There seems to be some movement that might lead to the inclusion of a rookie wage scale in the next collective bargaining agreement. Kevin Mawae, Tennesse center, was on The Herd on ESPN Radio today and he had the following to say on the subject:
"As a guy who has been in the league for 14 now going on 15 years and being around other veteran guys, for a young guy to get paid that kind of money and never steps foot on an NFL football field, it's a little disheartening to think of," Mawae said. "It makes it tough for a guy who's proven himself to say 'I want that kind of money' when the owners, all they're going to say is, 'Well, you weren't a first-round pick.' "And I know there is sentiment around the league amongst the players like, 'Let's do something to control these salaries and control these signing bonuses' and things like that, and I know that's something that the owners are talking about and I'm sure that's going to play in to this round of negotiations for this collective bargaining agreement," he said.
Mawae is no ordinary grunt popping off. He also happens to be the President of the NFL Players Association. That gives his words a bit more gravitas, if you will. When the subject came up in the weeks leading up to the draft, association head Gene Upshaw essentially said that any rookie wage scale proposal would be dead on arrival.
“Every year at this time, I hear it again,” Upshaw said. “They don’t like how the rookies are paid. ‘They need some kind of pay scale.’ Well, I’m not going to limit how the rookies are paid because it has a huge impact on veterans. I’m not going to agree to it.”
Upshaw hasn't addressed the issue lately. He's right that the huge paydays that the likes of Matt Ryan receive (6 years, $72 million, $34 million guaranteed) impact veterans. That's $72 million that is not available to Falcons veterans who have, you know, actually played a down in the NFL. In addition, the big paydays for rookies run counter to the notion that bad teams are supposed to be able to better themselves through the draft. A team getting a top pick has to pay so much money to the new player that its ability to retain its core players and/or attract new free agents is seriously hampered.
Hopefully, this is not something that will become an issue for the Washington Redskins any time soon. They've had enough top 10 picks in the past 15 years or so. Still, fair is fair and the current system clearly is not fair.