Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Oct 2006

Rookie Salaries Don't Add Up

My column this week is about the ridiculous nature of rookie salaries in the NFL, where Alex Smith makes much more than Jake Delhomme, Ronnie Brown makes much more than Tiki Barber, Braylon Edwards makes much more than Steve Smith and A.J. Hawk makes much more than Lofa Tatupu.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 21 Oct 2006

62 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2006, 5:32pm by Bright Blue Shorts


by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 8:45am

Is there any way to restructure the rookie salary scale before the next CBA negotiations? I thought that the only time to do this was during those negotiations.

I'm also suprised it wasn't done as part of the recent CBA agreement, as both the Owners and the NFLPA should be in favour of it. Lower Rookie salaries mean the owners aren't paying stupendous sums of money for unproven talent, while the extra money available on a teams' cap can then go to veteran plays, which, in theory, should be a goal of the NFLPA.

The only losers would be agents and the Rookies themselves. Agents could make at least some of their losses back when negotiating bigger contracts for their veteran clients, and anyway, does anyone really care if agents are out of pocket? Rookies who are worth big money will get it anyway, while those who aren't shouldn't get it.

So do the agents have that much clout with the league and/or Players Association, would Rookies win a legal challenge that would undermine the draft system, or does no-one really care about wasted millions?
Those are the only three reasons to maintain the Status Quo.

by Smeghead (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 10:24am

They could make the pie higher for rooks and veterans alike by paring down the owners' share. Bill Bidwell making more than Anquan Boldin, that's real lunacy.

I'm not holding my breath.

by Confused (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 11:06am

It seems really hard to figure out what makes a fair system. Comparing salary with actual performance (as opposed to what they expected when they signed them) will always come up with anomalies. But it's hard to figure out how much deviation is ok. You could also say that it seems insane that in the NBA, Anfernee Hardaway made 5 times the salary of Dwayne Wade. So you can argue that the rookie salary scale in the NBA is too low. The biggest difference I see is how the salaries in the NBA are guaranteed but for the most part, salaries in the NFL are not guaranteed. And we all know that the injury risk in the NFL is so much higher.

Why not say the solution is for owners to get wise and trade down to the second round? If the owners refuse to, then why blame the lack of a rookie salary scale?

by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 11:09am

James, in theory they could change the share of the salary cap that goes to rookies even when they're not negotiating the CBA. But the fact that they approved the new CBA without addressing that issue indicates that neither side sees any need for change. I agree with you that both sides should want to do it, and it's baffling that they haven't done it. I think you're on to something when you mention the agents. I think a lot of players are persuaded by their agents not to make changes within their union, because the agents like the system the way it is now.

by brasilbear (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 12:33pm

In this years draft, the Bears traded out of the first round and drafted D. Manning who is now one of their starting safties in the second. The money saved by not taking a first rounder may end up going to resign Lance Briggs and Nathan Vasher.

by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 12:41pm

Good point. They won't say this publicly, but I have a funny feeling that the Bears' front office feels like it got burned by taking Benson so high last year, and that they want to avoid having to do that again. Fortunately for Bears fans, it doesn't look like they'll have a Top 5 pick any time soon.

by jackg (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 12:50pm

This is part of the key to why teams like the Broncos, Patriots, and Eagles are able to be good year after year in the current system. When you perform well, you draft at the bottom of the first round and avoid having to make big gambles on risky players. When they do, occassionally, get top round picks thanks to trades or an off-year they realize that there are only a few types of players (like potential franchise QBs, see Jay Cutler) worthy of such a big $$ gamble. As much as the NFL is great at driving parity - there is an underclass emerging in the NFL the past few years (Texans, Det, SF) that is mostly there thanks to completely inept management that is compounded by management getting to make these big, dangerous bets on top 5-10 picks every year. It would be interesting to see if a team like the Pats ever packeaged together their typical multiple late 1 and 2nd round picks to move up into the top 10 sometime - they haven't done it yet - and are much more likely to move down and leverage the value of the 2nd and 3rd rounds - but if they did move up it would be interesting to see the type of player who led them to take the risk.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 1:03pm

The problem with the widget analogy is that the widget factory would most likely be unionized, so pay would not be based in any way on performance. Your rate would be based on seniority, and you'd be paid for how many hours you worked (or more likely, how many hours someone clocked you in for while you were home hung over), instead of how many widgets you made. Eventually the widget company would open a new factory in Bangladesh, since it would be cheaper to make widgets there, ship them across a freaking ocean, and pay ridiculous tariffs than to put up with American manufacturing nonsense. Of course, this would all be George Bush's fault.

