In the last few days the latest rumblings against the new CBA are coming from the lack of extensions being given to the 2011 draft class. I am all for speaking up against aspects of the new CBA agreement but again this is just barking up the wrong tree.
As things stand with the 2011 NFL draft class we had 21 fifth year options picked up, 8 options declined, 2 players released, 1 salary reduction, and 0 contract extensions. That sounds bleak doesn’t it? But what happened to the 2010 draft class at a similar time? Remember everyone had a five or six year contract to start with so with that group we had 29 fifth year options picked up, 2 players released, and 1 contract extension. Sounds pretty similar to the 2011 draft class doesn’t it?
Fast forward to the spring of 2014 as these players enter their fifth season in the NFL. We have a number of Pro Bowl talents like Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry, Jason Pierre-Paul, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant. How many extensions are we up to now? Two. That’s it. Two. The two players are Anthony Davis, who was extended in 2013, and Earl Thomas who was just extended last week.
As we move into next offseason the new option system will allow a minimum of 11 players to navigate free agency prior to the start of their fifth season. In the old CBA there were just two- Rolando McClain and Tim Tebow. The other 29 players (Jahvid Best retired) will need to play out their contracts.
As I have already discussed the 2011 draft class will have significantly more leverage than the 2010 one when it comes to fifth year extensions. The table outlines the salary/roster status of the 2010/11 draft classes entering the 5th year:
In terms of getting new contracts this is a win in the new system. If you are a competent player, but not a star you will get a chance in the new system to hit free agency a year early, which is a big win for many players. For example a player like Mark Ingram under the old system would earn around $1.7 million in his fifth season. The Saints would have kept him at that price. Because the option value in the new system was over $5 million he’ll get to enter free agency in year 5 where odds are his fifth year payout will end up being around $3-$3.5 million.
For teams hindered by the salary cap the new payscale system is giving more leverage to all but the top six picks in the draft and you can make a strong case that many of those top 6 picks are a push. The actual cash salaries are higher for all but two of the six (Suh and McCoy will both earn more than Miller and Dareus) which can help drive stronger deals for the players.
Because these options are current agents can clearly point to those values as numbers that teams think are reasonable salaries for the player. This is very different than agreeing on a salary five years in the past. It would be far easier for Rams GM Les Snead to approach Sam Bradford about a paycut or lower cost extension from his $14 million salary since he did nothing to earn it. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman won’t have as easy a time with Cam Newton, since he pretty much just agreed to a one year deal worth $14.6 million.
In addition those option year salaries become guaranteed on day 1 of the 2015 League Year, meaning Gettleman would need to release Newton if a deal cant be reached and he felt that he was overpaying on the salary. Bradford can twist in the wind until the draft or the summer before the Rams even approach him about a change.
Looking at the draft class three years in as a knock on the CBA because no extensions happened with an original team is just not fair. The new CBA clearly is going to produce more free agents after 4 years than the old CBA. That’s a fact. The extensions will likely start rolling in next February and if they do it will outpace extensions in the old CBA by a pretty large margin.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.