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Should NFL contracts be fully guaranteed? Russell Okung thinks so.

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  • Should NFL contracts be fully guaranteed? Russell Okung thinks so.

    Russell Okung argues for NFL guaranteed contracts, but will players strike to get them?


    We all know how the game works by now. The team and player (and his agent) announce some ridiculously large contract terms, but the player actually sees a fraction of that total because the deal isn’t fully guaranteed. An NFL player can be cut loose on a whim, while MLB or NBA players are in a far less dangerous sport and don’t have a worry about their contracts. The NFL is the most popular sport in America and has far more physical danger than basketball or baseball, yet operates without the guaranteed contracts that are standard in MLB and NBA.

    Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, a NFLPA vice president who has long been a thoughtful voice for players’ rights, detailed in a long Twitter thread exactly why players need to fight for guaranteed deals. His points came as NBA players are signing the type of huge, guaranteed deals that NFL players should have secured a long time ago.
    Will the NFL ever see the players as “partners”?

    Okung’s entire thread is worth reading if you care about NFL labor issues — and you will in 2021 at the latest, because a work stoppage seems like a good possibility — but it’s worth breaking down some of his key points.

    Okung’s use of the word “partners” is very interesting. While each sport has some labor/owner unrest, it seems the most contentious relationship is between NFL players and owners. While Houston Texans owner Bob McNair’s comments about his players are the most extreme of the group, they also seemed to be telling. There’s no partnership between the two sides. The NFL has constantly reminded the union since the last collective-bargaining agreement that it has all the power. The players can’t help but notice the condescending tone and actions coming from the owners.

    Okung is right: It has never seemed like the NFL has viewed players as true partners in its multi-billion dollar endeavor.
    Two issues stand out to Okung

    The only way for the players to get some of the things they desire would be through a long work stoppage. The players need the CBA, mostly agreed to decades ago with a more friendly union that conceded all of the power to the league, to be completely redone. Okung recognized that.

    Okung took aim at two specific items in the CBA that have allowed owners to skirt the issue of guaranteed deals.

    While acknowledging salary caps in any sport aren’t good for players, two NFL-specific rules have really been an issue. First, Okung pointed out that teams use “dead money” on the salary cap as an excuse to pay players less in the present. Often teams cut a player before the end of his contract, and the remaining prorated part of the guaranteed money in the deal then counts against the cap.

    Also, the NFL has an old and antiquated rule that requires all unpaid money guaranteed in a player’s deal must be put in an escrow account. If a player has $30 million guaranteed in his deal, and $20 million is in a signing bonus paid out right away with another $10 million guaranteed through future roster bonuses or salaries, that remaining $10 million must be in an escrow account. That acts as an excuse for leagues to limit guaranteed money. Okung pointed out that with business booming in the NFL, the escrow funding rule isn’t even necessary anymore.

    Will the players be able to fight the NFL?

    Okung made great points. He has been thinking these issues through for a long time; last fall he wrote a post for The Players’ Tribune that outlined a lot of his key points. His main point was players needing to organize and band together, which has always been a problem.

    NFL players have short careers and because of the non-guaranteed money, most NFL players are usually on edge when it comes to money. Fans who spend no time studying the issue and a lot of time complaining paint a picture of all players as greedy millionaires, when there’s clearly more to the debate they willfully ignore.

    Because NFL players don’t have ultimate financial security and short careers, they often aren’t willing to dig in for a prolonged labor fight. It’s hard to fight for the rights of players in future generations — and give up game checks to do so — when you don’t know if you’ll be around in a couple years, or even in a couple weeks.

    The challenge isn’t understanding the battle. Okung and other smart players who understand the big picture very well have explained it in detail. The question, when the CBA is about to expire, will be if the players are finally willing to do what it takes to get from the owners what they should have had for decades.

  • #2
    Nope.
    Since Day One

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    • #3
      Would be a disaster.

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      • #4
        Yeah that's the point of guaranteed money and signing bonuses in contracts. You can't have NFL players collecting a check and not giving a shit because they know its all guaranteed.

        This isn't like baseball where players don't take much physical abuse.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cowboysrock55 View Post
          Yeah that's the point of guaranteed money and signing bonuses in contracts. You can't have NFL players collecting a check and not giving a shit because they know its all guaranteed.

          This isn't like baseball where players don't take much physical abuse.
          Heck even in baseball it's dangerous. Pat Gillick used to have a general rule of not signing pitchers for longer than 3 years because arms are so fragile.

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          • #6
            I'm all for the players receiving fully guaranteed contracts.

            I wouldn't worry about the effort of players waning with guaranteed contracts. Sure some would mail it in but that's already happening under the current format.

            It can be done without being too dangerous to a franchise's future. For one, fully guaranteed contracts should be no longer than 4 years.....and I'd only give the 4 year deals to positions of longevity like QB, OL, and DB. All others would have to work on 3 year or less deals. Franchises just need to be smarter. If you foolishly sign a DT to an 8 year fully guaranteed deal, that's on you. You made the decision, now deal with the consequences.

            Second, I think implementing some type of "Bird rights" stipulation into the CBA would help as well. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago.

