JC Tretter challenges agents to follow Deshaun Watson contract with more guaranteed deals

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Last month, the Browns crossed a major threshold in NFL contracts by giving quarterback Deshaun Watson a five-year, $230 million, fully-guaranteed contract. NFL Players Association president JC Tretter wants that deal to be the first of many, or at least more.

In a column posted at the NFLPA’s website, Tretter makes the case for the Watson deal to become a “turning point” for the league. He points out that the original Kirk Cousins contract with the Vikings (fully guaranteed for three years) created hope that “other top free agents — especially QBs who were negotiating immediately after Cousins — would demand the same.”

Currently, the first 2o or so picks in every draft get four-year, fully-guaranteed deals. Beyond that, it’s all a subject of negotiation between players and teams. Tretter points out that, in the NBA and MLB, fully-guaranteed contracts aren’t specified by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The practice of fully-guaranteed contracts in basketball and baseball arose from the process of negotiating contracts, one after another.

So will the Watson deal spark a sea change? Watson had rare leverage. He’d crossed the Browns from his list of potential destinations, and the Browns swooped in with a five-year, fully-guaranteed deal in order to get him to choose Cleveland. It was an unprecedented set of circumstances, one that won’t be duplicated soon.

If any player will get a five-year, fully-guaranteed deal, it will be a franchise quarterback. Few franchise quarterbacks ever get cut before their contracts expire, minimizing the risk of the player eventually not earning the money.

Even then, the funding rule — which Tretter downplays but which will require the Browns to set aside $169 million next March — will be a barrier for some teams, especially when it comes to guaranteeing money five years into the future.

The next players to watch when it comes to the possibility of four or five years of fully-guaranteed money will be Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. They have real leverage, for different reasons. The Broncos already have given up major resources to get Wilson. Now, they have no choice but to pay him. Jackson, by refusing to negotiate with the team, could get them to eventually agree to whatever he wants.

That said, the chances of widespread fully-guaranteed contracts remain slim. At a minimum, the contracts would become shorter and shorter in duration. On a four- or five-year deal, there’s a chance the player eventually will be burning up cap space without earning it. That keeps money from the players who are.

Then there’s the fact that the other teams will regard the Watson deal as an aberration, downplaying it and resisting any efforts to repeat it. Collusion happens in the NFL, as evidenced by the public complaints from multiple other owners regarding the Watson deal. The fact that one owner flinched in a moment of desperation probably won’t spark a flood of similar deals.

That doesn’t mean players and agents shouldn’t try. But their expectations need to be realistic. Tretter wants a “true standard” or guaranteed deals. It will take a lot to make this a new standard, and that’s the truth.

11 responses to “JC Tretter challenges agents to follow Deshaun Watson contract with more guaranteed deals

  1. Absurd outliers shouldn’t become precedents. To hand a player who quit on his old huge contract and has 22 lawsuits hanging over his head that amount of guaranteed money for that length of time is ridiculous. To think that should become the norm now is equally ridiculous.

    More guaranteed money will likely cause a lot of issues for rosters unless it is accompanied by shorter contracts. Maybe that’s what players want.

    Above everything, players and teams need to remember that this is an entertainment product, not just a money-printing machine. If players and teams turn the league into a high-turnover place where team identities disappear, I think we’ll see fan interest wane. People are inspired by the game, not by contracts.

  2. Only going to work for QBs. Game is too physical to give full guarantees to other positions.

  3. So the next big QB contract to fall should be Derek Carr. He is the one with all of the leverage, not Wilson or Jackson, as the Raiders have already committed to the WR side with Davonte Adams. Tim Younger, Carr’s agent, has the ball in his court and will be the start or end to the fully guaranteed contract trend.

  4. I still say there should be some “in-between” area to settle on. If a player tears an ACL and is out for the season, he produces nothing at all, yet there are those that they say should get fully compensated for nothing. But they did get hurt in line of duty so maybe there is the 50% rule or something along those lines. It is not fair for clubs to eat an entire year of pay for someone not on field. But injured guys can get something (in addition to their signing bonus which really already covers a lot of this)

  5. Great comments by all. But one question. Why does this seem only to be directed at the NFL? Baseball for one has been giving mind boggling salaries for years and everyone accepts it. NFL has the biggest game on earth in the Super Bowl every year and the League makes hand over foot, yet people get salty over the money. How many baseball players have gotten these HUGE contracts that never materialized into World Series Championships? Mike Trouts contract is worth $426 million NOT counting endorsements. Just a question…

  6. Isn’t the Watson contract and the fact that the other owners are angry evidence that there ISNT collusion? They are all competing with one another and a few are angry that this deal makes it harder to compete in the free market. Collusion would be the NFL prohibiting the Watson deal from going through…

  7. Fully guaranteed contracts can only work when the salary cap is sky high or non-existant.

    The NFL has parity, and therefore fan interest, because of the salary cap.

    Fully guaranteed contracts would cripple teams who get it wrong and, in my opinion, reduce the quality of the game.

  8. The problem I have with the contract is it puts fans further away from the NFL. People are growing tired of watching multimillionaire kids act like children.. I realize the NFL is trying to put games on TV for fans but the more you take the ability for fans to see a real game the more you push them away. People get bored with TV and with so much out there it isn’t going to be hard to get them away…. So the guy was right years ago when he said ‘the NFL will put itself out of business.’ ……. looks like he may be right.

  9. Most fans think throwing,catching,and running with a football does NOT DESERVE to be paid 50million dollars a year. It’s just that simple.

  10. why is tretter not talking about the way the browns treated mayfield? Seems kinda dirty to trash a player in public, and then hold that players rights when you have clearly gone another direction. Tretter should be sticking up for mayfield and pressuring the browns to release him so he can move on with his career.

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