Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

2018 Franchise Tag Discussion (Latest: Bell/Joyner)

Here's a running thread to discuss announcements on franchise tags. The first announced franchise tag goes to Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry. It's a bit of a controversial decision, since the Dolphins actually score more points the less they get Landry the ball. We wrote about this phenomenon last year both here and here.

February 20: Miami tags Jarvis Landry.
February 27: Detroit tags Ezekiel Ansah.
March 5: Dallas tags Demarcus Lawrence.
March 6: Los Angeles Rams tag Lamarcus Joyner.
March 6: Pittsburgh tags Le’Veon Bell (exclusive tag).
March 6: Chicago places transition tag on Kyle Fuller.


by jtr :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 9:52am

LeVeon Bell is already threatening retirement if the Steelers tag him again, but I'm sure that will be an empty threat. All he can really do is hold out through training camp like last year and then show up a little bit rusty. He really does get screwed by this, though. He's ultimately not going to hit free agency until his seventh season, and he's already had three seasons in the top 5 of the league in touches. The Steelers are going to be able to put a ton of wear on him at a notoriously short-lived position before he ever sees a real contract.

by sbond101 :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:26am

I think it's worse than that for Bell. By the time he actually does hit free agency it's unlikely that he will be able to command a significant guarantee (or at least I think a team would be stupid to offer him one). Fortunately for him he hasn't had a serious injury during this time, but he will probably go his whole career without ever having the security of a big guarantee.

by jtr :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:58am

He missed 10 games in 2015 with an MCL tear, so he hasn't totally avoided big injuries. I do think he'll age better than some star running backs because he adds so much value in the passing game. Even if he loses some of his pop due to his big workload, at the very least he can stick around like late Edgerin James as a shotgun blocking-and-checkdown specialist. It won't be like Adrian Peterson where he suddenly goes from superstar to completely useless.

by anotheroldguy :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 2:43pm

Old FO friend Mike Tanier devotes a full article to Bell's situation:

by MJK :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 2:35am

Interesting thought--what if the length of rookie contracts was adjusted based on a characteristic retirement age for the position? So maybe rookie QB deals could be 4 years, but rookie RB deals could only be 2? Or something like that?

Hmmm... That would drive RBs even further down the draft order.

Also, I don't think it would happen. The owners wouldn't agree because, why should they? Unless the NFLPA really bargains hard and gives something else up. Which I don't see them doing for just some positions representing a small number of players.

Maybe instead they should angle for a system where all rookie contracts are just 2 years, with two more years of RFA status...

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 1:49pm

I agree that the NFLPA should argue for shorter rookie contracts, but isn't that unlikely because they really care about veterans and not rookies?

I personally don't like the idea of shorter rookie contracts because it would really limit the ability of bad teams to rebuild, and make it that much harder for small-market teams to hang onto their drafted talent unless they pay a big premium. What I would like to see to address the problem of great players being really underpaid at the beginning of their careers is some type of escalators based on performance. I think if you draft a guy, you should keep the rights to him for 4-5 years like you do today, but if he's a top player in the league right away he should earn more, especially if he's a late round pick who today earns well under a million dollars.

I could see unintended consequences to that approach, though; if you're a team that's eliminated from the playoffs, you'd sit your young star toward the end of the season to avoid letting him put up the stats that would increase his pay. It would kind of be the equivalent of baseball teams screwing with service time and intentionally keeping a guy in the minors long after he's ready for the big leagues.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 3:56pm

Wait why would a baseball team do that?

by Eddo :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 5:55pm

Service time shenanigans rarely happen for more than a year, but to answer your question:

Per MLB rules, if you don't play in any games prior to [INSERT SOME DATE HERE](*), it doesn't count as a season of service. Since teams control players for six MLB seasons, this is something most teams do.

The most famous example of this was in 2015, when the Cubs kept top prospect Kris Bryant in triple-A for the first eight games of the season(**), even though the general consensus was he was ready to be a starter.

(*) It's some time in July, generally.
(**) It wasn't always July, though; with regards to Bryant/2015, it was at some point in the second week of the season.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 6:43pm

Yeah, I exaggerated when I talked about baseball teams keeping guys down for a "long" time, but that's basically what I was talking about.

by Jerry :: Wed, 02/28/2018 - 2:59am

There are two important dates here. First is the one where the player can no longer accrue a full year of service time, which delays eligibility for free agency by a year. (That's what happened with Bryant.)

Of course, that also pushed eligibility for salary arbitration (3 years in the majors) back a year. So the union got a provision where the top 22%, by service time, of players between two and three years are arbitration-eligible. They're called Super Twos, and Bryant will be one. And now, cheap teams have to leave top prospects in the minors for a couple months instead of a couple weeks.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:15am

Thanks! I haven't really followed baseball for 20 years, and I couldn't think how to google it

by dryheat :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 3:56pm

If he goes his career without the security of a big guarantee, it's his own fault though, isn't it? It seems Bell is trying to get a multi-year guaranteed deal at year to year prices. The Steelers offered him a significant multi-year contract, which he turned down.

