Get ready for the annual NBA, NFL free-agent contracts comparisons

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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.

24 responses to “Get ready for the annual NBA, NFL free-agent contracts comparisons

  1. >>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.

    No it doesn’t.
    If a very good QB (Russel Wilson before he signed) were to hit free agency then QB needy teams would gladly pay that price because they could get a very good QB and not have to use up any draft picks.
    Having extra draft picks allows a team (if it drafts well) to surround their highly paid QB with some extra star players at very low salaries.

    Imagine a bad team (good D, but horrible O) with no QB paying Russel Wilson $40MM and using teh picks they saved to draft a very good WR.
    All of a sudden you have a good offense.

  2. And these valueless comparisons set aside the fact that the NBA plays many more regular season and playoff games while having much smaller rosters than an NFL team.

    The only common factor is players in both leagues are professional athletes and get paid for playing.

  3. The NFL has a hard salary cap, the NBA does not. All these advocates for players like Brady demanding $40M/yr seldom mention the cap. Instead, they act and talk as if it’s simply a matter of the owners refusing to pay. They paint it as a fairness issue. If you want to talk about any player’s salary, at least be fair enough to remember and consider the cap.

  4. Since Basketball has smaller rosters and A LOT more games played it is comparing apples to oranges. Anyone who complains about NFL players salary while comparing it to NBA Players is making a false equivalence(and really, do you think these multi millionaires need you to White Knight for them?!)

  5. “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.”

    Incorrect, in that Brady making $40M wouldn’t have the way for a Drew Brees to make $38M-$39M. It would merely pave the way for a Dak Prescott type to think he’s worth $40,000,001.

  6. What’s the per game rate, that’s a better comparison. And what’s Tom’s cap #? That’s a truer sense of what he’s made not his annual salary. He has large roster bonuses in his contract, recently got a $30 roster bonus.

  7. There are so many differences that are always mentioned, plus the fact that NFL players play a lot less plays and get more breaks during a game compared to NBA starters, since the NFL is divided into 3 phases of offense, defense and special teams.

  8. It only appears that Brady accepts less money. I’d bet that the Patriots/Kraft pay him additional undisclosed money through offshore bank accounts in tax havens. It would be pretty easy to do.

  9. There’s also the reality that the number of human beings capable of playing in the NBA is significantly smaller than the number of players in the NFL. There are only so many guys 6’8 and above who can jump 36+ inches, have the quickness comparable to a running back, and the body capable of sustaining that kind of punishment on one’s joints at that size.

    If you have the ability to play in the NBA or the NFL, it’s a no brainer which you pick.

  10. harrisonhits2 says:
    June 29, 2019 at 2:16 pm
    And these valueless comparisons set aside the fact that the NBA plays many more regular season and playoff games while having much smaller rosters than an NFL team.
    The only common factor is players in both leagues are professional athletes and get paid for playing.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The NBA having so many more games than the NFL can be misleading though. If you look at how much time per week players dedicate to their profession (games, practice, study, workouts) it is probably a much more equal metric.

    Also consider the number of games played is not on par with revenue. In 2017, NFL had $14 billion in revenue to $7.4 billion for the NBA.

    NFL has much bigger rosters, more coaches, and likely more scouts and administrative employees. Truer metrics would be revenue per employee and % of revenue used in payroll but I don’t have any numbers on those.

  11. The NBA is a horrible product. Listing the top players and where they want to play…New York, LA, etc. If the NFL EVER gets to the point where they have their stars want to play in big cities and smaller markets aren’t even mentioned (see NBA). They’re heyday will be over. Beyond that, the basketball sucks. I could go on but I won’t…

  12. Basketball, baseball, football, all the damn players are absurdly overpaid.
    Its just plain ridiculous to pay those kind of salaries while teachers, and our military personnel are insanely underpaid.
    Even more idiotic is cities giving tax breaks to thd owners of sports teams

  13. Although if Tom Brady took 40M/yr for himself, he wouldn’t have as many rings. Some players like championships more than max money. They still take home bonkers cash and win. Bball players are getting close to doing this as well. Imagine if LeBron bosh and Wade would have taken 6m less yr over their 4 years so that 1 more all star or 2-3 more quality players would have joined the heat. It’s great that players have leverage in the NBA, but sometimes it’s about winning for these guys. You seem to forget that quite a bit.

  14. To those saying athletes are overpaid, do you not understand how capitalism works? If teams could get guys to do the same job for less pay they would. Your work is worth what you can get paid for it.

  15. harrisonhits2 says:
    June 29, 2019 at 2:16 pm
    And these valueless comparisons set aside the fact that the NBA plays many more regular season and playoff games while having much smaller rosters than an NFL team.

    The only common factor is players in both leagues are professional athletes and get paid for playing.
    ————
    The number of games doesn’t matter as much as how much total revenue the league is bringing in. The NFL despite playing only 16 games to the NBA’s 82 brings in more revenue. The NFL is splitting their pie 56 ways while the NBA splits theirs 13-15 ways. That more than anything is the real reason players in the NFL are paid less on average.

  16. “Here’s another important fact: The best players in the NFL don’t squeeze teams for top dollars the way they could or should.”

    The only thing that would be accomplished by QBs squeezing teams for more than they already do (which is a lot, and deserving) is to take more money away from OTHER players. The NFL salary cap is a zero sum game, with every extra dollar taken by one player removing a dollar from someone else. If a QB were to squeeze that much, his supporting cast would end up that much worse, which would make his job much less enjoyable.

  17. Wow you guys are wasting your time : paying 12 players per team vs 53 – one with a cap / one without
    Honestly I don’t know why this would even be a thing
    Tammy Brady wife makes WAY more than he ever will…..

  18. There is not perfect world scenario. The NBA as a whole subsidizes many contracts for players that do not measure up to the contracts that some careless GMs negotiate. It is actually surprising that NBA fans tolerate it (as in continue to pay top dollar for season tickets) when their team intentionally trades for a huge contract, only to cut the player and set fire to huge sums of money (consciously paying millions to a player over multiple years for not playing). Those checks for season tickets must really hurt to write.

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