Fans Must Realize That The NFL Uses The Illusion Of Grandeur When It Comes To Big Contracts

By Gregory Moore
Updated: August 1, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — Reggie Bush finally signed his six-year contract with the New Orleans Saints and only missed one day of practice. It was a deal that got done not because the New Orleans Saints’ Mickey Loomis wanted his first round pick in camp by the beginning of this week but because Floyd Reese and Charlie Casserley forced the issue on Bush and his negotiating team.

In other words with the talk of a major hold out and wanting to be paid as the top pick, the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans signed their top picks to contracts that set the standard on what Bush could receive. Just what was that standard of ‘monopoly’ money? $26.3 million in guaranteed money over the life span of a six-year contract.

That’s a lot of money for someone who has never played a single down in the NFL but so is the $26.5 million that Texans’ Mario Williams is getting and so is the $25.7 million that Vince Young is getting.

But when the term of monopoly money is used, what many fans don’t realize is that these players may never see the full contract value of their deals. It looks good on paper but it’s nothing more than a mere fantasy to think that these players will get this kind of money by the time 2012 rolls around.

To understand the term of monopoly money, you have to understand how NFL players get paid. The contracts that these players get are not guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination.

What’s guaranteed is the signing bonus money that they get and maybe the first two years of their salaries. If you look at the deals of the top three picks more closely, you will see that these deals are structured in a fashion to where the signing bonus is stretched out over the life of the deal and is paid more towards the front of the lifespan and not the rear.

To understand this a little better, let’s use Bush’s deal as the example. Bush signed a six-year, $62 million deal over the weekend and he gets $26.3 million of that in guaranteed payout.

It is probably very safe to assume that the Saints have structured the deal to where they will pay Bush his signing bonus in three installments of $12.1 million for the next three years. His salary could possibly be another $3 million per season.

So in essence Bush could be receiving $45.3 million of his $62 million deal by 2009. So where is the $16.7 million of Bush’s deal? It’s buried in performance incentives, roster bonuses and salary on the back end of his deal. That means that for him to even sniff a portion of the $16.7 million, he will need to make the roster of the Saints in the 2010 season.

That’s four years away and anything could happen in four years when it comes to the NFL.

The monopoly money that these draft picks get is unreal because many veterans deserve getting this type of pay. The way the NFL has structured itself, it has shown itself to others to be very much a financial nightmare to even the most savvy of Wall Street CPAs.

And to make matters worse, the mere act of having the public perceive that these young men are going to be financially secure is just irresponsible.

So before you start thinking that guys like Bush, Vince Young and the other draft picks of years gone by have made it to the big time, realize that these contracts are only worth the paper they were written on at the time.

By being able to hide a bonus here and delay a bonus there, NFL owners are basically borrowing against a salary system that is designed to fail in paying players in latter years.

Mark these words if you must but nobody who was a top pick this year will see their full contract value in five years. If they do, it’s because the contract is a three-year deal and the bonuses are miniscule in comparison to what Bush, Williams and Young got this summer.

ANOTHER VOTE FOR BUCK Buck O’Neil deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. To watch former Negro Leaguer Buck O’Neil give another speech about a player from the Negro Leagues is getting tiring.

The baseball writers who vote for Hall of Fame members should be embarrassed in not putting this former Kansas City Monarchs player in with Satchel Page and others.

O’Neil is 94 years old. It would be nice if these writers did something right and put him while he is alive to give his own speech.