At this point, the Steelers would be better off without him. They can get a replacement of 90% of the production for 70% of the cost and 10% of the headache.

by sbond101 :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 7:55pm

That's interesting; I would tend to agree with this assessment - that Bell, his agents, and many others ascribe way to much credit for the rushing numbers to him and way to little to the OL, and Bell should therefore have signed a long term more limited deal if he wanted security - however I would point out that the Steelers offense has been notably less effective without him on the field. If I were the Steelers I would put my money on depth and let some loser overpay Bell - but that's just me.

by LionInAZ :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 8:46pm

And if I were Bell's agent I would argue that Bell provides as much value to the Steeler offense as Antonio Brown, in receiving plus rushing together, but he'll never get paid as much as AB.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 6:15pm

Has the Steelers offensive really been less effective without Bell? I remember DeAngelo Williams getting nearly equal production, when Bell was hurt. That's a big reason not to pay him.

by justanothersteve :: Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:44pm

At this point, the Steelers would be better off without him. They can get a replacement of 90% of the production for 70% of the cost and 10% of the headache.

Statements like this astound me. It's gotten to the point that fans think elite talent (and Bell is an elite talent) can be replaced easily. It's like Pats fans who for years insisted that you don't need to spend a high draft pick to get a QB because they drafted one of the best QBs ever in the sixth round. Teams can get lucky and find another decent back to replace someone like Bell. But it's just as likely they'll spend a second on an Ameer Abdullah or Bishop Sankey, thinking he will replace most of that production. More often than not, that strategy will waste the last years of a HoF QB.

by nlitwinetz :: Sat, 02/24/2018 - 7:02pm

Is Bell elite? Conner and Ridley were both more efficient than Bell running behind the same line.
How much worse off would the Steelers be if was given 400 touches a year? We can see how poorly it turned out for KC...or NO.

I'd say you can get 95% of the production for 10% of the cost and 0% of the headache.

by Mike B. In Va :: Thu, 03/01/2018 - 11:02am

If you don't think Bell's elite, you need to watch more Steeler games.

I'm not even a Steeler fan. It's pretty easy to see how he changes the way the defense behaves when he's on the field. Although that would be an interesting stat project, to see if the team's overall effectiveness on offense is better with Bell than without.

by Roch Bear :: Thu, 03/01/2018 - 7:45pm

Sounds exactly right to me. A football, adjusted plus/minus. The DVOAs of the other PIT backs over the last 5 years have been about as good as Bell's, but the measure is the offense with him vs. the offense without him. Heck, defenses could even adjust to keep Andrian Peterson under some control.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/02/2018 - 12:54pm

Bell is elite. Bell was in the discussion for much of last year for MVP as a RB. In 2016, 538 called him the most dominant player in the NFL and he also got MVP votes. This is Adrian Peterson/ LaDainian Tomlinson level results at his position. The reason other RBs also look good in this offense is the defense sells out to stop Rothlisberger to Brown and the other WRs in one of the league's best corps. Bell adds a HoF-level RB to make one of the top 2-3 NFL offenses.

by herewegobrownie... :: Sat, 02/24/2018 - 8:45pm

It's probably not that far off as an assertion for a RB, even if it is that far off for QBs 99% of the time. You can often find an Arian Foster without a draft pick.

I don't think Saquon Barkley will turn out to be Trent Richardson II, but I totally understand why people are concerned he could, and even if you should draft BPA rather than by need, the Browns rush DVOA is 10th and high enough to not pour high-value draft resources like the #4 pick into him, for instance, when it's basically the only area besides the defensive front 7 that is NOT a weakness.

Then there's the issue of career length when you use a pick that high, although I suppose it becomes less important when you are, as you said, at Roethlisberger's twilight.

by dryheat :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 11:15am

I won't argue that Bell is not an elite talent. What I'm arguing is that a good free agent running back in that offense will give you 90% of the results. Or even two free agent running backs, one who's good in the pass game -- and those guys do seem to grow on trees. So let's say the Steelers sign a guy like Doug Martin and a guy like Shane Vereen for significantly less money than Bell requires. Yes, it's two roster spots as opposed to one, but all it costs you is the last RB on the depth chart...some Fitzgerald Touissant-type.

There are definitely supremely-talented running backs, but in my view, a running back's success is due to roughly 10% inherent talent, 60% offensive line quality, and 30% a fearsome passing offense.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 03/03/2018 - 8:55am

Really disagree with this assessment, when talking about HOF level running backs. I saw too many Viking teams dragged into the playoffs, with terrible quarterbacking, mediocre receiving, and mediocre to poor blocking, by a great running back who was a threat to score every time he took a handoff. One of those teams even had a bad defense; it was a 5 or 6 win team that won 10 due to a running back.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 7:05pm

ahh, the Sanders Lions experience!

\or the Simpson Bills

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 7:05pm

ahh, the Sanders Lions experience!

\or the Simpson Bills

by The Ninjalectual :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 6:42pm

No one is saying all elite talent can be replaced easily, just that RBs--even elite ones--can be adequately replaced easily.

