SBD/Issue 122/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Merits Of Possible Rookie Wage Scale In NFL Spark Debate

Polian Feels NFL Needs
Definitive Rookie Salary Cap
NFL owners may try to "get players to agree to help them distribute money in a more equitable manner," which would mean "less for unproven rookies and more for proven veterans," according to Dan Pompei of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As the system stands now, players chosen in the top 15 of the NFL Draft "often make more than some of the most accomplished players in the NFL at their positions." Colts President Bill Polian: "The union has to give us a firm, definitive, rookie salary cap. We're perfectly willing to have the money that does not go to the rookies go to the veterans. ... But we're sick and tired of giving exorbitant, incredible sums to players who haven't proven they can do anything but play against Eastern Michigan." While a rookie salary cap already exists, it is "ineffective because teams have found ways to get around it." The NFLPA might "never agree to a deal that limits what any player can be paid," and NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw said that he "will not agree to a rookie wage scale, even though the NBA is using a similar system." Upshaw: "If a rookie enters the NFL in a wage scale system similar to the NBA's and you predetermine his salary for three years, his career is halfway over by the time he gets to negotiate." Upshaw believes that there is an "advantage in allowing owners to spend big on high draft choices." Upshaw: "Those rookie contracts play a role in what a veteran gets. Because if the top guy in the draft just got paid $35[M] in guarantees and he hasn't even proven himself, and if your contract is up as a veteran, I think it has an effect on what you're going to get" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/14). NFL Network's Marshall Faulk, on rookie contracts:  "If you want the number to come down, what you do is guarantee the life term of the contract." NFL Network's Rod Woodson: "In the past, having a top 10 pick used to be a plus for a team. Now having the number one pick in the (NFL) is a curse." NFL Network's Adam Schefter: "All the NFL owners are aware of this issue and it's something that's basically at the forefront of their thinking." Schefter added player agents "don't like this, obviously, because if they get slotted in, it would take away some of the guaranteed money upfront and I think it would diminish some of the need of recruiting (by agents for clients)" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 3/12).

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