For those who complain every time an NFL player holds out for a new contract, I present to you Exhibit A: Anthony Gonzalez.
The Ohio State graduate is due $1.11 million this year from the Indianapolis Colts, but is in serious jeopardy of getting cut as the team trims its roster from 80 to 53. The injury-prone Gonzalez is nursing a hamstring injury this year.
And Gonzalez’s paycheck if he’s cut?
But wait. Colts owner Jim Irsay and team President Bill Polian pledged to pay Gonzalez that money. After all, he has a contract. They signed it.
Oh well. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed contract in the NFL.
I’m not asking you to cry for Gonzalez. If he’s been smart with his money, he’s probably made enough in his first four years with the Colts to weather this storm—should there be one—just fine.
But the reality is, if you get hurt or don’t live up to expectations in the NFL, you get cut and you don’t get paid. In many ways it’s no different for you and me. Minus the six- and seven-digit paychecks.
But if this system is going to put players and management on anything resembling a level playing field, the reverse paradigm to Gonzalez’s situation must hold true, as well.
When a player like Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson holds out for a big payday, the player is often seen as greedy. How many times have we heard, “He has a contract. He signed a contract. He should honor the contract?”
Why should he? Management only honors its contracts with players when it suits them.
The shelf life of professional football players is extremely short. For every Peyton Manning or Brett Favre there are dozens and dozens of guys like Gonzalez—or worse. The average career in the NFL is 3.4 years.
So it stands to reason that if a player can get cut simply for being hurt or underperforming expectations, then a player who over-performs or outplays their contract should be entitled to a renegotiated deal with higher pay.
The part where an employee doesn’t show up for work until he gets a giant raise, that’s not the way most of us are used to working. So it can be a little difficult to swallow sometimes.
But Indiana is an at-will state, where you can be fired for just about any reason. You wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult for people to identify with these players. But more often you here them siding with management.