I mentioned DeAngelo Williams' success for the Steelers earlier. How much worse were the Cowboys with Alfred Morris? I'd say "a little, but not cripplingly so." And that's with all the same resources still tied up in EE; in this case, the Steelers would be able to apply the savings to improve other parts of the roster.

I think it's worth investing a high pick/a lot of money in an RB only if they're an HoF level "two letter" talent like LT or AP. And I'm not sure that Bell is that good (no one's calling him LB, even to compare him to teammate AB). A committee of cheap veterans and mid- to high-round draft picks/UDFAs is a much better use of resources, in most cases.

I think Bell has a certain mystique about him, in fan perception, due to his unusual rushing style and Michaels'/Collinsworth's fawning. Bell is a slightly better, significantly younger Mark Ingram.

by dank067 :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 10:00pm

Better, younger Mark Ingram??? Bell has averaged over 100 targets and 80 receptions on a per 16 game basis over the course of his career, compared to 63/51 for Ingram just over the past 4 seasons that he's taken on a bigger receiving role. (Non-factor in passing game before that.) This in addition to Bell receiving a significantly greater number of carries than Ingram—Bell has averaged more than 100 additional carries than Ingram per every 16 games of his career. (I'm using PFR's per 16 average because it helps make it easier to account for Bell's injuries & supsensions, which I'd grant could be a knock against him. Not that Ingram has been super healthy himself.)

IMO Bell's productivity, adjusted for his usage rate, is remarkable, which I don't think you can capture just through efficiency numbers. Bell has also been a major chess piece within Pittsburgh's offensive scheme, with trickle down effects when he's not in the game. This is a bit crude, but check out Roethlisberger's TD/INT ratio with and without Bell (link below) as of early 2016. It's slightly out of date, but I don't believe they've missed a regular season game together since it was written. (Plus they're similar sample sizes at that point.)


by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 4:05pm

From the link: "I'm huge believer that statistics don't tell the full story and that film doesn't lie. That isn't the case here, however, because there is no need to watch the film to back up my claim.

...because they already agree with what I think!

J/K , poor arguments aside I do take your point. How is Bell as a pass blocker? Does he fearlessly throw himself in there like a Clinton Portis?

by dank067 :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 5:51pm

Ha yeah, it certainly wasn't the most well-reasoned article to link to, but since they bothered to compile some numbers...

Bell does seems to be pretty well-regarded as a pass blocker by places like PFF, for whatever they're worth. Like with all things blocking, if he was bad at it as opposed to average or better, it would probably be more obvious upon casual viewing and a bigger talking point.

In all honesty though, even after going out of my way to play up Bell's value, the Steelers are probably still correct in their general approach here. Any team that can maximize Bell's value to their offense as the Steelers have should be willing to pay a premium, but it's still hard to justify a market-obliterating, long-term deal to a RB, which is what Bell seems to be asking for.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 3:50pm

Yeah, Mark Ingram is a bad comp.

The best comp for Bell is Frank Gore, who is basically the same player; a patient runner who never turns down yards that have been blocked for him and sometimes makes his own yards. A good but not Jamaal Charles/LaDainian Tomlinson receiver and open field runner. Able to take the lion's share of the team's carries and usually stay on the field.

The Steelers should absolutely tag Bell and would be insane to offer him a big contract. Even presuming that he has a major positive effect on their offense - which I do not believe - it would be asinine to assume that he will have that same effect two years from now, let alone five. He won't.

Moreover, Pittsburgh needs to plan for LAB (Life After Ben). Loading up on contracts they will hate in 2020 is not the way to do that.

by dank067 :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 10:11pm

Don't mean to rag on you or anything, but I'd also point out that in the first 3 games that Dallas played without Elliot this season, they scored 7, 9, and 6 points and racked up a whopping 233, 225, and 247 yards in each of those games. If you were going to define a 3 week stretch of offensive football as crippled...

Obviously the Cowboys bounced back after a rough stretch. I just don't think truly talented RBs on the level of Elliot and Bell are as easily interchangeable as it might sometimes appear taking a big picture view, where some of the numbers do invite legitimate skepticism on RB value.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 02/26/2018 - 4:40am

The Cowboys actually present an illustrative example. In 2014, they had DeMarco Murray lead the league in rushing and let him go. He's come nowhere close to those 1,800yds since although you could argue that's partly being misused by Chip Kelly in Philly and he did finish 4th in rushing with 1200yds in 2016 but not much last year in a committee. But his yds/attempt were noticeably higher in Dallas than outside it.

Meanwhile the Cowboys eeked a 1,000yd season out of Darren McFadden in one of his best seasons but on the way to the team going 4-12. But then rebounded with Elliott these past two years.

