Saturday 16 December 2017 / 06:59 AM

NFL's big deals – to put up or hold out?

Dez & Demaryius ink monster deals, Hawks yet to budge with Wilson

If it seems as though contract totals for NFL superstars are climbing faster than Mario flying up the ladder to escape one of Donkey Kong’s fiery barrels, that’s because they are.

With Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both signing $70 million agreements over just five years this week, the roof has officially been blown off the market for a #1 wide receiver. Sure, Calvin Johnson’s still at a whole other level, but 14 mil per year is a hefty sum to shell out for a player who rarely touches the ball much more than 10 times in a game.

At these prices the going rate for a top-tier quarterback and his partner-in-crime on the receiving end is approaching 25 per cent of a team’s total salary cap for a 55-man roster.

Then there’s $35 to 40 million for QB & WR and sloppy seconds for the other 53. Add in an All-Pro safety, corner and pass rusher and now half your cap is blown on just five players.

I like what the NFL did a few years back to curtail asinine rookie salaries, but if you ask me the scales are getting a wee bit top-heavy when one receiver can easily be earning 20 times more than his counterpart lined up on the other side of the field.

At a given point, under the current system, I can’t help but think there will be some sort of revolt amongst the “plebes” when players can be classified into 1 per centers and the “struggling” middle class, just like everybody else.

(I jest, of course. For all you readers out there struggling to make rent, I do realize that minimum wage in the NFL isn’t quite the same as what you’re pulling at Mickey D’s flipping burgers.)

Currently, the Seattle Seahawks’ front office tends to agree. This is a team that has risen to the top with solid drafts and recycled talent, so it makes sense that they are reluctant to blow so much of their proverbial load on just one guy, even if he is the first player to take his team to the Super Bowl twice during his first three seasons.

We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out but for now management has yet to cave to Russell Wilson’s demands.

Will Pete and Carroll “stop the bleeding” by being the first team to let a legitimate franchise quarterback walk?

Probably not, but it still shows that we may be nearing a turning point in the shift of power regarding superstar negotiations.

Just don’t ask Jerry Jones. He gobbled up Dez Bryant’s threat to sit out regular season games should he be forced to play on the franchise tag. Which leads into my next question:

What good is the franchise tag if crybabies can simply sit out and throw a temper tantrum?

I’m sure you saw this tweet. The one where Dez Bryant made it clear his holdout intimidations extended beyond training camp and pre-season.

I think I can safely speak for most everyone outside of Dallas in saying that I really wish Jerry hadn’t waffled on this one. As long as teams respond to player bullying, the trend will continue.

The salary for a tagged player must be no less than the average of the top five players at the position. This meant Bryant stood to earn more than $12 million for the 2015 season. To compare, his 2014 earnings were just over $2 million. Whether you feel you’re worth more or not, a six-fold salary increase is one helluva bump.

Boo-hoo if you’ve got the misfortune of “winning” the tag for a year or two. These are the rules agreed upon by the NFLPA in collective bargaining and members ought to be punished beyond their “lost salary” for breaking them.

Now, by no means am I suggesting we side with billionaire owners on this issue, either. I’m just not so sure this model of forcing young stars to play several seasons for pennies in the hopes of a monster payday has longevity.

A small solution to a bigger problem

The core and the crux of the issue lies in the fact that franchise quarterbacks simply have teams by the balls. Both players and management understand how hard it is to find a playoff caliber signal-caller, and once free agency is looming the front office need to put up or watch their QB sign somewhere else.

Teams wilt under the pressure and always wind up paying. It’s easier to bite the small bullet today rather than bite the bigger one that may lead to a more balanced pay scale across the League.

I’m a Hawks fan but I really don’t want to see Seattle give RW3 the fully guaranteed contract the rumor mills purport he is after. These are the types of deals that haunt franchises for years if they go tits up.

Just like everybody else I am waiting with baited breath to see what the final deal looks like. According to recent reports it’s actually a real possibility that Wilson pulls a Jerry McGuire and plays out his measly rookie contract.

But despite Russell’s mouth words and his penchant for breaking the mould, I don’t see him suiting up for $1,542,000.  

 

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