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Union memo calls league's rookie-pay proposal overly restrictive

By Mark Maske

UPDATED (5:58 p.m.)...

The NFL Players Association has called a recent proposal by the league for a rookie wage scale overly restrictive.

In a memo, dated Jan. 26, from DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the players' union, to players on the union's executive committee and board of player representatives, the union characterized the league's proposal as an attempt to improperly curb the salaries of NFL veterans with up to five seasons of experience in addition to rookies.

Smith wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, that "the NFL finally gave us a response to the rookie proposal that the union made late last November. There is little 'new' in this proposal, and what is new mostly makes the proposal worse not only for rookies, but for veteran players with three to five years in the league--the core of our membership."

Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations, said in a written statement: "Despite the inaccurate characterizations of [Wednesday's bargaining] meeting, out of respect to the collective bargaining process and our negotiating partner, we are going to continue to conduct negotiations with the union in private and not engage in a point-counterpoint on the specifics of either side's proposals or the meeting process. Instead, we will work as hard as possible to reach a fair agreement by March 4. We are fully focused on that goal."

According to Smith's memo, the league's proposal for a rookie wage scale calls for players selected in the opening round of the NFL draft to sign five-year contracts and players drafted in other rounds to sign four-year contracts. There would be no individual contract negotiations, according to the memo. Players would receive contracts based on their draft positions and those contracts could not be renegotiated or extended for at least three years, according to the memo.

The memo calls the wage scale "rigid" and says it would "destroy the benefits of free agency for most veteran players."

Under the league's proposal, according to the union's memo, the rookie minimum salary would be set at $285,000 in 2011, $375,000 in 2012, $460,000 in 2013 and $545,000 in 2013.

The amount of bonus money in contracts also would be set by the rookie wage scale under the league's proposal, according to the memo. The memo says that a defensive tackle taken with the ninth overall selection in this year's draft would receive a five-year contract worth $8.6 million, provided that he reaches certain playing-time benchmarks in the deal. According to the memo, the same player would receive $18 million over four seasons under the union's proposal for a rookie wage scale, if the player reaches a playing-time benchmark.

The union has proposed a rookie wage scale that would, according to the memo, guarantee the teams $200 million in savings on rookies and give that money to veteran players and younger players who outperform their contracts. The union's proposal also would, in conjunction with other proposals by the players, provide $100 million to the pensions of retired players, according to the memo.

By Mark Maske  |  February 10, 2011; 2:45 PM ET  | Category:  League , Union Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Limit rookie contracts to 3 years with minimum salaries based upon the round they were drafted in and include bonus incentives tied to performance. Then, remove the restrictions after 3 years so veterans are unaffected and then the rookies who are worth multi-million per year deals can get paid.

Posted by: ozpunk | February 16, 2011 11:40 AM

In most professions, one must prove their value prior to receiving large paychecks.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | February 11, 2011 2:45 PM

The largest majority of NFL players don't last five years. Should the union be representing only the superstars who last a decade? No. I like the idea that a team could hold onto a player for five years -- it keeps teams together and gives fans less of a revolving door of players to cheer. But if the owners get their five years, then the players should be properly compensated for it.

As for the JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leafs of the world, the draft has always been a crapshoot. The owners have an argument like KEMP13 laid out, but it's an equal risk for the players. If you're a star QB drafted high, would you rather work under a system that benefits QBs (like Philly's or San Diego's?), or get saddled with trying to grow and prosper under QB-suspect systems like Buffalo or Cleveland? If I'm stuck in Cleveland for five years, the least you could do is pay me.

Posted by: Diamondback1 | February 11, 2011 9:17 AM

It would be nice if fans got together and boycotted football one Sunday next fall to include watching on TV. While I know this would never happen but it would send a clear message to owners and players that their salaries are paid by the fans. I would gladly eat the cost of one game to see the expression on the faces of Snyder, Jones, and other owners/players to an empty or near empty stadium. The greed has to stop somewhere.

Posted by: akskinsfan | February 11, 2011 9:14 AM

I'm with Kemp. What other profession pays new employees tons more than established veterans? Rookies have not proven they can even play at the pro level. Of course the union just wants to be as greedy as the owners.

Posted by: pjohn3 | February 11, 2011 9:13 AM

The union reveals its true intentions: it doesn't care about making sure that veterans are compensated fairly. MOST of the players whose careers end within 5 years are not good enough for the NFL. Should those players see a windfall? Think Jamarcus Russell. Utterly pathetic quarterback, cut three years after being the #1 overall draft pick because he stinks as a football player. It wasn't injuries, or an 18-game schedule. It was simple on-field performance.

Players who have been around 5 years have proven their worth and deserve to be paid as such.

The NFLPA needs to undergo a reality check. Their members are, by all measures relative to the rest of our society, outrageously overpaid employees. Few fans are likely to side with them in this, especially when every additional % the players get represents an additional % the fans pay.

Posted by: kemp13 | February 11, 2011 8:45 AM

I'm with the Union!

Football is a hard sport wich many don't last long while playing it.
So you should be able to make as much as you can.

The Player are going to cave to the owners.
Big business runs this country.

Posted by: shamken | February 11, 2011 7:41 AM

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