If I recall the Cowboys situation to let Murray go came down to a choice between paying him or paying Dez Bryant and they chose the latter. I don't follow the Cowboys closely but it seems they made a reasonable decision in not paying Murray for the longterm given the quality of their o-line and other offensive talent. What do other people think about the scenario?

by Richie :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 4:32pm

Back in 2014, I wondered if it would be a good idea for Murray to hold out during the season. The Cowboys started out 6-1 and were headed for a top seed, and he seemed to be an important piece. He was "only" earning $1.4M that year, and had no contract the following year.

If he got injured, he would be screwed. His best leverage was during the middle of that 2014 season. Would it work? Could he get a new contract from the Cowboys at that point? He ended up earning $20M over the next 3 years, so he ended up doing OK for himself.

It doesn't seem fair when guys like him, or Russell Wilson, are performing very well for minimal contracts. At least Wilson plays a position that has a longer shelf life, so the odds are good he will still make a lot of money.

Even Tom Brady is still $50M+ behind Peyton Manning in career earnings, because he was a late round pick (and because he has apparently chosen to accept below-market contracts). But Brady was earning $4M in his first 3 seasons, while Manning was making $25M.

Of course, these late round picks who severely outperform their contracts are the exceptions. But it sure seems like there should be some sort of trigger to let guys renegotiate if they vastly exceed expectations.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 4:49pm

Playing devils advocate ...

How would you know if a guard or center is severely outperforming their contract?

Should a team be able to renegotiate and take money away from the 1st round pick that turns out to be a bust?

Maybe Jamarcus Russell could pay bonuses to any player who is outperforming their rookie contract.

by BJR :: Mon, 02/26/2018 - 8:21am

The 2017 Cowboys did go into a 3-game offensive slump immediately following Elliot's suspension, but it also coincided with Tyron Smith missing time. Indeed it was the passing game which capitulated completely during this stretch, including the ridiculous game in Atlanta when Adrian Clayborn sacked Prescott 6 times. Alfred Morris' raw rushing numbers were actually still good through this stretch. It's plainly obviously which players' absence was most keenly felt.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 1:42pm

I agree with you regarding the choice Bell has made. I will never fault a guy, especially one whose position has the shortest prime of basically any position in the game, for doing what he can to earn the most money possible; that said, he has to be realistic about the market. Depending on how much was fully guaranteed, the reported contract offered by the Steelers last year seemed like a pretty good one.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 02/25/2018 - 9:47am

Over a decade ago when RBs were still highly valued (think when Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander were breaking the record for touchdowns in a season); I remember thinking that teams ought to offer RBs smaller contracts because there is huge intrinsic motivation/reward in the position. These are the guys who get to touch the ball regularly, they get to score touchdowns and they get the attention and adulation for those things. Of course that's not how money is allocated in a competitive marketplace but you notice Adrian Peterson accepting $3.5m last year just to be able to continue carrying the rock.

Personally I find it hard to feel sorry for guys like Bell who will earn more in this coming season being franchised than I will in a lifetime. He's living the dream and getting well paid for it; he won't ever need to go work 9-5 in a crappy office job if he manages his money properly.

by serutan :: Mon, 02/26/2018 - 1:02pm

"he won't ever need to go work 9-5 in a crappy office job if he manages his money properly."

Unfortunately the statistics say he likely won't manage his money properly.

by Roch Bear :: Thu, 03/01/2018 - 7:53pm

Those stats, things like 'half the nfl players are broke within five years of retirement' and such, are sad and dramatic. Still, most players don't earn Bell kind of money. It would be interesting, to me anyway, to see how those who earn totals of 20 or 40 million do.

by apk3000 :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 9:37am

I believe even a lot of higher earner guys go broke. Sometimes they can't adjust their lifestyle, sometimes they get suckered into bad investments (especially restaurants) and sometimes their "advisers" straight up steal their money.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:43am

Man, that is a lot of money for a WR with 112 catches and not even 1000 yards last year.

by TomC :: Sat, 02/24/2018 - 8:46pm

This keeps the Bears from signing him, so it's OK by me.

by justanothersteve :: Sat, 03/03/2018 - 8:05pm

You may have spoken too soon. Bears may now trade Howard for Landry.

by TomC :: Sun, 03/11/2018 - 3:32pm

That had to have been started by Landry's agent. It made almost literally no sense.

by andrew :: Tue, 02/27/2018 - 10:09am

It looks like the Vikings are not going to tag Keenum.

While I like Keenum, I don't think tagging him is the right move.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 2:52am

Reading the Bell comments...Will and I really disagree about the impact of a rb purely from a rush standpoint. I see it as far more o line dependent, far less reliable week to week and far less important as a facet of a team. I'm all for signing a bunch of Legarett Blounts off the scrap heap and drafting a third round Derrick Henry.

I do think that rbs that have a baseline decency at rushing, effective at pass blocking, and are nightmares in the passing game have tremendous value. Marshal Faulk, Lt, b. Westbrook, D. SPROLES, L.Bell, and now Kamara are all way more scary than a traditional I formation runner. The question is...when will teams put a higher premium on drafting such players? It seems to me that receiving quality is largely viewed as accidental or at best a side bonus rather than THE defining feature. I mean, NE has made this a point of emphasis since the days of Kevin Faulk, but few teams have adopted this as a staple
To that end, if Barkley isn't at least a B+ in the passing game, drafting him in the top 10 will feel like an overdraft.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 3:55pm

I think you may be misinterpreting what I wrote, which was nothing more definitive than merely asserting that generic assertions about the value of running backs are of limited accuracy.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 5:09pm

It wasn't just limited to this. And by the way when I said we disagree I meant respectfully because I do agree your position has merit.

