Billy Price

Extra Points: Contracts, Kaepernick, Manziel

The peak of the NBA’s free agent season and the eye-popping contracts it generated had more of an impact than usual on the NFL this year, thanks in large part to Richard Sherman‘s recent comments that, if NFL players are to begin receiving the same share of their league’s revenue as NBA players receive — and/or see more guaranteed money in their deals — they are going to need to be prepared to go on strike. The NFL Players Association has publicly sided with Sherman (via Twitter), but scribes like Ben Volin of the Boston Globe are not so sure.

Volin says the problem with NFL players going on strike is that their career span is much shorter than their NBA and MLB counterparts, and half of the players who are currently in the league will not be when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in the spring of 2021. That reality means that NFL players will justifiably want to maximize their earnings before their careers are over and do not really care what happens to their successors.

Likewise, Volin does not believe the focus should be on more guaranteed money, though other writers like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believe teams should consider offering fully guaranteed contracts immediately. Volin believes that, if contracts become guaranteed, owners would simply adjust by giving players shorter deals and less money up front. Instead, Volin says the solution to NFL players’ “problem” is twofold. He says the union should 1) work to remove the franchise tag, which prevents players from realizing their true value and can keep them under their original club’s control through their prime seasons; and 2) fix the rookie contract system, which has eliminated the NFL’s “middle class” by allowing teams to replace serviceable veterans with much cheaper rookies. Indeed, the league has been trending younger and younger, and fewer players are getting a second contract.

This is a discussion that will only pick up steam the closer we get to 2021, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at a few more links from around the league:

  • It was not that long ago that running backs were viewed as dime-a-dozen assets in a pass-heavy league, but players like Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson have helped to change that perception. Johnson himself has noticed as much, and he believes Bell’s next contract — the Steelers star will likely play out 2017 on his franchise tender, but another strong season could make for an interesting free agency case in 2018 — will have a ripple effect on the league’s top rushers. Johnson said, “We’re making the running back position more relevant, much more important. I feel like you need a running back to have a successful team. Hopefully starting with [Bell] getting the contract he deserves, hopefully that can jump start the running backs being more important in this league” (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News).
  • Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes that two of the world’s most notable unemployed men, Johnny Manziel and Colin Kaepernick, are represented by the same firm, Select Sports Group (though they are represented by different agents within the firm). Florio says that fact could create a conflict of interest, as both players are vying for the same quarterback jobs. Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal disagrees, as she points out that it is common for NFL agents to specialize in representing players at a certain position (Twitter link). Florio also says that, if Manziel gets an NFL job before Kaepernick — we learned yesterday Manziel has had conversations with several clubs, though it is unclear if they were serious conversations — it will intensify the claims that Kaepernick is being blackballed by the league. That proposition, too, seems suspect, as Kaepernick has not displayed much interest in continuing his football career, his visit to the Seahawks notwithstanding.
  • Lance Zierlien of NFL.com takes a look at 10 collegiate offensive linemen who could make a splash in the NFL in 2018. His list includes Ohio State’s Billy Price, who, like Vikings rookie and Ohio State product Pat Elflein, will switch from guard to center this year.