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.         


About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on March 1, 2011, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Mickey Shuler

    Percentage of the gross from back when I could vote is still the best system that is fair to all. Fixed bonus and salary for all rookies. Vetern salaries based on performance and years in league all coming out of the same pot. Annual contirbutions to player retirement fund, which we will all be retired players one day. Health insurance help would be nice. We are all out of the game longer then we are in it.

  2. Mickey Shuler

    Fair and right have not changed.

  3. That is a well-reasoned article and I appreciate it. However, are we talking about just the presently VESTED retired players or is there a chance that the number of years needed to qualify for pension benefits will be lowered? I have 3 years in the league and no pension whatsoever. Also, I hope that health insurance help for all retired players is being discussed.

    • Richard:
      Lowering the “vesting” requirement to 3 years for all players should be something that the NFL Players Association is advocating for……..but they are not! The Major League Baseball Association – in their last CBA Agreement lowered the vesting requirement to less than 1 year for all players from 1982 and forward! All a MLB player needs to have are 43 games in any year to get a credirted season.

  4. John Bunting,player rep 1977-82

    Well said by both Jeff and Mickey

  5. Jerry Sisemore

    Brother Jeff, these facts are correct and ever present. YOU OUR Brother, are making A Difference. GOD’s Speed…
    J. Sisemore

  6. more reason to decertify, break up the union and start over with total transparency and “freedom, liberty and justice for all” not just the current active nflpa and its administrators.
    no reason for agents to take advantage of young,ignorant, inexperienced players who refill the pipeline every year. agents have no vested interest in the league but get the top cut.
    there is enough value and money in the nfl system to standardize benefits for everyone based on a participation and tenure scale…more reflective of an all inclusive true union scale and incentive for players to be more responsjble and take better care of themselves and the league.

  7. Jeff,
    Well written piece, you are after the right things. Wow! they just keep putting zeros after the numbers. I can’t imagine paying 32 agents over $30 million, just for the 1st round players!!!

    Fred Hoaglin

  8. Jeff,
    On another note, how about considering Hilton Head Island, SC (my home) for any future meetings or conferences???

    Fred Hoaglin

    • I love Hilton Head and it would be a great place for a conference. Do you have any folks there that can give the Alumni a great deal on a hotel? I’ll run it by Mr. Martin. Take care.

  9. Jeff-After dissecting all the rhetoric from both sides of the bargaining table, somehow I get the feeling that the owners realize the injustice that pre 93′ retirees have incurred over the years regarding our benefits and pension package and genuinely want to improve our current plight. I also feel the NFLPA has once again dusted off their tap shoes preparing itself for negotiating our grossly inadequate benefits package. Remember that old saying: leopard’s don’t change their spots!

  10. my dad played in the early 50s on the eagles for 3 years made 5000.00 a year with a 250.00 signing bounis , michael vick just got 16,000,000.00 for 1 year, how much money does one have to make what is enough? i think their would be no football at all if it was not for the player that started the game like my dad, is this fair dad live in a trailer in fla. on a fixed income he is 86 years old, with health problems strugling to pay for health care, during collage he went into the army WWII instead of the NFL landed in normandy to keep us free but those years don’t count for his pension, played buffalo bills in 49 dosent count eather, who came up with 3.3 year played for a pension, how many players does .3 hurt what a JOKE, i think the public should boycot football and see what the owner think when they get no money for a year,they should put all the extra money in the pension and lower it to 3 YEARS !!!!!!!!!!! WHY DONT YOU SEE THIS ON THE NEWS , JACK SUTTON

    • Jack:
      Lowering the “vesting” requirement to 3 years for all players should be something that the NFL Players Association is advocating for……..but they are not! The Major League Baseball Association – in their last CBA Agreement lowered the vesting requirement to less than 1 year for all players from 1982 and forward! All a MLB player needs to have are 43 games in any year to get a credirted season.

  11. This time the public is more informed about the owner’s greed and articles such as this do nothing but keep them aware of the out and out greed the owners have regarding a possible lockout. The NFL is the biggest cash cow in sports history and the current players need to remember that they are one play away from being an alumni themselves. Only with the current NFLPA do the alumni have any real bargaining power….need to get these guys on board.

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