I tend to take the pretty extreme view that most of running back quality is very replaceable save for in the receiving game.

That's why I probably wouldn't draft Barkley until the 20s, purely from a rushing perspective

by jtr :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 9:56am

Funny how we had two tags come in early this year and then nothing at all for over a week. Teams have until 4pm tomorrow to declare their franchise tags, so news is about to pick up hard on this. I guess this season teams have been using the tag as a threat hanging over negotiations rather than explicitly using it and then trying to negotiate the extension. The cynical part of me thinks that the reason teams are doing this is so that they can threaten more than one player with the tag for as long as possible.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 5:48pm

I don't know why the players union in the NFL is so weak. The franchise tag is one of the worst, anti competitive schemes in any sports league. Players assume all of the downside risk. Between this and the rookie wage scale contracts - its appalling.

If i didn't love football so much, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. I'm not sure whos a bigger crook to society - the ncaa or the nfl.

by SFC B :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 6:21pm

NCAA. It is not even close. The NFL is at least paying the young men who are destroying their bodies for our entertainment. The NCAA not only doesn't pay, but comes down HARD on individuals who dare try to extract some tiny sliver of the value which the NCAA is extracting from their efforts. Honestly, the NCAA to NFL pipeline is a big reason I've drastically reduced my NFL watching and spending this season. Baseball, basketball, and hockey all have the decency to fund much of their player development pipeline. The NFL offloads almost all of it to the NCAA. And it is to the NFL's detriment as their player development leagues aren't necessarily developing players geared towards the NFL.

by theslothook :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 7:14pm

Fair enough. The nfl is a monopoly and extracts revenue through tv advertising(which translates to higher prices for the rest of us). But you are right, the ncaa is essentially a business that doesn't have to pay its employees. The whole thing is a sham and should not be married to higher education.

As much as I love football, I can't help but think its largely detrimental to society. It hurts its employees, it corrupts families into thinking the only way out of poverty is through athletics and it extracts wealth through subsidies from the government.

by David :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 9:37am

"It hurts its employees, it corrupts families into thinking the only way out of poverty is through athletics and it extracts wealth through subsidies from the government."

Even if one agrees with this statement - these detriments must be balanced against football's benefits to society. The entertainment benefits are significant, based on the dollar value of what people are willing to give up to watch football.

Football isn't the only industry to hurt its employees, or to be subsidised by the government. If anything, the fact that it gives individuals another route to social mobility is to its benefit (it's not like having football has stopped kids getting educated).

It is certainly possible that you feel the benefits are outweighed by the detriments, but it's not a one way proposition

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:44am

As much as I love football, I can't help but think its largely detrimental to society. It hurts its employees, it corrupts families into thinking the only way out of poverty is through athletics and it extracts wealth through subsidies from the government.

But it is a way out. It competes with dangerous physical labor and the military in that niche.

The problem with tut-tutting these professions from a position of privilege is this: "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread."

We banned freak shows not because we cared about the freaks, but because we didn't want to have to see them. Putting them out of work did not benefit the actors.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 2:16pm

Replying to both comments:

I didn't mean to imply there are no benefits. Even minimum wages benefit someone. But on net, I do believe football is a net negative.

Yes it does offer an avenue out of the ghetto, but its such a low probability. And lets be honest, how much actual learning do football players gain in college? Football is basically a full time job, one whos skills are unlikely to translate outside of football or football related careers.

Friday Night Lights was very instructive on just how little these kids know once they leave high school.

Maybe I'm naive and without football, they'd all end up getting wasted in those toxic environments.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 5:17pm

I think you also have to weigh the risk of developing CTE, even on the part of players who never get close to the pros. I do agree that there can be benefits to playing football, but there's also an aggregate level of brain damage to go around too.

As sad as it is to see former pros dealing with brain damage, I'd argue it's even sadder to know that there are kids developing it today who might never play beyond high school.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 8:33pm

One of my friends had what I thought was a great idea:
1) Athletes have the option of being paid, insured, etc. employees of the school. And we're not talking minimum wage.
2) If they elect to be paid employees they are NOT students. They aren't enrolled, don't go to class, etc. Their only job is to play the sport.
3) However, by virtue of being employees they earn a scholarship to that school that they can cash in when they feel their career is over.

So this still gives athletes the opportunity for a free education, but it also does away with the sham of "student athletes".

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:46pm

I had a stipend in grad school. Functionally, I was a professional student.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:35am

"And lets be honest, how much actual learning do football players gain in college?"