            The current system seems like it's just a built-in excuse for owners to retain money and easily escape bad contracts that they and their front office agreed to. Which is BS, IMO.

            Another funny thing is the NFL has successfully tricked fans into siding with management in these financial matters. You see it all the time. Player X signs a 5 year deal. Player X under-performs and the team cuts him two years into the 5 year deal. No on bats an eye.

            But if Player X has two great, All-Pro caliber seasons and decides to hold out for more money because he's out-performing the contract, here come the fans with pitchforks and vitriol screaming: "HONOR THE CONTRACT!", "GET YOUR ASS TO CAMP YOU UNGRATEFUL, POS. YOU AGREED TO THE DEAL!"

            Why isn't there any outrage when the organizations don't "honor the contract"?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 1bigfan13 View Post
              I'm all for the players receiving fully guaranteed contracts.

              I wouldn't worry about the effort of players waning with guaranteed contracts. Sure some would mail it in but that's already happening under the current format.

              It can be done without being too dangerous to a franchise's future. For one, fully guaranteed contracts should be no longer than 4 years.....and I'd only give the 4 year deals to positions of longevity like QB, OL, and DB. All others would have to work on 3 year or less deals. Franchises just need to be smarter. If you foolishly sign a DT to an 8 year fully guaranteed deal, that's on you. You made the decision, now deal with the consequences.

              Second, I think implementing some type of "Bird rights" stipulation into the CBA would help as well. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago.

              The current system seems like it's just a built-in excuse for owners to retain money and easily escape bad contracts that they and their front office agreed to. Which is BS, IMO.
              It's not a trick, fans have always rooted for what is best for their team.

              But this isn't some trick for teams to keep money. When a player is cut and the team saves cap room on that contract the money gets passed along to a different player. And the NFL doesn't prevent guaranteed contracts. It's just that players don't fight for them. Because like you mentioned they are generally smaller and for less money.

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              • #8
                If players don’t like the ‘raw’ deal they’re getting, they can get a real job then.

                https://www.google.com/amp/s/raiders...man-sachs/amp/

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by pdom View Post
                  If players don’t like the ‘raw’ deal they’re getting, they can get a real job then.

                  https://www.google.com/amp/s/raiders...man-sachs/amp/
                  Why don't we get an attitude when people with "real jobs" utilize their unions to challenge "raw deals"?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cowboysrock55 View Post
                    Yeah that's the point of guaranteed money and signing bonuses in contracts. You can't have NFL players collecting a check and not giving a shit because they know its all guaranteed.

                    This isn't like baseball where players don't take much physical abuse.
                    The idea is shorter contracts with more guarantees. Like two years.

                    If the players had brains, they would decide, as a group to do this, it might work.

                    But the thing is players want the team to "show them the love" with a stupid contract that they aren't smart enough to figure out.

                    Some of these poor schlubs act like they are getting married and the team is actually committed to them.

                    Their agent isn't going to argue as I am sure they get their commission on the front end.

                    The big problem with player contracts, if there is one, is the very people signing them.

                    They aren't able to see beyond the illusion of being "rich" because they signed a billion gazillion dollar contract, when most of the time they never see all that money.

                    This is not like other sports.

                    Players aren't smart enough to figure out what is the best for them. Never has been the case and likely never will be.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 1bigfan13 View Post
                      Why don't we get an attitude when people with "real jobs" utilize their unions to challenge "raw deals"?
                      cuz they got real jobs

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                      • #12
                        I don't care if they fully guarantee the contracts as long as releasing the player clears the salary from counting against the salary cap.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pdom View Post
                          cuz they got real jobs
                          Hate to break it to you but being a professional athlete is a real job for those guys. It's a profession.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mschmidt64 View Post
                            I don't care if they fully guarantee the contracts as long as releasing the player clears the salary from counting against the salary cap.
                            That's a good idea.

                            These billionaire owners could easily absorb the cost of paying players who are no longer on the roster. Of course that would mean there's even more pressure on GMs to smartly spend their money in FA.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 1bigfan13 View Post
                              That's a good idea.

                              These billionaire owners could easily absorb the cost of paying players who are no longer on the roster. Of course that would mean there's even more pressure on GMs to smartly spend their money in FA.
                              That's the problem with the NBA (and NHL). The less cash rich owners cry poverty when this is brought up, claiming that the bigger market owners can "buy off their mistakes." Ie, the Lakers could throw 100 million at DeMarcus Cousins over 5 years, and then if he busts, they can just write him the check for the $100 million, and go throw $100 million at someone else. But a team like the Bucks or the Pelicans, they can't afford to pay off $100 million to a player who is no longer playing, and still have money left to go pay someone else, so this allegedly gives the richer teams a "competitive advantage."

                              But I don't buy it. How about this, just don't waste your money on bad contracts? On what planet could it be seen as anything other than punitive for the Lakers to have to pay $100 million to clear a lousy player off their roster?

                              At the end of the day, the salary cap would still be in place to ensure that you cannot have the 5 best players in the league on your roster at the same time, since it would be unaffordable in terms of cap space. It also helps get the best product on the court for the league since teams aren't stuck playing dead weight.

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