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Tuesday Afternoon Open Thread: Rookie Contracts

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Just a couple thoughts from me, then an open floor for us to vent about the ridiculous nature of rookie contracts.

  • First, as it relates to Max Starks, #1 picks now cost about $10 million dollars per year, at least that's what JaMarcus Russell received, including $30+ million guaranteed. Brady Quinn, selected just one spot lower than the Steelers' position this year, got a $20 million dollar deal, with $7+ mil guaranteed and incentive clauses, options and escalators that could make the deal worth as much as $30 million. If things go to plan in Cleveland, Quinn wont sniff the field this year, meaning he will have pockted 2/5 of that $7 mil guaranteed and $8 of the $20 million in contract money. That's a lot to have never played a meaningful down. So, with Starks, if we do in fact have concrete plans to start him on our offensive line (provided he's in shape), that $7 million is not such a bad investment comparatively, especially if you factor in what intangible worth he could provide the franchise by protecting the organization's most valuable asset - Big Ben.
  • Is there an end in site to the ever-growing rookie salaries? On one hand, you might think there has to be, since the rookie pool is a capped number as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement:
The Rookie Cap is the specific pool of money within each franchise's salary cap that is reserved for the signing of recently drafted athletes and any undrafted rookie free agents. More precisely, like the League Salary cap that establishes the ceiling for the total for a given franchise in a given year, the Rookie Cap is the maximum amount that franchises can spend on rookie contracts. The sum of each franchise's Rookie Cap comprises the league-wide Entering Player Pool.
So, how do teams get around it? Well, they do so with option bonuses and very crafty and creative incentives. Many of these incentives are classified as 'NLTBE' or 'Not Likely To Be Earned', but in reality they are quite achievable, usually in the form on low snap totals. Also, the amount that teams are able to spend on rookies only applies to that first year, meaning all these NLTBE incentives are just backloaded in the contract after year one.
  • Agents are pirrahnas, no doubt.

But owners are suckers for giving in. They created this mess too. Now they've got to sleep in the bed they helped make.