How much anyone learns is related to their involvement, and as with all groups there's a wide spectrum. Overall, it's a good thing that they have the option to learn, and I think close to 100% of NCAA football scholarship athletes gain something from the experience. The NFL is a highly educated sports league and it shows in some ways: they have the highest % of athletes with degrees (41% if the page I glanced at is correct). NFL players tend to have political beliefs consistent with anyone who's been through the higher education system. I don't have time to research other points for now. Anecdotally, look at the disparity between flat-earther/other conspiracy theorists there are in the NBA vs the NFL.

This isn't meant as a defense of the NCAA in any way, I'm just saying that exposing people to the kinds of ideas going around a college is truly beneficial to players.

by Richie :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:02pm

I'm in favor of schools being allowed (not required) to pay athletes. But even just allowing players to earn money would be a good alternative.

Why not allow them to sign deals with Nike? Heck, I don't even care if boosters are giving them sham no-show jobs. Let them earn their money if they can. And this method lets the schools keep their dirty money.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 7:24pm

I'm completely in favor of athletes getting sham jobs, especially over the summer. It establishes a work record even if they never actually worked. And, like you state, it allows others to pay the players while the school doesn't lose any money from paying the students. I don't care if they're washing golf balls or teaching tiddlywinks. It's better than the games schools play trying to lure athletes.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 03/09/2018 - 5:04am

I've just finished reading a book about Bill Bowerman, the legendary track and field coach from Oregon. One of the co-founders of Nike.

It's quite interesting to understand how back in the 50s/60s he initially had few or no scholarships to give anyone but got them jobs at the local sawmill and my reading was that he would probably have kicked anyone off the team for not turning up to work their shift at the mill because it was an arrangement that benefited everybody in the longterm.

Beyond that though there was a big power struggle between the AAU (American Athletics Union?), the NCAA and what the college coaches/athletes wanted. For example, on one occasion he wanted to invite a team of New Zealanders, who were then the best middle distance runners in the world, to compete in Oregon but he struggled to get the NCAA or AAU to approve their own private competition. That was how much power they had.

When Oregon hosted the US Olympic trials in 1972/76 and turned a profit, Bowerman wanted to at least reimburse the students for their expenses but the NCAA or AAU wouldn't allow it. When they competed abroad for the United States, the amateur athletes would be getting put in 2-3 star hotels while the officials would be getting 5-star luxury.

But it all came to an end when the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The Olympics had been the one thing that the AAU/NCAA was able to hold over athletes. If they broke their amateur status they wouldn't be able to compete for their country in what was then the most significant event. But once they missed that (because the White House told them they weren't going) it made little sense for athletes not to compete for money. Initially they got trust funds for when they retired and then it became professional.

What I take away from all that beyond the NCAA's power and greed is that it's not fit for purpose in the modern world. Back in the 60s/70s athletics was amateur, coaches coached but ensured their athletes got an education and sport didn't generate vast profits. The modern world has moved on but the NCAA is still trying to treat athletes how they were treated half a century ago. The only question is what outside event will unexpectedly change things.

by Jerry :: Fri, 03/09/2018 - 9:45am

The AAU was, and is, the Amateur Athletic Union.

Big-time college sports weren't any more amateur half a century ago than they are now. There was just less money sloshing around.

by theslothook :: Fri, 03/09/2018 - 2:02pm

The whole thing is a hoax and a sham. I guarantee there are kickbacks going to the major leagues to pipe down about the eligibility restrictions.

I'm trying to find a similar cartel. The financial sector is probably ahead on the evil doers scale and probably the agriculture lobbyists as well.

Edit: actually in terms of raw harm, US backed aid to third world nations run by dictators is the most damaging policy we have.

by MC2 :: Sat, 03/10/2018 - 8:25am

If "raw harm" is the standard, then all those things you just mentioned pale in comparison to the longstanding (though of course unofficial) policy of instigating, and subsequently intervening in, foreign conflicts, as a form of corporate welfare for military contractors.

by theslothook :: Sat, 03/10/2018 - 4:28pm

I'm curious to know which conflicts you believe we're driven by corporate welfare reasons

by MC2 :: Sat, 03/10/2018 - 10:30pm

Almost all of them.

As Major General Smedley Butler observed almost a century ago, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives."


Butler's remarks are, if anything, even more true now.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 5:02pm

Well said. The NCAA not only doesn't pay athletes, but punitively restricts them from earning money elsewhere. Athletes are actually worse off than other students. A kid on a music scholarship is totally free to play gigs for money or sign a recording contract.

