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Why NFL Players Need A Rookie To Be A Hero To Make Everyone’s Contract Better

The NFL draft has just concluded, with one of sports’ brightest spotlights illuminating the next generation of NFL stars. The draft brings excitement and hope to the football world, and the hopes of the newly minted members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) might be flying higher than ever, after they saw Kirk Cousins receive a fully guaranteed contract in the offseason.

Currently, the NFL is the only major sports league in the United States that does not have fully guaranteed contracts codified into its collective bargaining agreement. But potential star players like Baker Mayfield, taken first overall by the Cleveland Browns, and Bradley Chubb, the Denver Broncos’ pick at No. 5 overall, find themselves in a unique position of being able to follow in Cousins’ footsteps and push for player rights.

Every sport has had pioneers push the frontier for player rights, most notably Major League Baseball’s Curt Flood, who essentially sacrificed his career so that other players would have the benefit of free agency. Cousins might have taken one of the biggest steps that could propel the NFL down the path that MLB, the NHL and the NBA have all paved. In the offseason, Cousins signed a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract, which is unprecedented in the NFL’s recent history. The majority of players in the NFL are paid week to week and usually don’t receive any compensation if they are released from a club.

Football players have not enjoyed fully guaranteed contracts for several reasons, most of which revolve around the terms of the CBA. Article 26 of the CBA requires teams to put deferred guaranteed money in escrow. Owners are reluctant to put large amounts of money into escrow and thus are averse to offer guaranteed contracts. Another often-cited reason for the aversion to guaranteed contracts is the salary cap, which limits the total dollar amount that can be paid to players.

While it is true that these two items pose legitimate issues for clubs to offer guaranteed contracts, we should not expect to see teams do so unless required to by the CBA. From a club perspective, it does not make good business sense to be tied to a set dollar amount for players who have relatively short careers. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row parallax=”content-moving” parallax_image=”4368″ parallax_speed_bg=”2.5″ css=”.vc_custom_1558384062549{padding-top: 200px !important;padding-bottom: 200px !important;}”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_column_text]The beautiful thing about the collective bargaining process, which is codified by U.S. law, is that the agreement can always be changed. The National Labor Relations Act requires unions and employers to negotiate the terms that will govern employment, including wages, hours and working conditions. It is through this process that the players in baseball, hockey and basketball have been able to force the owners to guarantee contracts. These fights have been long and have often resulted in strikes and lockouts.

After hearing of the Cousins deal, players took to Twitter to express their desire to see more deals of this nature. From this reaction, it appears that the players might be willing to make the sacrifice necessary to achieve this labor victory.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Many challenges lie in the way of the players’ collectively deciding to sacrifice a significant portion of their careers for the benefit of future players.

One of the biggest limiting factors is the length of the average player’s career, which is two to three years. This is a very real concern since the average NFL player makes $1.9 million a year. Moreover, according to a Harvard study commissioned by the NFLPA, only 44% of the total dollars contracted for are guaranteed. It is surprising that the most profitable league has the lowest average salary among the major sports leagues. In comparison, the average player in the other leagues makes the following:  $4.4 million in MLB, $6.2 million in the NBA and $2.9 million in the NHL, the majority of which are guaranteed.

The short career length also impacts the player’s ability to receive a pension from the union. The NFLPA’s pension plan vests only after three full seasons in the league. Therefore, it is difficult to persuade a player to sacrifice a year of his career, and potentially his pension, for a labor fight. The vesting time for the pension is in stark contrast to the pension plan for MLB players, which vests, on the lowest level, after 43 days of major league service.

Despite these factors, if the players hope to see guaranteed contracts become the norm, a generation of players will be forced to make these sacrifices for the betterment of future players.

Over the last three days, the football world has likely welcomed future Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers, but has it also welcomed the champion for player rights the league needs? Only time will tell if this new generation of players will follow in the footsteps of baseball, hockey and basketball players before them and start down the long, tough road to secure the rights they deserve.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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