July 17, 2007

Is It Okay to Hold Out?

It pisses all of us off. Some chump holds out because he doesn't feel like he is getting paid what he deserves, even though he negotiated his salary. Most of us fans are "at-will" employees, meaning we don't sign multiyear contracts.

All of us with real jobs know that there are people around us who make more money than we do but have less talent. That's part of the motivation of the American Dream, and that's a big part of our entrepreneurial spirit. If the Boss Man spends six months in St. Kitts with little or no discernible talent, surely we could achieve the same.

Those rules don't apply to the NFL, though. Let's say, hypothetically, that you, as a college player, were the backup to an NCAA career yardage record-shattering RB. Draft time comes around and no one bites. Some crappy quasi-expansion team picks you up, and you end up garnering 1000 yards rushing, plus a good 300 receiving yards, while operating under your UFA NFL-minimum-with-no-signing-bonus contract. Seems far-fetched, but Priest Holmes found himself in such a situation. Luckily, his rookie deal expired when Billick/Modell/Ray-Ray lifted the Lombardi. That, in my opinion, is a perfectly acceptable time to hold out. There are plenty of rookies (Marques Colston) who suddenly find themselves more valuable than the adhesionary contract they signed as low-drafted rookies.

blahblahgigblahblahblahblah I deserve a contract this fuckin' big!

What about a guy who is drafted to start, does start, and does well? Take Asante Samuel for example (drafted 2002 out of Central Florida, started 14.75 games/year since then). Asante plays marginally well off the bat, and then develops into a top-10 cornerback. Now he's a free agent, thank God, and can cash in on his status as a one of the best. Lo and behold, the Pats hit him with the franchise tag, guaranteeing him the average salary of the top 5 corners in the league.

Yeah, the salary cap and franchise tag are negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The NFLPA has Asante's best interests in mind. That's true, except that the NFLPA has the best interests of 32*53=1696 players in mind. Divide that by 24 (11 against 11 plus kicker and punter), and there are 71 players in the league at every position. Divide 1696 by 300,000,000 and then by 71, and only 1 in 25,000 people are good enough (or want to, I'm oversimplifying) to play any given position in the NFL. The CBA takes the 71, on average, people who are physically capable of playing a specific position and says that you, no matter how talented, are as good as the average of the top 5 paid players at your position, IF YOUR TEAM DETERMINES THAT TO BE THE CASE.

I don't have to be an NFLPA attorney to know that the CBA's franchise tag is a real bitch for players. Do the math. If the player would get more than the average salary of the top-five players at his given position, you franchise him. If he's worth less, you play free market economics with him and negotiate. How does this feature benefit the players exactly? They either get what they deserve or they get less than they deserve.

And don't feed me the line about the collective bargaining agreement being actually collectively bargained. The NFLPA is as representative a democracy as our Congress. Some 12th year punter goes to meetings, but Upshaw makes all the calls.

I just can't get mad at a guy for holding out these days, except for rookies who refuse to take their "slot" based on their draft position. Perhaps I'm not Libertarian enough when it comes to NFL player market dynamics.

4 Responses:

J-Red said...

Oh, and Asante is younger than Jeremy and me. I'm going to cry in my Corn Flakes now.

"ben" said...

Even though he got franchised, they can still pay him more than the average of the top 5 corners without worrying about being outbid by other teams. I hope the Pats learned last year, a la Deion Branch, that they do actually need to pay some players. Too bad they loaded up on a bunch of WRs to overcompensate for their Branch mistake. Maybe now they can't even afford Asante.

J-Red said...

I can't find a figure on the current Pats cap room, but after the Adalius Thomas signing, and rookies that have to be signed, they might not have that much left.

And yes, the Pats are free to pay him more than the average of the top five CBs, but Asante has not been able to test the market. He can't determine if the Pats really are offering him his market value.

Benjamin said...

I'm not so sure that they don't. I remember, although I can't find it, that the Pats had top two or three level cap room. Although they've gone on a hiring spree, none of the guys they signed was all that big a cap hit, save Thomas.
I suspect that they're reticent to sign Samuel because he's just not a lockdown corner. He's very good, but he's not great, and finding a guy who's 95% of him isn't only easy, but also cheap. This looks alot more like letting Viniateri walk, than it does like Branch leaving, to me.

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