Based on performance, who deserves the biggest contract (in terms of guaranteed money) in the NFL?
Would you say Tom Brady, with four Super Bowl appearances, three wins, and one MVP? Either of the Manning brothers, both Super Bowl winners? Or even Adrian Peterson, who had more than 3,000 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns over his first two seasons and looks to be a dominant back for years to come.
While all of those players deserve a hefty payday, the man who just received the biggest contract in league history has never taken an NFL snap: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick of the 2009 Draft.
His record is fascinating. Career NFL Touchdowns: zero. Career NFL wins: zero. Career Super Bowl wins: zero. But on the bright side, career NFL interceptions: zero.
Stafford has been guaranteed $41.7 million and could earn up to $78 million over the six-year contract. Stafford’s payday edged out the Washington Redskins’ new defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, who received $41 million up front in February.
Which begs the question: Why?
It could be that rookies are getting overpaid just because teams have the money. In fact, since 2002, when David Carr signed for $14 million guaranteed with the Texans, the amount of money the first pick has gotten in guaranteed money has nearly tripled. In my opinion, rookies are getting too much.
There’s an old saying: You have to spend money to make money. Maybe teams are shelling out millions for these guys in hopes that their winning percentage will go up, and with that attendance, and with that revenue. But, teams are taking a huge risk by shelling out big bucks for basically unknown players (at least unknown on a professional level).
How can any NFL team be absolutely, 100 percent positive that this 21 year old, presented to the world with all the fanfare of the NFL Draft by Commissioner Roger Goodell, won’t throw bricks instead of touchdowns?
For example, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the Number 1 overall pick of the 2005 Draft, has thrown for a total of 4,679 yards in his four-year career. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for more yards than that last season.
That’s why I’m all for a salary cap for rookies. A team can still sign a rookie to a multi-year deal, but the league should create a base salary for the first season, tailored downward for each draft round. After that rookie season, each player would be free to negotiate a better deal based on whether or not they’ve lived up their own hype.
This also would help teams stay within their budgets (in the midst of tough economic times) instead of having to participate in an ever-increasing bidding war between players and teams that is escalating every year.
Give a college kid a multi-million dollar guaranteed paycheck? No. Before we “show them the money”, these rookies need to prove to their team and the entire league that they deserve it.