Are NFL player agents influencing CBA negotiations?

As most of you have heard, Mark Murphy and Jerry Richardson sent a letter to retired players that outlined the NFL owners position regarding the retired player benefits they are trying to negotiate into the CBA.

George Martin sent them a letter asking for clarification on several points that were highlighted in the letter.

As soon as the NFL Alumni Association gets a response to his letter we will post it here.

In an Associated Press article (below) Barry Wilner highlights some of the details of the owner’s proposal. What he fails to mention in the article, is that the owners have also proposed that a portion of the $300 million in savings from a Rookie Bonus Scale would also be available for retired player benefits.

Like many former players, I believe that the fairest thing to do is split the $300 million right down the middle and use $150 Million over the term of the next CBA (five to seven years) to boost the pension plan for all pre-1993 retired players.  Let’s face it, the active players are already doing pretty good in the benefits department. They receive approximately $400 Million in benefits annually – except in 2010 when the owners were not obligated to pay benefits in an uncapped year per the 2006 CBA.

Last year, just days before the NFL draft, Joe DeLamielleure and 80 Hall of Fame players wrote a compelling letter to the active players and the NFLPA asking them to institute a rookie wage scale and use a portion of the savings to increase pre-1993 player pensions. The letter also highlighted their concern that player agents might be influencing decisions at the NFLPA.

As you can see from the attached article, the player agents are at it again.

These agents have given their full support to DeMaurice Smith and he has given them his blessing by not allowing a “true” Rookie Wage Scale to be established.

I have written about the idea of establishing a “Rookie Bonus Scale” and it appears that the owners are now pitching something similar to that in their latest proposal to the Union.

Apparently, even that is not good enough for the player agents!

Ben Dogra said If a player becomes a starter or an integral part of the team under the current system, the NFL teams have the player under a rookie deal that is favorable to the team.”

What he fails to mention is the fact that the NFLPA negotiated a benefit known as the Performance-Based Pool where players – including rookies – are awarded for playing time based upon their salary level.  The Viking’s John Sullivan, a 2008 sixth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, earned $397,555 in additional pay. Players have been paid nearly $600 million during the eight seasons of the performance-based pay program, which was created as part of the NFL’s 2002 collective bargaining agreement extension. The owners did not have to contribute to the plan last year, because it was an uncapped season.

Player agent Peter Schaffer makes the outrageous statement that the proposed Rookie Bonus Scale “… will eliminate the veteran middle class because teams can have younger players who are making less and are under fixed contracts.”

He wants everyone to believe that 32 players selected in the first round will eliminate the hundreds and hundreds of veteran players that make up the middle class!  The math alone doesn’t work on that reasoning.

In the end, it all comes down to performance. If an owner wants to be successful and make a lot of money, he needs to put the best players on the field – not the cheapest.

Here’s the article:

NFL’s rookie pitch: divert 300M from 1st rounders

By BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer April 14, 2011

NEW YORK (AP)—The NFL wants to cut almost 60 percent of guaranteed pay for first-round draft picks, lock them in for five years and divert the savings to veterans’ salaries and benefits.

More than $525 million went to first-rounders in guaranteed payments in 2010. The league wants to decrease that figure by $300 million, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The league’s offer would free a total of more than $1.2 billion over four years through 2015—$37.5 million per team overall—and slow the growth rate of guaranteed payments to first-rounders, which the documents show increased by 233 percent from 2000-10.

Such quarterback busts as JaMarcus Russell ($32 million), Matt Leinart ($12.9 million), David Carr ($15 million) and Joey Harrington ($13.9 million) received huge guaranteed payments that totaled $367 million in the last 10 drafts.

Of course, Eli Manning ($24 million), Philip Rivers ($17.9 million) and Matt Ryan ($34.7 million) have not done too badly for their teams.

