NFL’s wealth may be its downfall
Wednesday’s opening of the National Football League’s free-agency feeding frenzy is upon us.
Teams are tampering – legally, of course – and opening up the checkbooks in preparation for the inevitable, “senseless,” multi-million-dollar blockbuster contracts for upper-middle-class talent.
These are deals that will make the New York Giants’ 2018 signing of Nate Solder at four years, $62 million (with $34.8 million guaranteed) appear frugal.
Chump change, right?
Unfortunately for fans of the game, yes.
NFL free agency and the money up for grabs, with the salary cap at an astronomical $188 million per team, have gone bananas, to the point that it actually threatens the game as we know it.
Look, before we go any further, it’s nobody’s fault. This is no knock on the players. I say get what you can, baby. You guys are laying your bodies on the line day in and day out. Cash in.
And it’s not on the owners. They are merely milking profits from a cash cow that has exponentially exploded at Amazon speeds.
Ponder the fact that in 2001, when Tom Brady led the Pats to title No. 1, the cap was $67.4 million.
At that point, Drew Bledsoe was smack-dab in the heart of his 10-year, $103 million deal that was deemed absurd at the time. Ten million a year? These days, that’s offensive guard money.
Again, good for the players. You deserve it. And I’d much rather see you guys break the bank than these privileged owners.
Michael Bennett tells the NFL Network that there’s no way he’s taking a pay cut from his $7.2 million a year, that in fact he deserves a raise?
With 30 QB pressures last year, he should get a mega-bump in this era. Right now, he’s making kicker cash.
But honestly, and you wonder if anyone in the game actually has the foresight for it, NFL players, owners and even fans should fear the current financial state of the game.
How much prosperity is too much, too soon? And when will this megabucks windfall barrage impact the product on the field?
The answer is, it already has.
How many guys are cashing in for generational-altering chunks?
I always think about that scene in “A Bronx Tale” when Sonny talks to “C” about how he treats his people. He gives them a lot, but not too much, just so they stay hungry and loyal.
I ask you this morning. Is Solder or Odell Beckham Jr. or any number of these guys who’ve hit the jackpot as hungry today as they were three years ago?
And does that translate on the field?
Football is all about sacrifice. With $40 million or so in the bank, is Beckham dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s this offseason to make sure he’s at the pinnacle of his performance?
A trip to the islands sounds a lot more enticing than a day in the weight room in Jersey.
Now, I hear you. Baseball salaries make football players look like paupers. When JD Martinez signed for $75 million guaranteed, he helped launch a Red Sox title run.
Baseball is baseball, though. Martinez “work” day at the ballpark consist of some weight training, some film work, a couple hours in the sun and a postgame buffet.
You think he has trouble rolling out of bed?
Fears of CTE?
Full-contact collisions in the heat of August to loathe?
Same with the NBA. LeBron James is worth more than most third-world nations.
He comes to play, though, when he has to because it’s basketball. It’s fun. He’d be playing pickup with his buddies anyways. Why not pick up a $100 million a year or so to do it?
When is the last time you played pickup in the driveway or at the club?
And when is the last time you strapped on a helmet and shoulder pads, running into a series of violent, full-speed, head-on collisions, just for the fun of it?
Football is different, and complacency could seriously damage the game.
Cashing in, more and more, is followed by guys packing it in.
This is a tough concept for New England Patriots followers to follow. Tom Brady, another guy well on his way to billionaire-ism, is the outlier of all outliers.
His will to be the greatest of all time is unmatched, maybe in the history of sport. And he loves every minute of it.
But TB12 is the ultimate exception to the rule.
I don’t have a solution or an answer. The last thing I want to see is player salaries cut.
Nope, they deserve this, if not more.
But football has a problem. And with every eight-figure guarantee, the potential for it to worsen grows.