NFL owners voiced dismay at the Cleveland Browns’ fully-guaranteed 5-year deal with Deshaun Watson.
And the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) president, JC Tretter, is ready to push their worst-case scenario.
On an NFLPA website post, the former Browns center calls for more fully guaranteed NFL contracts.
Did you know guaranteed contracts are not included in the CBA for any sport? But, we can make them the norm across the NFL. Here’s how, based on what we can learn from the other major sports leagues. https://t.co/LsWRNaDj0x
— JC Tretter (@JCTretter) April 12, 2022
Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association owners routinely hand out guaranteed contracts.
Tretter discusses how MLB and NBA agents pushed the matter after the first guarantees were handed out.
He laments how the NFL failed to follow up on Kirk Cousins’ guaranteed deal a few years ago.
Another fully guaranteed contract is exactly what NFL players need. Now somebody else needs to capitalize on it, which didn't happen after Kirk Cousins got one in 2018.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) March 18, 2022
But he calls on players, especially quarterbacks, to push for 100% guaranteed deals from here on out.
Tretter lauds his former employers, Dee and Jimmy Haslam, for doing what other owners are unwilling to do.
And he hopes agents, players, and the NFLPA can make the Watson contract a turning point.
Why The NFL Has Few Guaranteed Contracts
When teams guarantee part of a new deal, they almost always pay that part upfront or in the first years.
That is because the NFL Funding Rule requires teams to put future guaranteed salaries into an NFL escrow account.
Tretter calls the rule “archaic” as the situation it was created to address in the 1960s has changed.
Back then, the NFL found some teams struggled to pay their players on time.
— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) April 9, 2019
Putting future guarantees in the league office protected players from any owner’s financial woes.
The advent of TV money all but eliminated the need for such worries.
But bigger contracts still make it difficult for some owners to move money to escrow as easily as the Haslams.
And a full roster of guaranteed, long-term contracts could be impossible for some to secure upfront.
Why It Matter To Players
Paying all the guaranteed money in a new contract upfront or early on impacts a player’s security.
It essentially creates a club option in the final season or two of a player’s deal.
When the Browns decided Tretter and Jarvis Landry made too much money, they cut them with no repercussions.
Non-guaranteed seasons give teams the upper hand in reworking contracts to benefit them.
#Browns release Jarvis Landry.
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) March 14, 2022
Players know they can be released if they don’t agree to new, lower terms.
And in most cases, signing with another team means taking a pay cut as significant or worse.
Watson has no worries, guaranteed $46 million even if his arm falls off between then and now.
Guarantees are riskier for the teams, but present a more secure and predictable income for players.
Would Guaranteed Contracts Hurt The NFL?
Getting around the funding rule is as easy as changing any rule change for the NFL’s owners group.
But they will fight fully guaranteed deals, calling them detrimental to the league and players.
Owners will tell players the NFLPA is going to hurt them in the long run by pushing for these deals.
They will argue guarantees limit their ability to offer longer and more expensive contracts.
Each NFL team will receive about $300m every year until 2033 for just tv revenue.
Each team. Each year.
— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) March 19, 2021
But JC Tretter devotes a chunk of his post to the NBA and MLB for a reason.
That is: both leagues are thriving despite normalizing fully-guaranteed contracts of 3-5-or even 10 years.
Teams can get insurance, albeit expensive insurance, to offset any losses due to players’ injuries or release.
And future TV revenues and international expansion will pad their bank accounts enough to pay their players.