Commish: Rookie contracts ‘ridiculous'

Rookie QB Matt Ryan will average more than Favre earned last season, while rookie OT Jake Long will pocket more than Clifton, Tauscher and Spitz earned combined.

The Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan, the third overall pick in April's NFL draft, signed a six-year contract that will pay the quarterback an average of $12 million per season.

That's worth about $200,000 more than Brett Favre pocketed in his final NFL season with the Packers.

In case your memory needs refreshing, Ryan has completed zero passes in his professional career. Favre, meanwhile, owns every one of the NFL's meaningful career passing records and was a three-time league MVP. Otherwise, there's barely a nickel's worth of difference between the two.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called it "ridiculous" to pay unproven rookies more than tried-and-true veterans. It's yet another issue where he's been ahead of the curve.

"There's something wrong about the system," Goodell said Friday. "The money should go to people who perform."

He cited the contract given to No. 1 overall pick Jake Long by the Miami Dolphins. The offensive tackle's five-year, $57.75 million contract averages about $11.5 million per season. That's more than the Packers' outstanding duo of Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher made combined last season. Heck, throw in budding guard Jason Spitz, and it still adds up to only $11.3 million per season.

"He doesn't have to play a down in the NFL and he already has his money," Goodell said of Long at the end of a weeklong sports symposium at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y. "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."

The good thing is, this topic should be a winner for both the league and the players as they head to the bargaining table this fall. As long as provisions are made so teams increase the veterans' pay and simply don't pocket the savings, this should be a source for common ground.

NFLPA chief Gene Upshaw has said rookie contracts are a mere distraction from the real issues, and in that sense, he's probably right. Those real issues — the teams' desire to give the players a smaller chunk of the multibillion-dollar pie — will start being dealt with when the league and the union get together this fall, Goodell said.

Under the collective bargaining agreement agreed to in March 2006, players are getting 60 percent of the league's gross revenues. According to the league, higher construction costs and a faltering economy are eating into its profits. That led the owners, in a unanimous vote, to opt out of the CBA last month.

"As our costs increase outside of player costs, that other 40 percent ... squeezes the margins and just makes it financially unworkable," Goodell said. "There has to be some more recognition of the costs."

Packer Report Top Stories