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NFL players could be one step closer to achieving more guaranteed contracts

Although guaranteed contracts is not covered in the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any of the major sports, an item in the proposed CBA for the NFL could give teams more of an ability to offer them

Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There are plenty of issues which are not fully understood with the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement on the table in which the NFLPA members will vote on over the next week. One issue which many have chimed in is how the player should fight for guaranteed contracts. In truth, this is not a CBA issue.

When it comes to other major sports where contracts are fully guaranteed, these issues are resolved with every individual contract between players/agents and team ownership. There is nothing in these Collective Bargaining Agreements for various sports which says their contracts must be guaranteed. It’s just something that has become the norm.

So why are contracts not guaranteed in the NFL? Some say the issue is because it is such a physically demanding sport teams would constantly be paying money to players who end up injured and unable to play for seasons at a time. While this might be some of the concern, it is more from a financial standpoint as to why these contracts don’t exist across the board.

Something the general public does not seem to understand with the proposed CBA in the NFL is there are some rule changes which could make guaranteed contracts easier to attain in the future. If the current CBA is accepted, the financial requirements for offering guaranteed contracts are going to make it easier for teams to offer a greater portion, if not all, of future contracts for some players as guaranteed.

The issue was laid out in an article this week by ESPN’s Dan Graziano. Becoming ESPN’s insider for this current CBA, Graziano laid out the question of guaranteed contracts in the proposed CBA being voted on by the NFLPA.

Do the players get guaranteed contracts?

No. As we’ve been trying to explain for years now, the CBA isn’t the place to secure those. NBA and MLB players were able to make guaranteed contracts the standard in their sports because they insisted on them individually in contract negotiations with teams throughout the years. If NFL players want guaranteed contracts, that’s what they’d have to do.

There is one change in the new CBA that could help, however. For years, teams have cited the antiquated “fully funded rule” as a reason they couldn’t guarantee large sums of money in contracts. That rule, which dates back to the wobbly early days of the league when there was some doubt about teams’ abilities to reliably pay their players, requires a team to hold in escrow an amount of money equivalent to the amount of guaranteed money (minus a $2 million deductible) in a player’s contract.

So, when Kirk Cousins signed for three years and $84 million fully guaranteed two years ago, the Vikings had to put $82 million into an escrow account (the guaranteed amount minus the $2 million deductible). The new deal would raise the deductible to $15 million in the years 2020-28 and to $17 million in 2029 and 2030. The thought is that this could create more fertile ground for players and agents to demand and receive more guarantees in contracts.

As you can see in what Graziano laid out, the financial burden of offering a guaranteed contract from an NFL team should become easier if this CBA is ratified. It still does not give all players guaranteed contracts, but it is giving players some leverage to ask for guarantees in their negotiating process.

If a player were to sign a fully guaranteed 3-year contract for $42 million, the team would have to set aside $40 million under the current rules. If the new CBA is approved, the amount of money put into escrow would now be $25 million. While it is still a big number, it’s more attainable than $40 million.

So while the CBA will not directly address the issue of guaranteed contracts, to say players should hold out until they get them is unrealistic. First, it’s not a CBA issue. Secondly, there are provisions in the current CBA to help make guarantees more abundant. Could these deductions be even more in order to further guarantee contracts? Absolutely. But it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this issue will be properly explained to all of the NFLPA members before they cast their vote to accept the current CPA proposal.