Judging by last year's eighth-overall selection, Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson's deal, with yearly "cost of living" escalators, Harvey will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $13-15 million of guaranteed money.
The early entry defensive end from the University of Florida may have displayed great financial foresight in declaring after his junior season for the draft, as the inflated rookie deals for the top-ten picks may soon be coming to an end. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke out about the enormity of his league's rookie deals on Friday.
"There's something wrong about the system," said Goodell. "The money should go to people who perform."
Former Boston College and current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan signed a rookie record six-year, $72 million deal, with roughly $27.3 million guaranteed. Not only does Ryan earn more than nearly all of his Falcons teammates, but his salary is on par with the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Although Ryan's career at Boston College included several record-breaking marks, it's difficult to justify that kind of cash for someone who has not only ever taken a pro snap, but wasn't even the number one pick in the draft. Goodell referenced number one overall pick Jake Long's deal when he referenced the rookie salary "problem."
"He doesn't have to play a down in the NFL and he already has his money," Goodell exclaimed. "Now, with the economics where they are, the consequences if you don't evaluate that player, you can lose a significant amount of money.
"And that money is not going to players that are performing. It's going to a player that never makes it in the NFL. And I think that's ridiculous."
What makes the rising rookie salaries a problem throughout the league is the fact that unproven players are not only earning more than proven veterans, but they are effectively pushing these older players out of league as teams have to stay within their salary cap. A few other issues with these astronomical first-year contracts are the weighted expectations that are on the young players and the inevitable contract holdouts during the summer, which tend to cause rifts between fans and the athletes.
Now that the proverbial "cat is out of the bag," how do teams cut back on the rookie contracts from here on out? The owners need to take a stand, and the Players Association, led by Gene Upshaw, shouldn't object too strongly, being that the league veterans should benefit from having more of the salary cap available to them.
A lot of people have numerous complaints about the current system, but few solutions. The best solution I've heard was presented on Sirius NFL Radio by former NFL executive Pat Kirwan, and former Bears defensive tackle Tim Ryan. The pair suggested that the league offer a rookie contract package which includes a two-year deal, and a year of restricted free agency. Contracts would max out at $2 million for the first year, $3 million for the second year, and then they would hit restricted free agency in year three.
Advantages for the teams would be a much lower financial commitment, as a large percentage of first-round picks are on their way out of the league after year two or three, and teams wouldn't be "held hostage" by eight-figure guaranteed money. An advantage for the players would be the opportunity to hit free agency sooner and the chance for a much bigger payday. They would also be able to potentially have another big contract at the age of 29 or 30, when there is still leverage and upside to negotiate.
Most league veterans and owners echo the sentiment displayed by Commissioner Goodell, as there is much too big of a piece of the proverbial pie going away from proven league veterans, and toward unproven rookies. NFL Players Association Players President Kevin Mawae had this to say on the subject—
"As a guy who has been in the league for 14 now going on 15 years and being around other veteran guys, for a young guy to get paid that kind of money and never steps foot on an NFL football field, it's a little disheartening to think of. It makes it tough for a guy who's proven himself to say ‘I want that kind of money' when the owners, all they're going to say is, ‘Well, you weren't a first-round pick.'
"And I know there is sentiment around the league amongst the players like, ‘Let's do something to control these salaries and control these signing bonuses' and things like that, and I know that's something that the owners are talking about and I'm sure that's going to play in to this round of negotiations for this collective bargaining agreement."
A rookie salary scale, similar to what the NBA has, virtually removes the chance of holdouts, which help both the teams and the players, and would allow for less pressure on both parties. Some of the only people opposed are rookies, who haven't done anything up to this point for the NFL, and agents, who can still earn their extra money on higher veteran salaries.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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