Please, can’t you find it in your heart to help an NFL player? Somebody start a Go-Fund-Me account or take door-to-door collections in the neighborhood. For just a few dollars a month, maybe you could sponsor, say, a defensive back. I’m in for 10 bucks; how about you?
NFL players are griping about their salaries. That’s because they’ve been watching a parade of NBA players push wheelbarrows of cash into their mansions this summer. Suddenly, pro football players are feeling very underpaid.
Some 14 NFL players are members of the $20 million salary club, compared to 30 NBA players. So far this summer six NBA free agents have signed contracts worth more than $100 million, and 14 others have signed deals worth more than $45 million. These are guaranteed contracts. All they have to do is show up.
Derek Carr recently became the NFL’s highest paid player, at $25 million per season. Ten NBA players make more than Carr.
Gordon Hayward, at $32 mil a year, makes more money than Tom Brady. For that matter, 30 NBA players will exceed Brady’s salary next season, including Carmelo Anthony, who is to winning basketball games what Angelina Jolie is to box-office hits.
There’s never been a better time to be a pro basketball player, and NFL players are Packer-green with envy. James Harden was awarded a contract extension worth $170 million — $42.5M per year — and that’s not counting the remaining years on his current $58M contract, bringing the total to $228M. That makes him the highest paid player ever.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry has a five-year deal for $201M, or $40.2M per year. Blake Griffin — Blake Griffin? — signed a deal for $170M. Jrue Holiday was given a $153 million contract.
Some things just don’t make any sense at all — well, actually most of it. The Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., in 2013, traded him two years later for the draft rights to Jerian Grant — who has averaged 5.7 points per game since then — and then recently signed him as a free agent for $71 million. This is progress? Hardaway averages 14 points per game.
Meanwhile, the NFL’s Aaron Rodgers has to get by on a five-year deal for $110M, and Brady has to make do with a two-year deal worth $41M.
After watching all of the above, NFL players ran to their Twitter accounts:
T.J. Ward: “We getting peanuts compared to these NBA and MLB cats! Whoa.”
Terrance Knighton: “Time to get back to that negotiation table. And this time we need to stay strong and not budge. Make ‘em pay!!!”
Knighton: “Aaron Rodgers should be making more money (than) James Harden. Tom Brady should be making more money than Curry.”
Emmanuel Sanders: “Looks like I chose the wrong sport.”
Yes, he did. He chose a sport that leaves players broken and brain damaged, offers a short career, has more players with whom to share the money, and pays the least of all the major sports leagues.
Average salaries: NBA, $5.15 million; Major League Baseball, $3.2M; National Hockey League, $2.4M; NFL, $1.9M.
Well, who cares, right? NFL players grumbling about NBA paydays is like watching Bill Gates and Warren Buffett fighting over a $100 bill. They want sympathy? Take it next door.
Many years ago I was talking to Adam Keefe, then with the Utah Jazz. Keefe is a smart guy, someone who read books without pictures instead of playing video games on the team charter. He graduated from Stanford with a political science degree. Asked about passing up more money to remain with the Jazz, he said (and I paraphrase), “What does it matter? All that money is more than you can spend anyway.”
So Harden can buy 20 luxury cars while Adrian Peterson can buy only 10 of them. Hayward can vacay in The Maldives while Jordy Nelson will have to settle for Monaco.
But maybe you’re curious. Why do NFL salaries rank last among the major sports? That seems strange for the country’s most popular and lucrative league.
Both sets of players receive about half of league revenues before expenses, but the NFL has to pay a lot more players. There are 12 players on the NBA active roster, 53 in the NFL. There are 2,000 NFL players and only 500 NBA players. This is a popular explanation for the pay discrepancy, but that argument is undermined by this fact: The NFL generates three times the revenue of the NBA — $13 billion to $4.4 billion.
Also, the NFL’s average salary figures are misleading. Business Insider reported that 70 percent of NFL players are between the ages of 22 and 27. Players in that group earn less than the NFL average overall. As BI reports, most NFL players don't make it to the age range (28 to 35) when they can start making big money because the average NFL career is about 3.3 years (according to the players union).
NBA and MLB salaries are not only higher than the NFL’s, but they’re guaranteed, unlike NFL contracts, which is why NFL players — with their back-loaded contracts — tend to get cut near the end of their contract in a cost-cutting move.
Now the NBA has stirred up NFL players, and you can bet NFL owners are nervous about it. Earlier this week, Richard Sherman uttered the S-word every owner dreads. “If we want to get anything done,” said Sherman, “players have to be willing to strike.”