    —–
    Oh how horrible. Work year to year over 2 years making an average of $22 million a year and then sign a 3 year fully gauranteed deal that averages $28 million a year. They really better rethink this.🤔

    Besides…every player is working year to year when a team can cut them at any point in time.

  29. NFL should be treated like any other business—no salary caps—players free to negotiate for whatever contracts they want ————–let the free market determine the compensation and terms

  30. Regarding honoring contracts – that to the Devils. Kovalchuk left them high and dry just after signing a huge contract. He moved back to Russia.

    The NHL also has a buyout option so if the player is underperforming, the team can cut him and pay him his full salary without it counting against the cap.

    ______

    That’s not how it works, NHL teams are still on hook for cap hit if they buy out a player, just a smaller cap hit spread over more years

  31. Comparing the NBA to the NFL is moronic when it comes to salary. The NBA has 15 people splitting the salary. The NFL has a hell of a lot more than that. There’s only so much to go around, and when teams are required to pay their QB 20+ million per year (closer to 30 now, or they’re “underpaid”), there isn’t enough left for everybody else.

    It’s simple math.

  32. Fans don’t want to see their teams crippled by bad contracts…that position is not anti-player. As long as the teams are required to pay out a minimum amount of money to their players each year (a floor as opposed to the cap), which they are, then all the players are making the money, it isn’t staying with the club. Maybe that money doesn’t go to one quarterback but is spread out to others but it is paid nevertheless.

  33. Owners are also bad at managing large sums of money well. Examples include the following contracts: Jameis Winston, Albert Pujols, Luol Deng, Bobby Bonilla, etc.

    Then there’s the teams that intentionally mismanage their rosters so they suck and pocket the shared revenues each year. Atlanta Hawks, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Diego Chargers (in the past anyways) are all done examples

  34. redclaw1314 says:
    NFL should be treated like any other business—no salary caps—players free to negotiate for whatever contracts they want ————–let the free market determine the compensation and terms
    ———————–
    That would be fine, but the CBA requires that players get 47% of revenue. That’s why the cap goes up every year. So there is no free market in the NFL.

  35. “That will give players more opportunities to get new contracts, and it will ensure that players who no longer merit large paydays would be gobbling up cap space that would better go to the players who do.”…thus making the greatest game in the US even better and ensuring better quality of play.

    That’s where that last sentence should’ve headed.

  36. I would like to see this. As it stands right now, there is very little risk for teams to offer long term contracts, as they can get out of them without much harm. It would certainly separate the good GM’s from the terrible ones if they were forced to suffer with a bad deal instead of being able to weasel their way out of it.

    You would have to balance short term success with long term issues. Like in baseball, the first few years of a deal may look good, but the back end is going to be ugly. Which is why you see less teams giving out mega deals, I’d love to just see a max of 5 years for a deal in every sport.

  37. The players are already receiving market value. If another team wants to guarantee more money during free agency, nothing is stopping them from doing so. The bottom line is most players are just guys. Julio Jones is one of the handful of players who is a cut above ‘just a guy’ status but injury risk and his team’s belief that even he is replaceable is keeping his value where it is. Will his budget replacement do what he can do? No. Can the Falcons win without him? Yes. It was proven this year that a backup QB and LT can win a Superbowl when top 5 guys at those positions were injured.

  38. redclaw1314 says:
    July 4, 2018 at 3:51 pm
    NFL should be treated like any other business—no salary caps—players free to negotiate for whatever contracts they want ————–let the free market determine the compensation and terms

    ————-

    Better yet, let all 32 teams merge their business into a single NFL company. and then all players can recieve the same salary based on the position the play.

  39. Exactly. The Contracts basically are already Year To Year, The Language Dictates it. Hey, So are NCAA Players… Scholarships are 1 Year Deals! Coaches & GM’s Have All the Power!

  40. People have overreacted to Cousins guaranteed contract, he signed a 3 year deal. And he was going to play for the Vikings for the next three years regardless if it was guaranteed or not. Secondly QB’s in the NFL have more leverage than any other position in football with teams. So Cousins fully guaranteed contract isn’t going to be the new norm. Some will get it, most will not.

  41. do they have to give money back when they don’t perform up to the standards of the contract?
    ============================================================

    Can you rip up your mortage contract 3-4 years in if you have to replace the roof? Or for anything else you sign a contract for. Try doing it and see what happens to your credit, reputation, etc. LOL

    Sometimes, I think we complain about the players because most of us envy the income and lifestyle they can afford. Most of us are probabaly work for an at will employment, and can be fired for almost nothing, so we probably think that no one else (especially players) deserves anything better than what we have.

  42. Just where is this extra money to come from? The two options are that they pay B list players less, or that they get a bigger percentage of revenues. How much will the owners give up? 50%, 55%? Even if the owners somehow agreed to 55%, it wouldn’t be enough to make up the difference with the NBA.

    Every time the cap goes up, the A list guys get more money. I’m sure that the Ravens would attest that they can get burned in the current system. Joe Flacco is still among the highest paid QBs and hasn’t had much ROI the last 5 years.

  43. NFL contracts should be fully guaranteed when player performance is also fully guaranteed. Until then, the system i place is working well for both sides.

  44. I don’t think players calculate the signing bonus enough in their considerations. Yes, it is done primarily for cap purposes but it is still a pro-rated portion of your salary so if a player signs a 5 year deal with an average value of 8 million (40 million) but gets a 20 million signing bonus he is essentially signing a 5 year deal worth 12 million a year. The problem is the bonus is usually spent quickly and the deal is structured more towards the front end so that player is likely going to make 40 to 50 million of the deal in the first 3 years and be left with 6 or 7 million a year the last few years. If you didn’t plan ahead that’s on you.

  45. I bet the NFL owners wouldn’t mind signing a few more guys to 3 year Cousins deals, but most players would get 2 years…..which is what they’re getting now, essentially. Only now they’re getting most of the money upfront.

    But I’m waiting for the first owner to come out and say “Guaranteed contracts huh? In exchange for what?”

  46. It’d definitely change the NFL if they had guaranteed deals. It’d be like the NBA is now with way more trades where the entire goal was dumping bad contracts. I think it would help the smarter teams because a truly guaranteed contract forces dumb front offices to pay an actual price rather than allowing them to just cut the guy within a year or two like most NFL contracts work now.

  47. I don’t hate players. I and millions like me who are employed at-will hate that anyone in any job situation demands a guaranteed contract when we ourselves voluntarily enter into a job situation in which we can be terminated any day for any reason.

  48. cardinealsfan20 says:

    July 4, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    “The league would look much different but the greedy players and agents/lawyers cannot look past the short term benefits on a micro level”.

    What about the greedy fans who want their football as gladiator style entertainment? You know the type, the “we want old-time football” crowd. They’re not interested in the athletic competition, they just want to see the blood and guts. They’re the same uneducated people who think that player salaries have any relationship to ticket, parking, and concession prices.
    —————————
    its the WAHHHHHHHHH guy, Neal!

  49. My vote is for a complete redraft of all players, every year. C’mon it would be must see TV, no doubt about that.

  50. Poor Julio. He’s living in a gated community. How many lamborghinis and other high dollar sports cars does he own??? These guys are pathetic.

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