Lockout Concerns Pressure College Football Players On NFL Draft Decisions

Cam NewtonAuburn quarterback Cam Newton stands with the Heisman Trophy during a news conference after winning the Heisman Trophy award, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, in New York.

Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

Agents are advising all eligible college football players to enter the NFL draft now in anticipation of a new rookie pay scale, ESPN’s Joe Schad reports.Agents believe lockout negotiations will result in a rookie wage scale that severely limits top players’ earnings. The sooner a player enters the league, the sooner he’ll be free to test the open market.

Of course, that advice leaves college coaches scrambling. Alabama coach Nick Saban told his juniors that the uncertain labour environment is actually just more reason for them to stay in school.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Packers’ president Mark Murphy outlines what a wage-scale could look like. His model (which is basically the NFL’s opening offer) pays the first overall pick a $5.3 million signing bonus, and a $1.5 million base salary that escalates to $2.9 million over a five-year period. Quarterbacks get a sixth year at $4.3 million.

Compare that to this year’s top overall pick, Sam Bradford, who signed a six-year, $78 million deal, and earns $8.3 million in base salary this year alone.

Under the current system, rookies are free to negotiate for the best deal possible. That’s why two rookies rank among the top 10 in NFL salaries, and another is a second year player. Those huge contracts undermine both the owners that dole them out, and the veterans negotiating on behalf of the players who feel they earn less as a result. Yet that common purpose hasn’t made negotiations any easier.

So as the NFL inevitably moves to a strict rookie pay-scale – like the one the NBA employs – agents are urging college juniors to enter the draft. That way the player is one year younger when he can negotiate freely and the agent is one year closer to his payday.

Ironically, another reason Murphy argues for his (and the NFL’s plan) is agents would be worthless to rookies and less likely to influence college kids.

To recap: agents, owners, college coaches, and veteran players – each of whom purport to look out for the best interest of young players – are all handing out advice that merely serves their own best interest.

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