It’s an NFL slow-time tradition unlike any other.
In the NBA, free agency begins soon. And as basketball players (like Kawhi Leonard) end up making millions more than their football counterparts, plenty of fans, media, and football players will complain about the financial imbalance — and regarding the fact that NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed.
There are differences between the two sports, and the money earned by their players. Basketball has more games. Basketball has smaller rosters. Basketball has only five players on the floor at any one time, both offensively and defensively.
Here’s another important fact: The best players in the NFL don’t squeeze teams for top dollars the way they could or should. Players like Aaron Rodgers sign contracts that last way too long, and they fear alienating their fan bases by behaving like short-term employees who can choose where they want to go, and when. Players like Russell Wilson, who had the Seahawks by the short ones heading into a contract year, accept contracts that are excellent but not what they could have been.
Then there’s Tom Brady, who could (should) be making $40 million per year, but who chooses far less. That’s fine for him, but it prevents other quarterbacks from following in his wake, making $39 million and $38 million, etc.
And as to the notion that NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, remember this: If they were, the contracts would be shorter, with durations no more than three years. Most contracts will cover only one or two years.
That would give players maximum flexibility. But it would keep them from getting the kind of financial security that goes with signing that long-term contract with significant guaranteed money in the early years, and with the possibility that the team will cut the cord abruptly in the later years.
For now, a yearly ritual in July will entail complaints about how much NBA players make, and how little NFL players make in comparison. Despite my football affinity, it’s one of the main reasons why anyone who could excel at either sport should choose basketball.