Guaranteed money paid to top 10 selections since 2000 reached nearly $2 billion. Guaranteed payments for all first-rounders were at $3.5 billion. The average career length of a first-round pick since 1993 is 9.3 years.

Eagles president Joe Banner said the original aim of the draft is being compromised by the expenses associated with signing top picks.

“The whole concept of the draft and ordering of the picks is to maintain competitive balance in the league,” Banner said. “Now teams get top picks who have become so expensive and there’s the risk you can miss, and it makes the ability to trade in and out of those spots almost impossible. It can become a disadvantage to be in one of the top spots.”

The owners, of course, are the ones offering the huge guaranteed bonuses.

During talks for a new collective bargaining agreement, the league also proposed eliminating holdouts by reducing the maximum allowable salary if a rookie isn’t signed when training camp begins. The NFL also suggested eliminating holdouts for all veterans by prohibiting renegotiations of contracts if a player holds out in the preseason.

The compensation system would not include a rookie wage scale and would allow for individual contract negotiations. Contracts would have a fixed length of four years for players chosen in the second through seventh rounds and would not affect salaries for those rounds, the league said.

“From a fairness standpoint, the simple concept to drive this should be that the players who contribute the most to the league should get the most money,” Banner said. “What this system does is ensures players playing well in the NFL and bringing in fans and driving TV (ratings) will get the money that went to players who turned out not to be so good. And that is good for everyone.”

The NFL Players Association was not immediately available for comment.

Several agents said the proposals place unfair limitations on players entering the league.

“Five years and reduced pay is basically restricting players,” said Ben Dogra, whose clients include Patrick Willis and Sam Bradford. “Roughly 68 percent of the NFL is comprised of players with five years or less of NFL experience.

“Even players from essentially picks 11 to 32 in the first round are good financial deals for the teams. If a player becomes a starter or an integral part of the team under the current system, the NFL teams have the player under a rookie deal that is favorable to the team.”

Peter Schaffer, who represents Joshua Cribbs and Hakeem Nicks, called such a system “scouting insurance” for teams making bad selections high in the draft.

“It also makes the rookies more valuable when you reduce the amount you are paying to the young guy,” Schaffer said. “This will eliminate the veteran middle class because teams can have younger players who are making less and are under fixed contracts.”

A modified salary system for rookies was a negotiating point for a new CBA until talks broke off March 11 and the NFLPA dissolved as a union. The owners locked out the players hours later.

The two sides are scheduled for court-mandated mediation in Minneapolis beginning Thursday.


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 April 14, 2011, in NFL Alumni News and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In the first few years I was advising and representing former NFL players on disability issues, I was shocked at their lack of knowedge about their benefits. I thought they could turn to their Union for advice, guidance and referals. Nope. The League? “Don’t care to much about me now that I am retired.” Surely, I thought, they could call their (former) agents for some basic guidance. No. Just doesn’t happen.
    Surely if Player Agents were able to obtain a percentage of health care, pension and disability benefits from their former clients, these benefits would already be the best in major league sports!
    Of course the Agents don’t want anything to upset their ability to make huge sums of money for unproven rookies.

  2. How about we treat the NFL and the players like the rest of the working stiffs they play the game for….its our money that allows the league to exist.

    Yearly Wage Scales for all, same everyone (by position), contracts all 3 years at a time, the owners take care of pension benefits (including lifetime medical” …

    QB’s Scale:
    Rookie: 750,000
    Year 2: 825,000
    year 3: 1 mil
    Year 4 1.25 mil
    etc, etc …. (The owners can hash out the numbers. Do this for every position in the game. The players will of course not lik this because they are greedy and have huge ego’s so, in addition there would be a “capped” performance based incentive” program as well ….3000 yards = 50,000 or what ever…..10,000 for DB picks etc….

    However, something that makes this much sense and simplifies the process has two major drawbacks….players are greedy and want more than they are worth (yes, everyone of them) ….and agents are the greediest bloodsuckers on earth……

    Good luck NFL……

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