On a more serious note, this problem would go away if more rookies were like Tom Brady. He was actually the first overall pick in the draft, but volunteered to be paid like an ordinary 6th-rounder because it would help his team out. That's how wonderful a guy he is. He's probably left upwards of $200 million on the table over the course of his career. What a dreamboat.

OK, I swear this part will be serious. I like the NBA rookie system generally, but I think if you adapt it for the NFL you have to remember that careers are significantly shorter. You'd have to limit the rookie contracts to 2-3 years max, so guys who produced could cash in. Maybe 2 years, after which they become restricted FA, or 3 years to UFA. I dunno. It's easier being snarky than offering a productive plan.

by Ted Max (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 1:08pm

I'm perplexed by this article. It seems to be more of a catalogue of bad draft picks than saying something more meaningful about the salary structure. The fact that Colston was drafted so much lower than Bush and makes so much less despite being just as valuable would seem to mean one of two things: 1) They drafted Bush too high, or 2) They drafted Colston too low. I don't see how either of those situations is the system's fault.

Now, it may well be that the proportions are off, that first round picks are far too unreliable to make ANY first round pick worth the cost. In that case, sure, the league should try to flatten out the rookie salary structure to limit their risks in the draft. But as has been said already, they don't seem to be rushing to do that.

Why? Perhaps because they are irrationally exhuberant, and are so in love with the idea that Bush would really be the next BIG THING, that they can't imagine that such a sure thing could wind up being worth not that much.

If anything, this is more a comment on draft disappointment than anything else. There was a time when the Saints seemed LUCKY to sign Bush at any cost. He just hasn't shown up as the next Jim Brown like some people thought he would.

One last thing: This kind of thing is common in many professions. Any time newcomers come in at "market rate" and old-timers have limited mobility, the newcomers will always seem overpaid compared to people who are more accomplished. The solution is to increase the mobility for old-timers, but who really wants to see a free-agent circus in the NFL like you see in baseball?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 2:02pm

Oh, I don't think baseball style free agency would hurt the NFL's product at all. Heck, as long as revenue sharing was adequate, I think the NFL could get rid of the salary cap, and the product might actually improve.

It takes quite a bit of time for a baseball player to become an unrestricted free agent, after all. What hurts baseball's product, in term of maintaining broad based geographical interest, with less dependence on management acumen, is that the Yankees and some other franchises have many times the revenues of some other franchises, and salary arbitration puts an upward pressure on salaries than might otherwise exist in a true free market.

I'd say most of the risk in first round draft picks lies at the very top, and after pick five or so, first rounders become a very manageable risk. I do think it is less than desirable to encourage the worst teams to undertake such risks (and trading out of such a spot seems to be increasingly difficult), but there certainly seems to be some constituency outside ther owners which likes the current system.

On the surface, it certainly seems as if the veterans should prefer a larger percentage of the salary cap allocated to their money market accounts, as opposed to a guy drafted at the top of the first round, so maybe the agents do play a role in this, but I certainly can't put my finger on it with certainty.

by Marko (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 2:14pm

Excellent article. I've long wondered about this topic. It seems obvious that it would benefit veteran players if less money were paid to rookies so more money would be available for veterans.

The agents may very well have something to do with why the status quo remains. But since the more powerful agents undoubtedly have far more veteran clients than rookie clients, why don't the agents want to change the system to benefit more of their clients?

Maybe they fear that the money saved on rookies under an NBA-style system wouldn't necessarily be spent on veterans, and would just go unspent under the salary cap. Correspondingly, perhaps they feel that a rising tide lifts all boats, that having higher rookie contracts (with huge signing and roster bonuses) forces teams to pay higher salaries and bonuses to star players when they become free agents or sign contract extensions. If so, that wouldn't necessarily benefit the huge middle-class of players in the NFL.

