Whenever fans try and analyze the Jets’ unprecedented spending spree this offseason, comments are made in reference to the possibility of the 2010 season being uncapped. Our Front Office threw caution to the wind and locked up huge contracts in a few players whose potential for greatness is more valuable than the possibility that we’ll regret the numbers. But these are players who had a professional body of work in the NFL that can be analyzed before a decision was made. These are players that we know can play in this league. The NFL Draft doesn’t inspire that kind of confidence, and their potential contracts terrify me. There’s too much money being thrown around for a working class citizen like myself to truly admire.
You’ve got teams that own Top 10 picks and are absolutely terrified with what they’re going to have pay these players who don’t even have a locker yet. In the last week, I’ve read reports about Miami’s negotiations with 2008′s #1 overall pick, Michigan OT, Jake Long, who’s going to want 2007′s #1 overall pick, LSU QB, Jamarcus Russell type money. Neither has played a significant down in the NFL yet, and they’re being awarded contracts with more than $20 million in guarantees! That’s ridiculous!
If a team is picking in the Top 10 the assumption is that they’ve already got enough problems as is! Having to worry about saving room to pay a 21 year old kid a super star contract is unjustified, logically and financially. I can’t complain about the dollars getting thrown around in Free Agency too much, because if teams are willing to overpay then it’s not the players fault for wanting to capitalize. We all agree that DeAngelo Hall likely didn’t deserve a 7-year/$70M contract, just as Nate Clements didn’t deserve the money San Francisco gave him. Hopefully, we won’t learn the hard way with Calvin Pace and Damien Woody.
But what’s the problem we faced as Jets’ fans this offseason after the dust settled? Our veterans no longer felt appreciated. Players saw that the wallet was open and wondered when their turn was. Fortunately, we’ve since locked up Kerry Rhodes for the next five years, and Laveraneus Coles is guaranteed to be a soldier for us for two more years. But such problems can be avoided.
So here is what I propose:
Pay these players in accordance to their tenure, skill, value and availablity. The league has a veteran minimum, and now it’s time to create a veteran maximum that can only be achieved if you are truly the face of the franchise. It’s time to create a rookie contract maximum, so that way teams don’t invest millions into a player that history has taught us can likely be out of the league within four years. There are in-depth scouting reports all over the internet that I’m sure general managers and coaches have access to that can assist them in determining the value of an athlete. I know some player contracts already come laced with performance-based incentives, so that’s a step in the right direction. When players perform above and beyond the men around them, they should be rewarded accordingly. But locking up millions in guarantees for a player we hope can perform will only lead fans into a deeper depression.
My job has a maximum salary that I can reach within my current pay grade after a certain number of years, where I can receive percentage accelerations in accordance to my performance. Is it unreasonable to ask for such a system to be implemented into the NFL? It shouldn’t be a team’s responsibility to give a player more money than he can spend so that he doesn’t go broke. How many commercials have we seen Peyton Manning in? It’s clear that when an athlete begins to transcend the game, and rise above the sport that the endorsements come pouring in. If their NFL salaries won’t buy them that new Lamborghini, then maybe their exclusive Gatorade and Nike deals will.
I’m not suggesting that these players be made middle class, because I know the toll this game can take on a man’s body will last forever. So when their playing days are done, I’d like to know that they can afford proper medical attention for all of the inevitable aches and pains. But it’s time to remove dollar signs from the focus. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find a few more players that give it their all because they love the game, and not for that ridiculous contract.