There’s optimism that the NFL and NFL Players Association will work out a deal regarding the financial aspects of pro football in a pandemic. There’s concern regarding the ability of the players to resolve one important aspect of the financial equation.
Players with fully-guaranteed salaries want their money. Players with non-guaranteed salaries, who will lose some of their money in the event of lost games, aren’t necessarily sympathetic to the plight of the players with fully-guaranteed salaries.
Most NFL players have non-guaranteed salaries. Most first-round picks get four years of fully-guaranteed salaries; most second-round picks have two years of full guarantees. Star players in the early years of their veteran contracts usually have fully-guaranteed contracts.
Most members of NFLPA leadership don’t have fully-guaranteed contracts. To the extent that a majority vote happens among the Executive Committee or the board of plater representatives or the full rank and file, players with fully-guaranteed salaries would not get full pay in the event that games aren’t played.
“It’s splitting the have’s and have-not’s,” one source told PFT this morning. Another source said a “brawl” could be coming between the star players with sizable guaranteed salaries and the players with non-guaranteed pay.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, for example, has a fully-guaranteed franchise-tag salary of $31.4 million. As written, the CBA entitles him to all of that, if only one game is played in 2020. He could lose $1.9625 million per game (he made $2 million for all of 2019) if the NFLPA agrees that players with fully-guaranteed contracts will be paid based on the number of games played.
The split in some cities could get awkward. In Green Bay, starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a non-guaranteed salary for 2020. His backup, first-rounder Jordan Love, has a fully-guaranteed contract.
A source suggested earlier this week that, if the players with fully-guaranteed salaries have their rights undermined by a revised NFL-NFLPA agreement, they could explore whatever rights they may have (and they may have few or none) to exit the union or pursue legal remedies. For some players (like Prescott), the numbers are very significant. For other players, a decision was made to accept fully-guaranteed salary in lieu of signing bonus or offseason roster bonus in order to help a team with salary cap or cash-flow issues. Those players have every reason to be upset if they lose money that they would have had if they’d insisted on another former of payment.
Regardless of how it works out, this issue needs to be fully resolved among NFL players with sharply different interests before the interests of the NFL and NFLPA can be harmonized.