Will NFL con­tracts ever fully guar­an­tee? Play­ers can hope

The Garden Island - - Morning Briefing - Dave Camp­bell

Adrian Peter­son had an $18 mil­lion salary “sched­uled” for 2017 on his last con­tract with Min­nesota, but the fran­chise’s all-time lead­ing rusher was never re­al­is­ti­cally go­ing to get that money from the Vik­ings given his age and po­si­tion.

Rus­sell Okung had the po­ten­tial for $48 mil­lion and four more sea­sons on his self-ne­go­ti­ated deal with the Den­ver Bron­cos, but the 29-yearold left tackle never saw it. He be­came a free agent and signed with the San Diego Charg­ers.

Re­mem­ber that $78 mil­lion con­tract Dono­van McNabb got from the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins in 2010, dur­ing the twi­light stage of his ca­reer? About $70 mil­lion evap­o­rated into that NFL nether­world of nonguar­an­teed money, after the six-time Pro Bowl pick was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously re­leased by the Vik­ings the fol­low­ing sea­son.

Such is the fi­nan­cial re­al­ity for play­ers in this $14 bil­lion en­ter­prise, with a steadily ris­ing salary cap that’s at $167 mil­lion this year. The max­i­mum value of most NFL con­tracts sim­ply won’t be paid out, un­like for their peers in pro­fes­sional base­ball, bas­ket­ball and hockey.

Ac­cord­ing to NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion cal­cu­la­tions, sign­ing bonuses and other guar­an­teed com­pen­sa­tion ac- counted for a lit­tle more than 60 per­cent of all pay­ments to play­ers last year.

“When you think about what we do for our or­ga­ni­za­tions, the in­juries and the pound­ing that we take, you would think that there would be more ap­pre­ci­a­tion for your play­ers,” Peter­son said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press last week after prac­tice with the New Or­leans Saints. “It’s just so un­for­tu­nate when you think about the phys­i­cal­ity and the toll that foot­ball takes on your body.”

NFL play­ers are usu­ally most riled up about this in early July, when they’re in va­ca­tion mode and NBA free agency be­gins with big-money deals for rel­a­tively un­known re­serves. Just glance at some of their Twit­ter ac­counts, and the bit­ter­ness is ob­vi­ous. Even the Real Housewives of At­lanta once spot­lighted the topic, with exes and sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers of both NBA and NFL play­ers rep­re­sented in the cast re­veal­ing sta­tus-driven ten­sion over the guar­an­teed con­tracts that ex­ist in bas­ket­ball but not foot­ball.

“We def­i­nitely get jeal­ous with that,” Bron­cos cor­ner­back Chris Har­ris Jr. said. “In the NBA, a lot of bench play­ers are get­ting like star money” in the NFL.

Play­ers aren’t the only ones af­fected. Agents can face bud­get­ing chal­lenges, too.

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