During 2011 NFL CBA negotiations, the NFLPA agreed to implement a rookie wage scale as a means of transferring wealth (at least 47% of all revenue) from unproven prospects to deserving veterans. To prevent training-camp holdouts (then an annual right of summer for 1st round selections), rookie contracts were simplified and deal terms and compensation became largely fixed (note: guaranteed money is negotiable). Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman trophy winner and a projected 1st round pick, has decided that with little room for negotiation in his rookie contract, he’ll forego signing with an agent prior to the April 26th (runs through 28th) draft; hiring just a contract attorney to review the deal’s language. Should Jackson be selected in the 1st round, as expected, he’ll save a minimum of $267,000 in agent fees (standard is 3%); a figure that could push $400,000, if he’s selected by Arizona at #15 (see Fan Marino below).
Howie Long-Short: Wondering why the league’s veterans pushed for a rookie wage scale? In 2010 (the year prior to CBA change) Sam Bradford received $50 million guaranteed as the top overall selection in the draft, becoming the 1st player in league history to reach that mark, before taking his first professional snap. In 2011, Cam Newton signed a fully guaranteed deal worth $22 million as the number one selection. It’s logical that in a league where the average career is just 3.3 years, the biggest deals are awarded to those that have proven their worth. Top 10 picks aren’t guaranteed to be stars. Of the top 10 players picked in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts (30 total players), 13 (43%) didn’t have their 5th year options picked up.
Fan Marino: NFL draft “experts” talk ad nauseum about Wonderlic scores (Jackson’s was reportedly the lowest among the Top 5 QBs) and off-field transgressions (see: Mayfield), but this is a decision JWS considers worthy of a 1st round grade. First round QBs don’t need to be “sold” to teams and the money/years is all but set. At a minimum, top-end rookie talent should be capping agent fees at 1%. As for where Jackson can expect to land, Arizona (15), Buffalo (12, 22) and Jacksonville (29) should be considered the most likely destinations.
Fun Fact: While certainly rare, Jackson won’t be the first 1st round selection to negotiate his own rookie deal; Matt Elam (’13 draft) and Erick Flowers (’15 draft) saved themselves $203,000 and $432,000, respectively, by bucking the norm.
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