Why doesn't someone in the media ask well-respected veterans about this issue? I'm sure Troy Vincent, President of the NFLPA, has thoughts on this topic. It would be interesting to hear what veterans have to say about this.

by Parker (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 2:17pm

I'm confused. The opening paragragh says that paying people based on their production just makes common sense.

The third paragraph says that it makes sense for a 1st RD pick to be paid more than a 7th RD, even though neither of them has provided any production yet.

So which is it?

by Dired (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 2:46pm

Wel, it sounds like people are paid based on who they are (i.e., their resume), rather than what they do. Sort of like every profession in America. Post top-10, this usually isn't seen as a problem; maybe this is just a clever way for the NFL to punish failing teams while claiming to do the opposite?

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:05pm

I wouldn't stop at saying that a 2nd rounder is worth more than a high first rounder. I would say that a high first rounder has negative value.

I don't even think all of the draft picks have nearly as much value as a lot of people think. That's why you so often see draft picks being traded for players who are already signed to expensive contracts. When you're trading away a 2nd rounder to get a player who's not signed for much less than they could get as a FA, you're acknowledging that you don't value that draft pick very much.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:35pm

That’s why you so often see draft picks being traded for players who are already signed to expensive contracts.

Yeah, but that's mainly just the Redskins.

by KevinWho (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:41pm

Here's a radical, fanciful fix to the problem: allow each player to be drafted twice.

This would let his market value of his services be determined by two teams, rather than by "slotting."

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:42pm

It seems obvious that it would benefit veteran players if less money were paid to rookies so more money would be available for veterans.

There's already significant incentive for teams to sign and keep journeyman veterans over low-round draft picks (or UDFAs) with cap relief for veterans. Basically, you pay vet minimum, but it only counts like $400K against the cap.

I still contend that it's only about the top 10-15 rookies that are overpaid. Past that, rookie salaries are basically just free, especially when you consider that second-half of the first round drafts are usually signed to 6 years. 6 years at usually $1-2M/year? Yeah, whatever. Free.

by KevinWho (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:48pm

Correction from the Department Of Redundancy Department: In my comment above, it should read "the market value," not "his market value."

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 3:57pm

My impression may be wrong, but it seems that there have been a lot more teams trying to trade down out of a top five slot in recent years than there have been teams willing to trade up to such a spot. This lends some credence to the notion that such a pick may have negative value on average.

by MRH (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 4:26pm

If a high 1st round pick actually had negative value, eventually some team would just pass on the pick and take the money and spend it on a FA or vet on their own team about to be FA.

For example, say the Chiefs end up with a top 5 pick this year. Let's also suppose Jared Allen (4th rd) ends up with a dozen sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance and Kevin Sampson (7th rd) becomes a decent RT. They pass on the pick and use the cap savings to sign Allen and Sampson to long term contracts and get the best LT available in FA. (Illustrative only, I haven't done the math, so maybe they couldn't do all three.) But I think they could sell to their fan base that such a move would be better than sinking a lot of money into an unproven rookie. The message to the team would be: we value the performers we have more than guys we don't have yet; play hard as a low rorund pick and you'll get rewarded.

Is there anything in the CBA that would preclude a team from doing this?

by Richard (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 5:10pm

21: That would certainly be interesting.

by Marko (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 5:13pm

I think a lot of the reason teams apparently have been more interested in trading out of the top five than into the top five recently has to do with the perceived quality of the players available, the confidence (or lack thereof) that the players at the top of the draft are "sure things," and the perceived depth of the draft. Look at the 2005 draft for an example. Alex Smith, the #1 overall pick, was thought to be a lesser prospect than 3 quarterbacks taken the previous year (E. Manning, Rivers and Roethlisberger). Yet because Leinart stayed in school and the 49ers needed a quarterback, Smith ended up the #1 pick almost by default. Why would a team want to trade up to #1 to pick someone who wasn't really considered a true franchise quarterback and be saddled with a potential albatross of a contract?

