5,510 Former NFL Players vs. 32 College Players
College players are working hard to impress the scouts at this week’s NFL combine that ends today. In less than 60 days, a very select group of them will be drafted in the first round. None of these college players are currently members of NFL Players Association, but the union will be bargaining on their behalf if it continues to fight for a system that will pay the first 32 players selected in the draft 600 MILLION in guaranteed bonus money.
Let me say that again…… 600 Million for 32 college players that are not yet members of the Union. That doesn’t even include their salaries or performance bonuses.
Is it too far-fetched to think that player agents might be responsible for influencing the union to continue this system? If NFL revenues follow the same trajectory they’ve been on, we will eventually see the first 32 players reaping 1 BILLION in bonus money. The player agent’s 3 percent cut = $30 million just from the guaranteed bonus. That’s a powerful incentive to maintain the status quo.
Once upon a time, it made sense to pay rookies high salaries and bonuses. That was back when there was competition for players from other Leagues. But the NFL is now a juggernaut that has no real competitors. It’s dominance over professional football was created, in part by Congress, which allowed them – in essence – to violate anti-trust laws that almost every other corporation in the United States must follow.
This is why Congress must be involved in the CBA discussions and why retired players and their advocate – the NFL Alumni Association – must continue to pressure them and keep them informed on all issues pertaining to Pro Football’s older generation of players.
The NFL Players Association is very content to continue the old system – with one exception; the NFLPA does not like the fact that retired player benefits have been coming out of the Salary Cap money, because it then reduces the amount of money available to active players for salaries and benefits. But active players have been doing quite well in the salary category, with the average starter pay now around 3 million a year, the average salary about 1.8 million and the median salary approximately 800 thousand a year. They also have a benefit package that is very generous to post-1993 players. The Second Career Savings Plan and the Annuity Plan – which have only been in existence since 1993 and 1998 respectively – have combined assets of more than 1 Billion.
Nonetheless, the union still does not like the fact that retired player benefits are reducing the amount of money available to active players – and that is why the NFLPA has proposed a “Legacy Fund”. The money under that fund would come from outside the Salary Cap. It would be additional money – exclusively funded by the owners. The NFLPA has proposed that the team owners put in 1 million each (32 million annually). The owners countered and said they would do it if the NFLPA split the cost. The NFLPA said no to that proposal.
Let me say that again…….The NFLPA said no to a $16 million annual contribution to pensions that would assist 5,510 retired players, but are perfectly content with a system that will pay 32 unproven college players 600 million in guaranteed bonuses.
I don’t know about other retired players, but I find it rather hypocritical of the NFLPA to be asking the NFL to give us additional money for our Legacy, but when the NFLPA had the opportunity to pay us for our “Legacy” through Group Licensing Agreements with EA Sports-Madden Football, they told them to scramble retired player images so they wouldn’t have to pay us anything.
As for the NFL owners: They would also be perfectly content to see the old system continue – with one exception. They would like the Salary Cap to go down to about 50% of total gross revenues. This would increase their profits by approximately 1 Billion. The easiest way for them to obtain that goal would be to implement the Rookie Wage Scale. By taking the money from unproven college players – instead of the active player’s – it would also be the most palatable solution for the Union. The NFL owners have said they would use anywhere from $100 to $150 million of the Rookie Wage Scale savings to increase veteran pay through some type of performance-based pay system.
This is where it gets a little cloudy.
The union says that the owners have not committed to a $100 million performance based pay plan for veterans.
Gentlemen…….put it in writing!
The good news: They both agree that if a Rookie Wage Scale is implemented, they would be willing to put $100 million annually into the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan to increase pre-1993 player pensions.
In an interview with SB Nation, DeMaurice Smith said that the average retired player pension could increase by as much as $1000 per month, but in a resolution passed by the NFLPA former player membership, the retired players asked for $2,000.
As usual, retired players are being used as bargaining chip in this high stakes card game being played by the union and the owners. That’s really sad when you consider just how small the retired player poker chip stack is when compared to the 9 Billion pot of money that will eventually be divided between the active players and the owners.