When the NFL owners changed the collective bargaining system 11 years ago, gone were the days of rookies signing for $50 million guaranteed. The owners stopped the game and cut the bonus signing pool by 50%. The players caved in, gaining improved working conditions and less physical practice contact while giving back the financial gains of legendary union leader Gene Upshaw.
Even during a once-in-a-century pandemic in 2020, the strength of this system protects all 32 teams. The salary cap rises every year by roughly 10%, and the owners and players just agreed on a 10-year collective bargaining contract.
The NFL moved from the Scouting Combine to free agency to the 85th NFL Draft virtually over the last seven weeks without a hitch.
The G.O.A.T Tom Brady, after 20 years and six Super Bowl titles in New England, was allowed to walk away from the AFC Patriots and sign a two-year $50 million deal with Tampa Bay. The NFC Buccaneers in the rugged NFC South have not made the playoffs in 12 years.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins three years ago signed a three-year $84 million contract with the Vikings, all guaranteed money. So far his report card says he’s 19-14-1. The Vikings re-signed him to a two-year $66 million extension.
The World Champion Kansas City Chiefs just picked up the 5th-year option on Super Bowl MVP Pat Mahomes for 2021. Mahomes will make $25 million.
Mahomes has been an NFL regular season MVP, threw 50 TD passes in 2018, and in 2020 he is going into his fourth NFL season making $6 million a year. He’s the best player in the league, so talented, yet he’s still locked into his rookie contract, which works for the owners.
The guaranteed money that was taken years ago from the rookie bonus pool on contracts was moved to the veteran pool. Each team gets to designate a player under the franchise or transition tag if that helps the respective organization sign a player.
On the surface, the system does not look fair to Mahomes. He is arguably a much better player than Cousins. He’s 4-1 in the playoffs and Super Bowl Champion and MVP. He has to be patient.
Russell Wilson of Seattle, now in his eighth season, makes an NFL-high $35 million a season. He’s won a Super Bowl and led Seattle to the playoffs eight times, twice to the Super Bowl.