Let's grant for a minute the ridiculous argument that the future pros in the college ranks are being adequately compensated in the form of their "educations" (ignoring the fact that the demands of their 40+ hour unpaid work week make it impossible for them to truly make use of that education). Even if you say that the NCAA itself owes them nothing else, it's truly un-American and intolerable to dictate that they cannot profit from their fame and accomplishments.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:10pm

The players union is so weak for two reasons. 1. The rosters are large, thus making it harder for the players to maintain solidarity, and 2.the players have very short careers for the most part, which makes a strike a very costly proposition. They are at a huge disadvantage to the 32 plutocrats who they are negotiating with.

by Sixknots :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 11:45pm

Agree, except that point #2 should be really point #1.

by dryheat :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 10:54am

Not only do short careers make players strike-adverse, they also foster a "better get mine now" attitude amongst labor, which necessarily runs counter to maintaining a strong union. It's hard for a player not to look out for #1 during a small window of prowess, which is always at risk of shutting completely due to injury suffered during a violent game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 03/05/2018 - 10:31pm

The NCAA, and the schools and conferences which communicate under its umbrella, are plainly an illegal price fixing cartel, under any intellectually honest reading of antitrust law, and it is only via some peculiarly developed jurisprudence that it has not been broken up. When agricultural company executives behave like college presidents, except with the price of lysine, instead of what will be given to 18 year old football players, the ag company execs go to prison.

by theoutlawtorn :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 4:17pm

Anyone know what is up with the Jags? Won't tag Robinson, too much of a risk off of ACL surgery. They gave the worst QB in the NFL, 3 yr-50 mil.

Bortles is awful, Robinson is not. Bizarro Jags?

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 5:10pm

No, just Jags

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 5:25pm

To the Jags credit, there are several other solid WRs on that roster, even though Robinson has been the best of the bunch. Yeah, the ACL is a major injury, but it's not like he suffered a Teddy Bridgewater kneesplosion. My guess is they figure they're spending too much on a bad QB they can't really necessarily afford Robinson. He'll get paid somewhere else, and probably paid a lot. Hurns, Lee, and the younger guys they have will still represent a solid core for the team.

by MarkV :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 5:54pm

The Bortles is awful bit is hyperbolic.

He isn't amazing, and has had really bad years with good counting stats. But this year he was approximately equal to Cousins by DVOA, QBR, DYAR. That is also substantially better than Teddy Bridgewater has ever been.

Flacco over the last 4 years has been worse than Bortles.

Also, the Jags had already guaranteed 1 year at 18 million. Reasonable accounting would call it a 2 year, 32 million extension, with 7 million guaranteed. And when you think of it like that its a pretty good deal. Especially considering that Cousins (who, again, had basically the same level of play this year), is probably going to get somewhere around 75 million guaranteed.

by ChrisS :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 6:13pm

Bortles has preformed below average in all four years, but less bad last year. I think Cousins is way overrated but comparing Bortles best year to Cousins worst year is not very useful and Cousins OL was decimated by injuries. Flacco is awful but his stats are better over the last 4 years -450 DYR for Bortles to +550 for Flacco, 44.5% avg QBR for Bortles to 54.25% for Flacco, AV has Bortles ahead 42 to 36.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 8:24pm

Count me among those that thinks Bortles is still an awful qb masquerading as a below average one.

If he had a season like Goff, I might be a little more receptive to the idea that maybe Bortles was starting to figure it out. But last year smelled a lot like the one year blips I've seen out of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Derrick Anderson....

by GwillyGecko :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 9:48pm

I find it laughable that you think"athletes are worse off than other students" because athletes at big-conference schools get to live in the nicest dorm on campus, get full scholarship including room+board(which means loads of food), access to nicer gyms than the rest of the students including hot tubs and cold tubs, access to free training and coaching from professionals that would charge thousands on the open market for their coaching, don't have to study much to keep their scholarship, and are basically seen as kings of the campus, especially to females on campus.

And you're a fool if you don't think plenty of these athletes aren't getting money when they ask for it.

All this, despite the fact that 99% or more of div 1 a football players are net money losers to their school. There's maybe two dozen players a year that contribute more than what they get in benefits from the school, and almost all of them recoup that either thru the NFL or thru injury insurance.

by theslothook :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 10:50pm

I'm not sure where to begin here:

First of all - if you don't think CFB is a huge money making industry, check this out - http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/finances/

Also, the whole point about food, and gyms etc is laughable. Yes, I bet the company I work for would shower me with hot tubs, free food, and video games in place of a salary. You know why they don't? Because if they did make that offer, I'd tell them to stick it because I'd rather earn money and spend it how I want to.

Also, let us not confuse athlete from student. A college football player largely isn't going to the college to learn anything. He is playing football in the hopes of perhaps making it to the nfl and becoming rich. Nothing he learns on the football field has any real substantive value outside of the football field, whereas the student is paying for skills that he can then use to get hired to do a job.

Try showing up to an interview for as an accounting intern with nothing but X's and O's knowledge and little else. You may get some high fives, but unlikely to leave with a job.

by MarkV :: Tue, 03/06/2018 - 11:11pm

For what its worth, I teach at a large D1 program that makes oodles of money off football, and I teach a lot of intro gen-ed classes, so I get a lot of football players (and other athletes).

