Fully-guaranteed contracts would have unintended consequences

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The news that the NFL Players Association has filed a collusion claim arising from the allegedly collective resistance to giving fully-guaranteed contracts to “certain quarterbacks.” The effort will necessarily revive the debate regarding whether all contracts for NFL players should be fully guaranteed.

So let’s revive the basic reality that fully-guaranteed contracts for all players will have unintended consequences.

First, remember that all first-round draft picks now get four-year, fully-guaranteed deals. So they do happen. For veteran players, however, it’s more of a rarity — driven more by the leverage a player like Deshaun Watson has than anything else.

If the NFL were to evolve to the point at which all contracts were fully guaranteed, the contracts would become shorter in duration. The deals also may have less value, if they would be fully and completely locked in at signing.

Then there’s the possibility that a long-term, fully-guaranteed contract given to a veteran player who doesn’t earn it becomes a problem, given the salary cap. Every dollar that goes to a player who isn’t earning it becomes one less dollar that can go to a player who is earning it.

If, for example, the Broncos had fully-guaranteed Russell Wilson‘s deal, Denver’s hands would be tied through 2028. No matter how well or poorly he plays. And then the Broncos would either have to play him because they’re paying him so much, or they’d have to bench him and find someone much cheaper to take the snaps.

Bottom line? Fully-guaranteed contracts for all players wouldn’t solve many problems. And if the owners were ever forced to do it, they’d likely become determined to exact their payback, in one way or another.

Thus, the better approach is for players who have earned a new contract (and who are eligible for one) to do everything they can to get paid while they can, when they can. And those players should be glad that there aren’t multiple fully-guaranteed deals for underperforming veterans chewing up cap space that otherwise could go to the guys who should be getting it.

17 responses to “Fully-guaranteed contracts would have unintended consequences

  1. Let’s just go to one year contracts and full free agency for all.

    Players could sign multiple one year contracts for the future to guarantee future earnings. No cut and re- signs at a lower price.

    This gives certainty to all and the chance to immediately build via free agency.

  2. Another approach is my value-adjustmemt component to keep more money in the hands of the players that play by the rules and perform well, thus minimizing the dollars going to those that don’t respect the sport and aren’t putting in a legitimate effort. That way the entire money pool will have a higher utilization rate towards good football competition where it belongs.

  3. Just look at MLB and see how crippling a guaranteed contract can be on an underperforming or often injured player.

  4. No no no just about every time a player Dora’s good enough to get a nice contract they get lazy. The contracts should be tier based and off of performance if you don’t play good you don’t make good money. Before you say that’s not far a lot of jobs are already based off of this concept

  5. It would ruin the NFL. The owners have every right to collude on this since it impacts their business. Imagine an NFL full of guaranteed contracts for underperforming players. The product would look a lot like that Broncos / Colts game. If all the games were like that, I wouldn’t watch and no one else would either.

    Going to a yearly free agency would be terrible as well. It would turn the NFL into the NBA where you have no idea what players are in which team. Hard to cheer for a team when you have a revolving door of players.

  6. Shorter guaranteed contract would save a lot of problems. And take the away the franchise tag too. Stop announcing marshmallow contracts that will never pay out the supposed value.

    November 23, 2022 at 3:59 pm
    Just look at MLB and see how crippling a guaranteed contract can be on an underperforming or often injured player.

    And yet… every single team is still very profitable.

  8. There’s a saying, you either win on price or terms. If the terms get a lot better for players (fully guaranteed) then the price will have to come down.

  9. That sounds like a good way for the NFL to go out of business. I say they go the other direction and have sliding pay scales based solely on performance. Watch soft tissue injuries, business decisions, and loafing disappear.

  10. Fully guaranteed contracts give players an incentive not to work hard and not to play with best effort at the more dangerous positions and during more dangerous plays. It incentivizes receivers saying, “I’m going to get pancaked if I catch this. I’ll just accidentally slip before I get there instead.” Etc.

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