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[author image=”https://www.the3pointconversion.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/img_0078-2-e1454984405444.jpg” ]Ben Wilson, Galt, CA @ourtradingcards [/author]
Imagine walking into work tomorrow. You enter your place of work, as you have every other day before it. You say hi to a co-worker or two, drop your things off at your desk and make a bee line for the coffee maker. Just as you begin to take your first sip, a co-worker pokes their head in to the break room and says that your boss wants to see you in his office before you start your day. Confused as to what it could be, you begin to make your way down the hallway in the general direction of his office. As you pass by cubicle after cubicle, the stares or your colleagues leave you even more befuddled. Still without a clue as to what this could all be about, you knock on your boss’s door and enter once given permission.
“Please sit down”, your boss asks, offering his hand as a guide to the nearest chair.
You oblige with a little apprehension as you do so.
“Listen old buddy, you’ve spent the last 6 years here at our company. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with your work and most of the time you’ve exceeded our expectations of you. You’re constantly at the top of your division in results, often meeting and exceeding deadline times with ease. You don’t call in sick and you always have a positive attitude. So, that is why it pains me to have to tell you, that we’re letting you go.”
Sitting there dumbfounded, your gaze meets the trees out the window just over your boss’s shoulder rustling in the wind. How could this have happened?!?
“Why are you letting me go? I did everything asked of me and then some!”
“Look, we love your work ethic, your contributions to our customers and the community, but the numbers just don’t add up anymore.”
“The numbers?! What numbers?” You ask in complete disbelief.
“The numbers. We need to get younger. Cheaper. We need to make cutbacks to get under the umbrella of our payroll ceiling. It’s not your fault. It really isn’t. However, the Board of Directors expects our allocated payroll not to be exceeded and due to a few financial decisions on personnel and to no fault of your own, you are being let go to correct those mistakes.”
I’m being let go?! Because of their mistakes.
“If it’s any constellation”, your now former boss continues, “You may keep your uniforms and other memorabilia that the company have provided you with during your time here. Thank you for all of your hard work and remember that we will be more than happy to give you a glowing review and endorsement to your next employer.”
He offers his hand as a way of saying ‘no hard feelings’, but you don’t accept it. You want to give him a real piece of your mind, but you know that won’t get you anywhere. Besides, you need to update your resume now and find a new employer. You know that won’t take long, considering how well you’ve performed, but you may need to take a pay cut, an incentive laden deal and most likely move, in order to get the job you are after.
Welcome to the life of a NFL player. Your previous contributions were appreciated, but if your former team can get 70% of your production at 20% of the cost, then you’re as expendable as any, regardless of the name on the back of your jersey. The league has now morphed from a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-league” to a “how-can-we-free-up-the-most-cap-space” league. Are you kidding me? I saw someone suggest that the Arizona Cardinals should cut Pro Bowl QB, Carson Palmer, in the name of saving 14 million dollars in cap space and then make a run at signing Brock Osweiler to replace him at a much lesser cost. Who else is a better option than Palmer? Robert Griffin? Johnny, or is it Billy, Manziel? Nick Foles? Sam Bradford? C’mon.
So this is what the 2016 version of the NFL looks like?! I understand that professional sports as a whole is much more about rooting for the ‘laundry’ than it is the player adoring it. However, at some point, doesn’t harvesting and preserving talent outweigh the bottom line? Doesn’t building a player’s value and benefiting from their best year(s) far outweigh the alternative options? Of course it does. However, as I illustrated in the above-mentioned scenario, sometimes it’s not the players fault, but that of the owner, GM and other decision makers in the front office.
I am sure we could make a laundry list of productive players in the NFL, who have been released over the past ten years, who were still at the pinnacles of their respective careers, but just happened to carry a cap number far too high for their employing team(s). When was the last time this happened in MLB or the NBA? The answer is never. Sure, there are salary dumps or trades that help to facilitate rebuilding processes in each of those leagues. Heck, I am a fan of the Oakland A’s, home of the star player being traded for “18 combined years of controllable assets!” I wonder if 18 combined years of controllable assets is available in both road and home jerseys?!
I am sure most of you will agree with me that this is a prime example of business at its worst. An individual does everything asked of them, thus earning a pay raise, the very money that they are about to receive, just to receive a pink slip and a security escort on their way out the back door. How does the NFL continue to be the leading sport in all of the world? If a NBA or MLB team chooses to do the same thing that the NFL does with its players, then they will pay the player, in full, unless a buyout can be agreed upon, with the union’s approval of course.
As a fan of the NFL, I’m getting tired of seeing players hit the free agency market, not because they have earned that right due to service time, or due to a poor previous season (leading to their release), but based solely on a numeric salary figure. If Bryce Harper opts to leave the nation’s capital in a few years, it will be because he is pursuing a winning team, chasing a bigger paycheck than the Washington Nationals are offering, or heading to his childhood favorite team, the New York Yankees. What it won’t be, is a result of the Nationals having released him to save cap space.
So how do we fix this? Eliminate the hard salary cap and go all out free style like MLB? I don’t think so. Guaranteed contracts, like MLB and NBA?! Now we are getting somewhere. Personally, I think we need to do more to protect the salaries of the players, than just instruct them to ask for more in “up front” money. I believe the NFL teams should suffer a worse penalty than just fictitious “dead salary cap space.” Signing a contract is a legally binding agreement. It shouldn’t be allowed to be altered, unless agreed upon by all parties involved.
Here’s my solution. If you enter into a contract, as a NFL team, with a player, then you are financially obligated to pay the entire amount agreed upon. If you decide that you can no longer afford to do so, based on financial burdens or otherwise, then you may release the player, but you must pay them a percentage of all money owed, with interest, for a certain amount of time. Also, in doing so, you will be forced to surrender your lowest pick in the next years upcoming amateur draft. If you cut 7 players and have only 7 draft picks available, then be prepared to hit the links come April because you won’t be invited to New York or Chicago for the annual draft. Well, I suppose you can always buy a ticket and sit with the fans if you really wanted to.
Too harsh? Maybe so. However, the NFL collects tons of money at the expense of the players and, yes, most of them are compensated handsomely for their efforts, but let’s be honest when we say that the benefits are far more in favor of the league than the players who adorn their logo, week in, week out. In MLB, teams must sacrifice their draft picks when they sign certain free agents. If MLB teams must surrender draft picks to sign players, why aren’t NFL teams punished for releasing players.
We know none of this will ever come to fruition, so let’s just enjoy the offseason as it slowly approaches. I wonder which players will become the latest victims of the NFL salary cap crunch. No doubt the list will be long… And surprising!