Also, the 2005 draft was considered a deep draft, with 3 running backs taken in the top 5 and lots of other highly regarded prospects available. The teams with picks high enough to be feasible trading partners for the 49ers were perfectly happy to stay where they were rather than pay the exorbitant price of trading up. But if someone like Peyton Manning or John Elway had been available, I'm sure there would have been teams interested in trading up to #1.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 5:58pm

My impression may be wrong, but it seems that there have been a lot more teams trying to trade down out of a top five slot in recent years than there have been teams willing to trade up to such a spot.

If that were the case we'd be seeing more trades. Instead, we're seeing fewer trades at the top of the draft.

The last time teams moved up in the Top 5 was 2004, when the Giants gave up a future #1 just to move up three spots, then Washington gac\ve up a #3 (IIRC) to move from #5 to #6.

If teams really, truly wanted to move down they'd be asking for a lot less in order to do so.

by Jake (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 6:42pm

I have a better idea that any possible slotting system.

Let the teams negotiate with their picks and sign them for whatever they agree to. How novel! GMs can still overpay for the Mario Williams of the world.

This is all under the assumption that teams have to pay something around slot money for picks. I think the NFL must force them to. Either that, or teams really want to pay big money to guys like Michael Huff.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:12pm

Kevin, if the top picks actually have a negative value, as BillWallace posits, then, no, we wouldn't see more trades, because it would be extremely difficult to get somebody to trade for it at any price.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:38pm

The NFL teams do not beleive the picks have negative value. If they did, they'd simply pass on the selections.

I agree that there's risk in signing rookies to big contracts, butt here's risk in signing veterans as well.

I agree with the central idea behind the column- that unproven rookies shouldn't be amongst the highest paid players in the league. The flip side is by the time their six year deals expire and the players finally get a taste of free agency the players are already considered to be past their prime.

by Tim Gerheim :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:40pm

What would be fascinating would be if a team drafted at the top of the round but refused to pay the super high salary the player was slotted. It would be different than simply refusing to pick, but it would no doubt generate a holdout.

It would require a team that didn't look on a very high #1 pick as an extremely valuable commodity, and hence was comfortable risking losing it altogether by having the player they chose go back into the draft the next year without ever having signed a contract. Assuming a rational player, I think you would only have to offer the guy more money than he could make if he went back into the draft the next year, which would be a much lower amount than high 1st rounders get, because he would have sat idle for a year.

And of course to sell it to the fans they would have to actually spend the money they saved on free agents or resigning veterans. It would be a very tricky PR dance.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:49pm

And of course to sell it to the fans they would have to actually spend the money they saved on free agents or resigning veterans.

The team wouldn't save any money in the current year. Remember, all first-year money for rookies comes from the rookie salary pool, and you don't get it back if you can't sign the draft pick.

That'd be a very tricky dance, because the money saved would come in future years after you did that. Most fans don't have that long a memory.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:51pm

The flip side is by the time their six year deals expire and the players finally get a taste of free agency the players are already considered to be past their prime.

That's rarely true. Most players other than RBs have longer than a six year lifespan if they're successes.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:57pm

I don't understand the rookie pay system at all. It makes no sense to me. Can someone explain to me how it got this way? I mean its not like the rookies have any leverage, what are they going to do, go play in the CFL?

Just a note: for just about the first time ever I found real actual quality reporting on ESPN, a real nice series of 3 articles about the controversy surrounding Tillamn's death. I didn't know american media could still do investigative journalism. They actually conducted interviws! With real live people!

Sorry just fed up with so much worthless pap.

by RecoveringPackerFan (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 7:58pm

The problem with the premise that teams should pass on high picks is that there is always a team willing to give up large amounts of value to secure one of these "quality" spots. In fact, passing on the pick would only make sense if all other teams were also commited to passing on high picks because there is, in the current NFL, always a trade.

by Theo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 8:26pm

Re 31:
No Politics In The Discussion Threads!!
(but you're damn right.
I'm glad to see the US people get to understand how messed up the bush administration and the media is.)

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 8:40pm

Commenting on journalism isn't really politics, and the artciles themselves are not overtly partisan. I was trying to be a neutral with the language as possible, hecne "controversy" rather than some other less charitable word.

