What do Jake Long, Matt Ryan and Darren McFadden have in common, other than being rookies in the National Football League?
They’re rookies with enormously huge contracts and haven’t even played a second in a real game. That, as well as the whole concept of overpaying rookie football players, was one of the topics discussed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in his recent meetings with the media in New York.
Goodell was at the Chauataqua Institution last week for a sports symposium, which ended with him conducting a question-and-answer session with the media.
Goodell said that there was something wrong with the system in which they handle rookies and eluded that the bigger money should go to those who have proved themselves on the field.
Goodell referenced the $57.5 million contract agreed to by the draft’s top pick, Long. Some $30 million of that is guaranteed. Long will get that money from the Miami Dolphins after playing a year and he will be set. He doesn’t even really have to do anything for it.
But it’s not just him. After he signed, Matt Ryan, the third pick in the draft to the Atlanta Falcons received an even bigger deal. Ryan signed to a six-year, $72 million contract, with $34.5 million of that guaranteed.
Then, McFadden signed a six-year, $60 million contract with $26 million guaranteed.
How is it that a rookie quarterback like Ryan could make more than a two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in Tom Brady?
Brady was a six-round draft pick for the New England Patriots, so it’s obvious that he wouldn’t have had a major contract, but he now has three Super Bowl rings.
It wasn’t until after the third win that Brady received a $25 million contract extension. He was the first quarterback to win three Super Bowls before the age of 28, and he was still not making less nearly the type of money the rookies are currently getting.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column on how the New York Giants should give Plaxico Burress more money. He’d been in the league for five years now and caught the game-winning touchdown in this year’s Super Bowl, and now he wants more money.
I’m not surprised. Why shouldn’t the guys who have been in the league longer get paid more. At least pay them according to their effectiveness for the team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is one of the highest paid quarterbacks now, but he wasn’t then when he made it to the Super Bowl in 2006.
He just recently received an eight-year contract extension with $36 million guaranteed. This is after his fifth year and a Super Bowl ring. That’s close to the amount Long, Ryan and McFadden are getting, and look at how much he’s had to do to get that much.
Indianapolis Colts’ QB and 2007 Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning also received a contract extension worth $34.5 million, but again, he now has a championship ring.
“He doesn’t have to play a down in the NFL and he already has his money,” Goodell told the media in speaking of Long. “Now, with the economics where they are, the consequences if you don’t evaluate that player are that you can lose a significant amount of money. And that money is not going to players who are performing. It’s going to a player that never makes it in the NFL. And I think that’s ridiculous.”
What if it turns out that Ryan can’t really play well for the Falcons?
What if his career never takes off and the people of Atlanta don’t take to him? What if people stop buying the jerseys or going to the games? Then the Falcons are out of $34.5 million dollars.
It’s more than ridiculous. It’s outrageous.
I’ve heard pundits on talk shows argue that the big contracts should be used as a reference point when the veterans want to undergo new negotiations. They can say, “You gave so-and-so X amount of dollars. I’ve played for you for eight years and have made tremendous contributions to this team and the community. I should receive X.”
Yeah, right. How many times has that worked in the player’s favor? And where is the owner going to get the money? He’s already given a huge chunk of it to the rookie.
Sorry, the well’s dry.
These rookies are also still very young. That’s a lot of money to put in an early 20-something’s bank account.
I know the NFL gives potential players the Wonderlic test to assess their intelligence, and see if they are mentally tough enough to play an intense sport in front of thousands of screaming fans in a large stadium.
I have to give props, though, to Long, Ryan, McFadden and their agents for securing sweet deals, because everybody’s got to make some kind of living. But I still have to shake my head at the dollar figures.
Hopefully, things will change in the next couple of years.
Goodell said he plans on negotiating with the player’s union this fall to discuss revamping the NFL’s labor deals.
Of course, the college kids who hope to be the next stars making the big money wouldn’t be happy with the change, if this continues, I’m sure they’d be in the same situation by the time they’re veterans.
• Lanaly Cabalo, sports editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or firstname.lastname@example.org