On Mountains and Molehills

Our ol’ buddy Bob Kravitz shows up today with a nice easy layup.  He tries to go after the rookie salary structure.  Journalistically, its the equivalent of writing a movie script where the bad guys are Nazis.  Everyone knows it’s broken.  Everyone knows the players at the top of the draft are paid in a way that is utterly out of whack with good sense.  Surely, there’s nothing that can go wrong with this piece, right?

Wrong.

Bob says:

But here’s the problem: The ones getting hurt are the lower-round
draft choices and the veterans who become salary cap casualties later
on in their careers. If a good portion of your dollars are going to
Stafford, that means less at the back end for a solid, productive
veteran on your team (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the
Lions actually have one of those).

If there was a rookie salary
scale, would Hunter Smith still be here? How about Dominic Rhodes?
Marvin Harrison at a lower price? Would the retention of Jeff Saturday
have come down to the final minutes if rookies were being paid a more
reasonable amount?

Whoa. Slow down there Bobby!

Dom Rhodes and Marvin Harrison are gone because there’s no rookie wage scale? 

Here’s the truth about the Colts’ salary cap structure.  There are currently three first round picks that are still on their first contract for the Colts:
Joseph Addai
Anthony Gonzalez
Marlin Jackson

Those three players account for a total of less than $5.8 million against the cap this year.  None of them are among the 10 highest paid Colts this year.  Indy didn’t even have a first round pick last year.  Dom, Hunter, and 88 aren’t with the Colts because they are aging veterans who can be replaced with younger cheaper players.  This has been the way of the NFL for years, going back far beyond the ‘silly’ deal signed by that evil Marlin Jackson.

There is a problem in the NFL, but it’s largely with the first 5-10 picks in the draft.  Anyone drafting near the bottom of the first round is actually getting good value for their money.  Bob goes on to say:

A rookie salary scale also won’t come without a price paid by the
teams: If the players are going to agree to a rookie scale, they’re
also going to want to get the clock ticking on free agency much sooner.
This won’t happen without a major fight.

Now we have a real problem.  Moving free agency up would SKY ROCKET costs for teams.  Imagine if the Colts had to make a decision on Addai or Gonzo right now.  Adding a rookie wage scale that accelerates free agency would lead to exactly the kind of problems that Kravitz wants to avoid.  True, it would be a more equitable system in the sense that veterans would get cut to accommodate players who at least had performed on the field for a couple years, instead of never, but it would kill player development.  Teams wouldn’t be able to take a chance on a player for the future, because he would be gone in just a few years.

The best solution is to close up the long term loopholes in the rookie slotting system.  Currently there is a ‘pool’ of rookie money that teams can’t exceed.  It is easily circumnavigated, however, by creative agents who cash in with big signing bonuses that are spread out over the life of the deal. 

We all agree, it’s bad for Matt Stafford to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  Blaming rookies for the Colts cutting Marvin and not resigning Rhodes, however, is a little like blaming the Nazis for the Civil War.

Links:
FO looks at all the draft graders.  Really a nice piece.

Here’s a draft grader who gets it.

Trev Alberts, one of the least likable Colts ever, is going to be the AD at Nebraska?  Alberts was the player that prompted Bill Tobin to go ape on Mel Kiper Jr.  Everyone loves the quote, but in the end Mel was right.  Sure, it wasn’t a mistake to pass on Trent Dilfer in favor of Harbaugh, but the pick of Alberts was a train wreck.  He was never healthy even before the draft, and he knew it, saying later that he couldn’t believe the Colts wasted a pick on him.  Classy, Trev.

Oehser nails the Addai controversy.  Right on, man.

Banks names Brown an impact rookie for 2009

It’s official, Freddy is back.

Peyton and Tiger play golf.  Thanks to everyone who sent this in.

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