We both looked at each other, not knowing how to answer his pre-flight question. “I guess I’ll take the plane that has the TVs,” my sister answered. My dad laughed; we hadn’t quite grasped what he was getting at. Twenty years later I still ponder this question, and I guess I always seem to lean toward taking the aged, proven plane.
This question is something NFL coaches and owners are constantly being asked. Do I pay big time money for the new rookie quarterback with fresh legs and a lot of promise? Or do I pay the big time money for the proven veteran who knows how to win?
Without a rookie wage scale, the amount of money top draft pick rookies make in the NFL compared to proven veteran players has always been an issue in the NFL that never seems to get solved and, frankly, it’s the proven veterans who get shafted when they don’t get paid as much as they should.
As No. 1 NFL draft pick rookie Sam Bradford works on a record-breaking lucrative deal in St. Louis, and as the contract extensions of two proven NFL veterans, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, play out, maybe the much-needed rookie wage scale finally become a reality.
There are few successful businesses in the world that do business like the NFL, where employees are worth more when they know less and worth less when they know more. For example, here is the rookie quarterback Bradford who is negotiating his contract with the Rams. According to ESPN.com, Bradford is looking to make a staggering $13 million a season with approximately $50 million in guaranteed money. If this becomes a reality in the next week or so, Bradford would be one of the highest paid NFL players in history and hasn’t even played a down in an NFL game. (Every year, the No. 1 draft pick gets paid a little more. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford, signed a six-year $41.7 million deal.)
So, whenever Bradford’s deal is finalized, the picture will look a little more clear for Colts QB (and the face of the NFL) Peyton Manning to see what he will need to ask for. Of course, he doesn’t want to sign any deal before Bradford’s deal is finalized because he would run the risk of accepting a contract worth less than what the rookie is getting paid. So really, the higher Bradford ratchets up his contract the more the Colts are going to have to fork out to Manning. (Colts owners have said they would make sure Manning is the highest-paid player in the NFL).
And then there is pretty boy Patriot Tom Brady, who is also due for a new contract but isn’t getting any younger. Without a contract extension, it is said that Brady will make close to $4 million dollars this season, his last season under his current contract. That’s peanuts compared to what Bradford and Manning are expected to make in the next year (around $14 million), once their contracts are signed.
Now, I am always for team loyalty and commitment to a team, but I do think Brady is absolutely crazy for showing up at training camp last weekend without a contract extension signed and in place. On his part, holding out for a new deal is a good business decision. Like any player in the NFL, Brady is just one injury away from the end of his career and if he were to sustain an injury in the next few weeks at camp, he has no backup. No guarantee for a job after this year. And more importantly, no more money above the $4 million in peanuts he will make without a new contract. Hold out Tom, hold out. You are worth more than what you are getting paid. I know you are dedicated to your team right now, but think about your self first for a change.
Of course the owners of the Patriots and the Colts are saying that they are close to striking deals with their franchise players, but their actions, on the other hand, have not said that at all.
For me, it is so interesting that two MVP, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks that aren’t too old yet are basically waiting to see what a rookie quarterback is going to get paid to see what their future is going to look like.
Hopefully in this upcoming and shaky future the NFL is facing, with negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement, a rookie pay schedule can be worked out and the veteran players can get paid they way they should. Proven players are what wins games, not expensive rookie quarterbacks like the failed Raider quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
Show me the wins, I’ll show you the money. That’s how the NFL should be run. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.