The more I think about this the more I think here has to be some manipulation of the NFLPA by the agents on this issue.

by BillWallace (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 9:44pm

I think the PR aspect is what's preventing moves being made that obviously illustrate the lack of value of those picks.

If SF had decided that Alex Smith wasn't worth it, and couldn't trade the pick, they couldn't just abdicate, the fans would riot. Even just a straight pick swap with a good team for a lower pick wouldn't pass. It's probably possible to trade the picks, just not possible to trade them for anything valuable enough for the fans.

I like Tim's idea as a possibility. You'd still get a spin war between the team and the agent. It would take a very secure and charasmatic team leadership to pull it off.... and those usually aren't the kinds of teams that are picking 1-5.

by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 9:54pm

As an Oakland fan currently suffering through the Robert Gallery era, I completely agree with the premise of this article. I thought the worst example was last year when Antonio Gates had to kick, scream and hold out just to get a contract close to that of Lieutenant Winslow, who had done nothing in the NFL except get injured. I am an NBA fan more than an an NFL fan and I think the NBA has it dead right on this one. You don't get paid like a superstar until you play like one. Or show potential to play like one. Or unless your General Manager is an idiot.

by Dave (not verified) :: Sat, 10/21/2006 - 11:57pm


I think you would only have to offer the guy more money than he could make if he went back into the draft the next year, which would be a much lower amount than high 1st rounders get, because he would have sat idle for a year.

This doesn't work for WRs, because the Lions will still take them with top-10 picks even if they've been out of ball for months.

by J.R. (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 12:26am

I wonder how high bidding would be on certain players if there was no draft. Everyone just exits college into a free agent status. Teams can sign whoever they please. Not saying this is a good idea but it would be interesting.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 12:41am

Do fans actually care about these things. You hear a lot about fan backlash? But does it actually exist beyond angry callers on sports radio? I would think literally 99% of fans could care less what strategy the GM uses vis a vis the draft as long as the team is winning. Even if that strategy involes giving the picks to hamas.

And if the team isn't winning the fans will always find something to bitch about. Now there are certainly player marketability considerations, but other than that I am not sure this whole fan displeasure thing isn't just a myth.

by David23 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 1:35am

Why is a draft even necessary? Why not just make all rookies unrestricted free agents?

I'm serious. What is the argument against this?

Or, more to the point; why do we have a draft?

by tic toc (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 5:59am

This is the point (of the article) Tim Ruskell made when he traded for Deion Banch. Ruskell gave a presentaion about the worth of first round draft picks and made the argument that trading for a proven veteran (Branch) is much more sound than throwing the dice with a first round draft pick. It was nice to see the front office explain, in stats and percentages, the motives behind personnel decisions. Better than the usual soundbites and spin.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 11:43am

40- I've always said that, and I agree with you.

The original purpose of the draft was to keep salaries *down*- after all, a player has a lot less leverage being able to negotiate with many teams than few teams.

But the NFL has changed dramatically since the draft was instituted, and at this point the draft MIGHT be artificially inflating rookie salaries as a whole.

With a hard cap it's difficult to see why the draft is truly needed.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 1:23pm

With a hard cap it’s difficult to see why the draft is truly needed.

plus, you get the added bonus that Mel Kiper Jr. wouldn't be on TV any more

by Kuato (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 8:52pm

I don't understand how paying Rookies more money than veterans helps the Agents at all?

Lets say the Agent makes 5%.

If the Rookie makes 9 Million and and the Vetern makes 1 million the Agent gets 50,000.

If the Rookie makes 1 million and the vetern makes 9 million the Agent gets 50,000.

Seems like there is a finite amount of money available every year, so what does it matter which players get paid, the agents still gets the same % cut of that finite amout of money? How is my thinking wrong here?

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 11:09pm

I think agents usually make more off the first deal with a lient than subsequent deals. At least I remember reading that somewhere.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Sun, 10/22/2006 - 11:10pm

Rookies are also going to be in less of a position to afford an unbiased third party assesment.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:13am


Ok, but isn't Branch a FA after this year? How many games does a player have to play on his rookie contract to be worth a pick?

by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:33am

Tim's idea at #28 is sheer genius. He is clearly an oldest sibling, no? It's a great mind-f**k for the player and agent.

