Thursday, July 28, 2005

NFL contracts

Jason Whitlock has a nice article on ESPN today about the effects of the non-guaranteed contract in the NFL. One such effect is that a dozen or so high profile players threaten to hold out each year in the hopes of signing a more lucrative contract. This year, Terrell Owens, Edgerrin James, and Javon Walker are the big names in the news. I can certainly see why they would want to do so. Based on their performances last year and the market, they all could be making more money than they are currently making. What I don't understand is why NFL players want to hold out for longer contracts. The nature of the non-guaranteed contract is that the length of it has virtually no effect on the player, since the team can cut him at any time without having to pay him a dime. The only deterrent to cutting a player at all is that salary cap calisthenics are required. The only guaranteed money in NFL contracts is the money received as a signing bonus. So my question is: why do NFL players hold out for longer deals? It seems to me like players would benefit more by asking for shorter deals with larger signing bonuses and smaller salaries. The way it seems to go, teams dish out long term deals with most of the salary loaded on the last few years, meaning that though a player might have played for 50% of the time specified by the contract, he might only have received 40% of the salary. If the team cuts him halfway through the deal, they save money. So why does Edgerrin James want a long-term deal? Given that football careers are relatively shorter than other sports, I would think that players would care less about long-term stability and more about immediate payment. James made 8 million dollars last year--why would he want to sign a new deal that would pay him, say, 7 million a year, but could end prematurely? These questions are not rhetorical by the way--insight is appreciated.


Anonymous bainard said...

Perhaps the point of asking for a longer-term deal, a la Edge, is the potential guarantee that a back like James would get the money shown to him by any team willing to pick him up if he were to get cut by Indy. James, who is deadly when healthy, but has had injury problems in the past, has certainly established himself as one of the league's top backs. Perhaps what his agent is telling him is, "You should ask for a longer deal because, even if the Colts decide they want a defense at the expense of you, there are at least a dozen other teams who would be willing to shell out the greenbacks to put a 34-year-old fantasy monster in the backfield. A possible wrench in this logic is that one could say James' success in Indianapolis has come as a direct result of the defensive fear of the Colts' passing juggernaut. If James played in Cleveland or Dallas, his numbers would certainly suffer, and he'd take a larger beating week-in-week-out.

10:22 AM  

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