Rookie Wage Scale Remains the Sticking Point In Labor Talks

Multiple reports have indicated that a key sticking point between the league and players is the rookie wage scale. ESPN’s John Clayton and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk have both reported as much, and tonight Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the rookie compensation system remains “a major discussion point” between the two sides.

According to Breer, the two sides agree, or are in basic agreement, on the following:

Four-year contracts for players chosen in rounds 2-7. All second-round picks currently receive four-year deals, and 29 of the 32 NFL teams offered four-year deals to players chosen after round two last offseason. The Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, and Pittsburgh Steelers offered three-year deals, a structure that the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, and St. Louis Rams have offered to recent draft classes.

The players have agreed to a system that prohibits contracts for drafted players from being renegotiated until after year three. In the previous collective bargaining agreement, contracts for drafted players could be negotiated after year two, a system that would remain for undrafted free agents who signed three-year deals.

A sticking point remains an insistence from the league that first-round picks sign five-year contracts. In the 2006 CBA, players chosen in the first half of round one could be signed to six-year deals, a perk owners used on 22 of the 80 players chosen in the Top 16 between 2006 and 2010.

Breer reports that one ownership proposal has the first overall pick signing a five-year, $34 million contract — no word on contractual guarantees — with the Top 8 picks receiving contracts with fifth-year base salary escalators to 150% of the average salary for starters at the player’s position, with a floor of $6 million and ceiling of $12 million.

Under the previous CBA, the 23 players drafted in the Top 8 that signed five-year contracts had base salary escalators totaling over $460 million, an average of nearly $20 million per player. That’s a lot of money, but remember, teams looking for five-year deals from first-round picks are purchasing the player’s opportunity to test the restricted free agent market and the player’s first years of unrestricted free agency and most, if not all, of that money is non-guaranteed.


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