I can just hear the GM tell the agent on draft night: "We're not gonna sign your boy for a penny over $5M bonus and $15M total. We don't care if he holds out for a year because any team that drafts him NEXT April after sitting on his hands for a year won't pay any more." (Detroit excluded, and do you really want to end up there?)

Then it comes down the the agent delivering the bad news to his #2 pick client who is higher than a kite and eager to buy his parents a house and a Bentley. "Say what!?!? What the hell does that BS mean?" and both of them deciding if it's a bluff or not. Then, along comes week three and they sign, tails between legs. When the next draft comes around, players and agents (Rosenhaus excepted) are a lot more amenable to "settling."

by hwc (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 2:17am

I’m also suprised it wasn’t done as part of the recent CBA agreement, as both the Owners and the NFLPA should be in favour of it. Lower Rookie salaries mean the owners aren’t paying stupendous sums of money for unproven talent, while the extra money available on a teams’ cap can then go to veteran plays, which, in theory, should be a goal of the NFLPA.

The flaw in your logic is assuming that the NFLPA cares about the players. The NFLPA represents player agents.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 9:40am

48- I love it when someone fantasizes over the concept of a team breaking a player the way plantation owners used to break the will of a slave.

If I owned a team, I'd work toward having a productive working relationship with my players. Crazy, huh?

by TGT (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 10:15am

@47 Branch signed a 6 year deal with the Seahawks. In baseball, loaner players are worth a couple prospects. In football, loaner players aren't as common.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 1:38pm

1st round running backs

#2 Reggie Bush 5'11 200 4.33 forty(listed at 190 before the draft) $55m/6yrs
#21 Laurence Maroney 6'0 220 4.45 forty $8.7m/5yrs
#27 Deangelo Williams 5'9 213 4.4 forty $7.5m/5yrs
#30 Joe Addai 5'11 215 4.4 forty $11.2/5yrs

Now, there are a couple blatant things there. Reggie is slightly faster than the other guys (not that 40 times are even accurate, or useful), and hes 20 lbs lighter than all of them.

He also makes 5 times as much. Sounds like a negative to me.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 4:01pm

52- Not necessarily defending Bush's salary, but a team gets more than just on-field production out of having a player like Reggie Bush.

I personally would like to see the NFL and NFLPA work toward a system where rookies get a lot less money than they do now, but the NFL would have to give something back.

Who else thinks that a system where drafted rookies get slotted salaries (like the NBA), but those players become unrestricted free agents after three seasons would work?

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 4:46pm

I beg to disagree with you, Kevin. I do not believe the original purpose of the draft was to keep salaries down. When the draft was instituted, owners were already doing an outstanding job of keeping salaries down - in fact, I believe most players were forced to maintain an offseason job in order to make ends meet.

I believe the original purpose was to distribute incoming talent in such a way as to provide an opportunity for struggling franchises to right themselves. There is just as much of a need for that system now as there was prior to the cap.

Although there's no guarantee that a franchise will use its picks wisely, it's less likely that a franchise will fall into a Cardinal-like state of disrepair if you limit the amount of talent that other teams can claim between seasons. I think that it definitely made sense to limit the draft - there's really no reason for teams to draft 14 players or more when it seems like most players drafted after the fifth round don't have much of an impact - but for competition's sake, I don't think it makes sense to get rid of what remains.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:06pm

"Not necessarily defending Bush’s salary, but a team gets more than just on-field production out of having a player like Reggie Bush."

I agree. We've all seen a million Vick jerseys around, and he pretty much sucks as a QB.

The question is, what makes you more money? Drafting a big name guy like that, or getting to the playoffs, etc?

IE, what makes you more money, drafting high, losing a huge part of your cap space to unproven guys who sell some jerseys, or winning.

