Staff Blog: NFL draft needs a rookie salary cap


Millions of NFL fans across the world watch and wait for it each year.

Fans of losing teams the season prior regain hope with expectations their favorite team will select a player who will bring a franchise to winning ways.

The NFL commissioner gets on the stage, announces the first overall pick and one young athlete, just months removed from college, becomes a multi-millionaire.

The NFL draft is a two-day celebration of football that has become nearly as big as Super Bowl Sunday, yet each year as a new NFL draft class earns their right to play professional football for a living, the salaries of these young men continues to increase.

The un-capped salary draft system is to the point now where players who have never played a snap in the NFL are getting paid millions more than veterans of the game for 10 years.

The NFL draft system has gotten out-of-hand, and the league needs to adopt a rookie salary cap – similar to the system used by the NBA.

In 2007 linebacker Adalius Thomas (two-time Pro Bowl selection) signed a 5-year, $35 million contract with the New England Patriots, making him the highest-paid free agent signee that offseason.

The same year, the first overall pick of the NFL draft, Louisiana State University quarterback JaMarcus Russell, signed a 6-year, $64 million contract – nearly double what Thomas earned.

And the eight overall pick of the same draft, Adrian Peterson, still signed a more lucrative contract than Thomas despite showing a history of being injury prone.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, has already expressed his desire to change the current rookie salary structure, and said to the Associated Press that a rookie salary cap would be a good thing, noting the issue would eventually be taken to the owners.

But the issue can’t wait and needs to be brought to light during the upcoming owners meeting in Palm Beach.

The entire concept of the current NFL draft system is to help improve losing teams by giving them first dibs on the best talent. But many presidents and owners, including Bill Polian of the Indianapolis Colts, believes the rising price of rookie salaries is actually placing bad teams in even worse positions, according to an Associated Press report.

And each year, we are seeing more and more bad teams dreading high picks, with general managers desperately searching for ways to trade down to avoid a costly contract on a hit-or-miss player.

The NFL Players Association has also expressed interest in rookie salary cap with many proven veterans upset with not being able to match the salaries of first round picks.

The NFL needs to look no further than the NBA for a solution.

The NBA rookie salary system is based off of draft position, and rookies earn a set salary as determined by the league for each draft slot.

The first overall pick receives more than the second pick, the second more than the third, and so on. Each contract is for two years, with an option for the third and fourth seasons. To compensate for inflation and keep salaries slightly increasing, built-in raises are added every year, according to the official NBA Web site.

This system would work perfect for the NFL with a few minor touch-ups.

The NFL contracts would have to be adjusted since the NFL has a different draft structure (The NBA uses a lottery system), the average NFL career is shorter and the average salary is lower in the NFL, according to a USA Today report.

But these are just minor kinks that could easy be worked out at the next owners meeting.

So next March or April, the 32 owners in the NFL need to take a break from their Swedish massages and $50-a-glass martinis at the five-star Palm Beach resort to get some work done, and fix a NFL draft system that is clearly not working.