SBD/February 11, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Smith Calls Rookie Cap Proposal A "Veteran Wage Scale" In Memo To Players

Smith says wage scale proposed by NFL would have dramatic effect on league salaries
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said in a memo to union player leaders that the rookie wage scale proposed by the NFL owners in CBA negotiations amounts to "a veteran wage scale," because it would impact players with three to five years of experience, "the core of our membership." The NFL made this proposal to the players in late January in response to a proposal by the NFLPA in which it offered concessions, including limits on the amount of money in incentives and salary escalators in the rookie contracts. The NFLPA had proposed a maximum length of four years for players drafted in the 1st-3rd rounds of the NFL Draft and a maximum limit of three years for players drafted in the 4th-7th rounds, according to union memos. But the league proposed that contracts be five years for 1st round picks and four years for all other draft picks. “This wage scale would have a very dramatic effect on league salaries when you consider the number of players that would be subject to its terms," Smith wrote in a letter to the NFLPA Exec Committee and board of players reps. Noting the number of players that the league’s proposal would impact would likely exceed 60%, he wrote, "This is a VETERAN WAGE SCALE." Additionally, the NFL is proposing reductions in minimum salaries for their first four years in the league. Under the current CBA, the minimum would be $405,000 for '11 and under the owners proposal it would be $285,000, the memo states. Under the current CBA, the minimum salary would be $575,000 in '13. Under the NFL's proposal, that salary would drop to $460,000. The NFL proposal also includes the following: "No individual negotiation of contracts at all; A ban on all guarantees for salary, including injury guarantees, and; does so for the longest part of an average player's career" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

MORE ON THE MEMO: In DC, Mark Maske reported the memo also indicates that the "amount of bonus money in contracts also would be set by the rookie wage scale under the league's proposal." The memo said that a "defensive tackle taken with the ninth overall selection in this year's draft would receive a five-year contract worth $8.6 million, provided that he reaches certain playing-time benchmarks in the deal." The memo indicated that the "same player would receive $18 million over four seasons under the union's proposal for a rookie wage scale, if the player reaches a playing-time benchmark" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/10). ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted players also "would not be able to renegotiate their contracts or agree to extensions until three years after they were drafted." Smith wrote signing bonuses "would be fixed, paid over the length of a contract and subject to forfeiture 'if the player does not toe the Club's line in every way'" (ESPN.com, 2/10).
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