Nobody even knew who Tom Brady was in 2001. They sure sold a hell of a lot of Brady jerseys after the pats won their first SB though.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:45pm


Right, but the 6 year deal was a 2nd contract. It's not like the Seahawks got Branch to some cheap rookie deal. He was going to be a FA after this year, so I don't consider the 6 year deal part of the trade. Acquiring the rights to negotiate with Branch until the offseason, mabye, but it was more of a trade and extend package deal. I think it makes sense to say the Seahawks are getting a little less than one season of Branch for the pick, plus however much they saved by signing him now and not as a FA.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 5:48pm


From birdsinthebelfry.com:

Baseball's first amateur draft, instituted in 1965, was an attempt to put some limits on the bidding wars for amateurs that had developed in the 1950s, following the elimination of the bonus rule in 1957. Signing bonuses cleared the $200,000 mark in the early 1960's; while this may sound tame by today's standards, this amount was more than any single established player was being paid at that time. The amateur draft institution made it impossible for players to negotiate with more than one team, obviously depressing their leverage.

The NFL was about three decades ahead of MLB on this one.

by PackMan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/23/2006 - 7:02pm

I think TMQ proposed that some teams should just choose not to draft in thier position if the player they really wanted wasn't worth as much. i.e., if the bills wanted Whitner, and they didn't think anyone would pick him with one of the next few picks, they could have simply not picked and let the next few teams pick and then select Whitner at #14-15, and pay him significantly less. The same with the Texans, they could have just let time expire for the #1 pick, let the Saints pick Bush at #1, and then pick Williams with the #2.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Tue, 10/24/2006 - 1:53am

re 54:

I think you'd be hard put to show that the draft in any way helps worse teams improve relative to better teams.

Essentially, the draft means that worse teams have to relegate a larger percentage of their cap space to rookies. Do you really think that's a consistent path to drastic improvement? It seems pretty clear that the best teams are the ones getting best value per dollar, not the ones who get to invest more of their cap space in fewer individuals.

by Bright Blue Shorts (not verified) :: Tue, 10/24/2006 - 1:05pm

The widget factory analogy is outdated. Come work for a big corporation where you are supposedly "paid for performance".

These days big companies recruit people at the lowest salary they can get them, then make it against company rules to discuss. You can find yourself doing exactly the same job as the person in the next cubicle, earning 20K less.


PS I think I suggested previously they should have a 2-year rookie contract which pays a set amount by position for all players. At the end of that deal, the team gets right of first refusal when the player tries to negotiate a new contract on the open market. That way teams can get rid of busts at low cost, there's no problem getting into camp and the player gets paid his 'truer' market value after 2 years. Not a particularly big change to the current situation.

by cjfarls (not verified) :: Tue, 10/24/2006 - 6:31pm

Re: 60
Only problem is, there are a handful of rookies that blowup a knee or some other injury in the first 2 years. The rookies with really good potential (i.e. high draft picks) want compensated for that potential, especially if they are getting stuck with a particular team.

The problem is not that higher draft picks get paid more for their potential... its that our analysis of the value of that potential differs than the league.

by CA (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 1:37pm

1. As others have mentioned, the NFL draft should not exist at all. It's a terribly inefficient and unfair way to allocate human capital, and it is anachronistic in the salary cap era. The main upshot to the draft is the offseason interest that it generates in football.
2. That said, since the NFL draft isn't going away in the near future, what it needs is its own Billy Beane, someone who has the guts to buck conventional wisdom, find undervalued talent, and then pay that talent more than anyone else would but less than the talent picked at similar spots. The downside to that strategy is that it could lead to PR disasters.
3. A question: Mike mentioned that Vernon Davis is the highest paid TE in the NFL. Is Mario Williams the highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL? I believe that Williams is making more than Richard Seymour despite the fact that Seymour recently signed a contract extension and the fact that Williams' reasonable highest upside is Seymour's current reality in terms of quality of play.

by Bright Blue Shorts (not verified) :: Wed, 10/25/2006 - 5:32pm

Re: 61

Whatever system you have it will be imperfect. If it were me I'd much prefer to see veterans being paid for what they are expected to produce based on real NFL level past production than give it to unproven rookies.

You don't win Super Bowls based on the potential a rookie has, you win it based on the production that players give you.

If I were GMing I'd trade all draft picks for proven players. Let the other guys spend their cap money on unproven talent.