There is no better time for NFL players than in the middle of March every year, when they get to cash in on huge, eye-popping contracts, even if in most cases, looks can be deceiving. Rarely are the numbers that are announced actually reflective of how the contract will work in practice.
This is one of the reasons that this period of the year, during which NBA players sign enormous (upwards of $40 million per season now) contracts that are fully guaranteed. On cue, we hear from NFL players as their basketball counterparts sign their own deals, commenting on the lack of guarantees in most of the contracts NFL players sign.
With the next Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in 2021, the battle lines have already begun to be drawn. NFLPA president Eric Winston in August essentially called a work stoppage a virtual certainty, and executive director DeMaurice Smith echoed those sentiments at around the same time.
Yesterday, TMZ posted a video of Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley III, who is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract in which he was asked if NFL players were deserving of guaranteed contracts. Naturally, he agreed, and when asked what it would take for that to happen, he said it would probably require a “lockout in a couple years”.
Assuming it is even at all realistically possible, it’s hard to argue against that being the lengths players would have to go in order to get those guaranteed contracts, which teams are very reluctant to give. Fully guaranteed contracts have been incredibly rare, with Kirk Cousins finally recently receiving one.
In order to make this a reality, players would surely have to concede to less long-term stability in the form of contracts over a shorter timespan. Cousins’ deal, for example, was for only three years even though he is going to turn just 30 in August.
Players seem to be aware of this inevitable trade-off. Lorenzo Alexander, who is on the NFLPA’s executive committee and is a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, expressed that fact recently on SiriusXM radio.
“As players, of course, you want some guarantees and some type of certainty when you sign a deal”, he said, according to Pro Football Talk. “They have it, from their perspective, as the ownership, but players would also like to add that same type of comfort level, knowing that I’m going to make x-amount of dollars over the next two or three years, even if that means that our deals are [shorter]”.
Alexander said that he would rather have a shorter-term contract that is fully guaranteed than one that is of a longer term and a comparable or greater value that is uncertain to be carried out as signed, and clearly a lot of players agree. Will we ever see fully guaranteed contracts become the norm in the NFL?