There are a lot of things I could write about student athletes, but the one thing that is categorically true is that they are worse off than other students. Their schedules are jam-packed with insane amounts of work. You write "don't have to study much to keep their scholarship," well for student athletes in the SEC at least its more than anyone else. They are never allowed to miss class without it being for university events (my average student misses 12% of classes), and while a lot of classes (like mine) are easy to scrape by in, its also not possible to scrape by and still get an education. The student-athletes who don't study much can generally pass enough classes to maintain eligibility for 3-4 years, but to do this they aren't making substantial progress towards degrees. If student-athletes want to graduate, they typically have to enroll early, enroll every summer, and often enroll for five years because they cannot take more than 12-13 credits a semester (including some easy classes) and fit it in-between their 40 hours of football work a week. Surveys consistently put football loads north of 40 hours a week. A 12 credit schedule is expected to require 36 hours a week to complete. So they are essentially scheduled for 76 hours of work a week, fall spring and summer. They are robbed of many of the essential opportunities other students have (they cannot take internships or research, go to office hours, generally cannot network outside of student-athletes).

There are other things you wrote I could refute, but don't want to make this longer. Student-athletes get screwed.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 3:46pm

Where do they find the time to meet the top 1% hottest women in the town, not to mention actually sleeping with them?

I roomed with a violent asshole of a player part of one semester, and every night he had a different amazingly beautiful woman over. I have no idea where they all came from, and sure as hell didn't feel comfortable asking about it either.

by GwillyGecko :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:01pm

1)You're severely overestimating how many hours students put into undergrad classes, even most of the "A" students at schools like yours don't put in anywhere near 36 hours for 12 hours of credits, especially during the first two years.

2)You're severely underestimating intangible things that affect student life positively for athletes that regular students could only dream about.

3)You're redefining "getting an education" to mean some nebulous thing that even non-athletes often don't receive through undergrad programs.

by MarkV :: Mon, 03/12/2018 - 5:14pm

Those are good comments but:
1) I don't claim students do this. I claim that they should if they value their education. I Think students probably average 4-5 hours a week for my classes instead of the 9 they should be. This is also why, however, that students aren't making significant academic progress in their general education requirements. My point isn't that student-athletes should be normal students, because I think normal students get bad educations. My point is that student-athletes don't have the option to get what the standards actually are, ERGO they are denied what they should be receiving in value.

2) Having never been an athlete, I cannot speak to this. Except to note that even if they are receiving alternative compensation, it is still a problem. They aren't receiving an education that meets reasonable standards. Sure they can receive other stuff, but they are working for no education and no pay. Its a problem.

3) This is true, but it is also why those non-athletes don't succeed after graduation (or successfully graduate). And my bigger concern isn't that they aren't doing these nebulous things, but that they cannot do them.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 8:46am

It takes accounting every bit as dishonest as a Hollywood studio's to put forth the argument that the players at all the power 5 conferences aren't generating profits for their cartel member. Here's a hint. It doesn't actually cost Vanderbilt University what Vanderbilt University claims it costs, to give a football player tuition, books, fees, room, and board.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:23pm

Agreed, just look at the participants who can use the market to determine their value, head coaches at D1 schools earn a lot of money (more than 75 head coaches pay >$1m). So there is $$$'s available for salaries at these programs, just not for the athletes doing the work.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 4:53pm

The basketball coaches, with their small rosters, can at least credibly claim, with all the overseas leagues paying decent money, that a good chunk of their players will end up having a chance to make a small windfall playing basketball, a sport which doesn't have huge health risks. The football coaches? They are really morally compromised. 85 guys on the roster, and only a tiny handful have a realistic shot of earning any money playing professionally, in a sport which poses very significant health risks. Big time college football coaches, with their huge salaries, are pretty scummy.

by MarkV :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 3:54pm

my favorite easy way to demonstrate the myth is the "teams lose money to go to bowls"
SEC Team goes to bowl and gets paid 2.5 million.
Sec Team's costs (hypothetically), are ~500 thousand.
SEC team loses money because: they are in a profit sharing league, so they make 2/15 of their bowl cut, or 333k. Poof, they have lost money on their bowl bid!

Of course, they are in a profit-sharing league, and will make money on the SEC participant(s) in the bcs, and off the other 6-7 teams that make bowl games, for doing exactly nothing.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 03/07/2018 - 2:50pm

I don't know what you do for a living, but I believe it's safe to assume that you would not think it was okay if your employer stopped paying your salary and replaced it with a variety of perks of variable value to you, plus promised to slip you some money under the table occasionally.

Given the billions of dollars in revenue from NCAA football, for you to be correct that only a couple dozen players contribute more than they get from the school you would have to assume that the multimillion dollar coaches provide 99% of the value, and the players on the field are entirely fungible cogs in the machine.

by GwillyGecko :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:08pm


Here's a good article that makes many of the same arguments I made above.

tl, dr: Players get paid, just not directly.

Also: http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-clemsons-football-facility-2017-10

LOL at the notion above that college football players at big-time schools "have it worse" than regular students

by Will Allen :: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:53pm

The arguments put forth completely elide the point that the NCAA, the conferences, and member schools are engaged in collusion that plainly violates antitrust law, under any intellectually honest reading of that law, in an effort to depress what is offered to the football players, whose performances are being auctioned to television networks for billions of dollars.