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All the talk about reducing the rookie pay scale in the National Football League is somewhat laughable. It will never happen. There are too many NFL power brokers who don’t want it, and in the end, the players’ union will convince players it’s in their best interest to keep that scale skyward.
Sure, there are a number of veterans who cry foul that unproven rookies are earning so much more than established players.
After all, the St. Louis Rams are preparing to sign quarterback Sam Bradford to a rookie record contract with $50 million in guaranteed money. Bradford’s contract is expected to be substantially higher than last year’s No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford, who the Detroit Lions signed to a six-year $41.7 million deal.
But don’t expect NFL players’ agent Tom Condon to shed any tears. Sure there’s some injustice in all this. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is set to make $3.5 million this year. I expect he’s going to get a new contract before training camp kicks off in a few weeks. But you never know with Pats owner Bob Kraft.
While Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is working off a $98 million, seven-year deal signed in 2004, it’s no secret he’s not happy with his contract and wants a new one.
Since Condon is Manning’s agent, you’d think Condon would be the first to squawk about his players’ comparative value to these raw rookies. Except one thing. All this madness is good business for Condon, who, the last time I checked, works off of commission. Oh, and did I forget to mention, Condon also is Bradford’s agent.
Condon will quickly tell you teams must pay for potential. Only after Condon squeezes the Rams with the pay-for-potential ploy, will he play the comparative value card with the Colts.
Condon has no intention of finalizing a deal for Manning until Bradford’s contract is ironed out in the next couple weeks. After that’s done, he’ll use it as a hammer to pound a few million bucks out of Colts’ owner Jim Irsay—who already happily admitted he aims to make Manning the highest paid player in the NFL.
I don’t fault Manning for getting all he can. In fact, I would to some degree applaud his willingness to show up for every Colts’ off-season workout function—mandatory or not—despite being in the midst of contract negotiations.
This contrasts the actions of receiver Reggie Wayne and defender Robert Mathis, who are skipping Colts off-season preparation functions despite the fact that they’re both legally bound by contracts to be there.
Wayne has two years left on his six-year $39 million deal, with $5.47 million due this year and $5.95 million next year. Mathis is working off a six-year $30 million deal signed in 2006. But since that deal was so heavily front loaded, he’s not due much this year, and wants more.
It’s difficult to say what will happen with Wayne and Mathis. With a nasty negotiations between team owners and the players’ union looming over the league’s larger pay structure and salary cap, it’s a tough time for any player to get a lot more money.
After all, Wayne and Mathis are good. But they’re no Sam Bradford.