Johnny Unitas in San Diego ... Joe Montana in Kansas City ... Broadway Joe in San Francisco ... Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta ... Cris Carter in Miami ... Bret Favre in Minnesota ... Alan Page in Chicago ... Jerry Rice in Oakland. It goes on and on and on. The NFL should be ashamed of itself as the NFL has been treating the elite of this league like yesterdays trash.
Regardless of how you feel about these men, each of them have literally given the prime of their lives ... as an NFL's elite player. Their reward is to be shoved-out of town ... more like booted out of town ... on the proverbial "NFL RAIL". Too often, everything pivots on the statement ... "THIS IS A BUSINESS" ... which in most cases ... that statement should apply ... but not to the NFL elite. They have earned the courtesy of a separate system, that should put them beyond "The Business" of the NFL SALARY CAP.
To add insult to injury, these elite tenured cast-offs, in many cases, are made to learn brand new systems ... having to learn that system with a brand new group of meat heads that either may or may not have their back. Keep in mind that these elite tenured players are most likely on the higher end of the salary scale. The sole objective, of newer or younger players coming into the league, is that they are eager to take as big a chunk out of the existing cap .... yesterday, if it were possible ... so they have a clear counter interest to these former elite cast-offs that had given their all to the game. As time goes on, these elite players also face having to be the old dog learning new tricks as they are having to do so beyond their prime physically. This is no just reward for sacrificing everything, including their health, for this game. This makes no mention of the changing external factors, where Cris Carter's final training camp was at Miami's facilities, which is a far cry from the more temperate summer climate of Mankato. Sure, in that final year, Cris most probably could hack a 90+ degree game day in Kansas City but his health issues may have been directly affected by the day-in day-out environment of the foreign Dolphin's training complex. The mind says yes ... where the body said ... I'll take it from here.
To be direct, this ugliness is directly due to the present salary cap system that is most certainly robbing the fan base of the final years of the NFL's established elite players. The real world is beyond accepting the concepts of either seniority or tenure ... as it doesn't fit ... "The Private Sector" however, these elite players have earned the right to be considered more than just a pile of trash.
Haven't these players earned the right to continuity in their lives ... to be able to retire for the franchise for which they sacrificed so much???
In years past, it seemed like the entire Minnesota Vikings franchise had players with 16, 18 or 20 seasons of experience. They were affectionately referred to as ... VETERANS. These seasoned years could dissect a field ... control the clock ... and work through adversity with precision (except in Super Bowls). Today we look at it and we say that this isn't the case because of artificial turf ... or that players are bigger (heavier) ... or that players are faster, which cause injuries and the shortened careers of elite players but that just might be a myth. How does this present salary cap system add to the game? How does this benefit the consumer? The answer, of course, is that is doesn't.
What if both owners and players alike were given new directives ... new incentives, if you will ... that were better able to protect the longevity of our elite players? So you might ask, "How might we do this?"
What if we were to provide both a roster and a salary cap exemption for all NFL athletes that have achieved 13 consecutive years with any one (1) franchise calling them Lifetime Waiver Players (LWP). If LWP's are excluded from the salary cap, from which younger players are competing for salaries, then there would be little incentive to destroy the careers of elite players by less experience players however there would be a major benefit to the team that has found ways to extend the longevity of the elite class. In other words, the youth could actually learn from the elite ... like mentors ... like they had in the olden days. Wouldn't the mentoring of old salts actually have a direct benefit to our youthful entrants that used to watch ... AND LOOK UP TO THESE ELITE PLAYERS ... as they played as children?
The legends of this league surround players like George Blanda, as a place kicker & former quarterback, that came off the bench in his 40's, to quarterback the Oakland Raiders in a crucial legendary Oakland Raider moment. How the legend of Bronco Nagurski's, who played for the Bears from 1930-1937, came back in 1943, due to a shortage of players, to score a legendary touchdown in the championship game. Do you remember Joe Montana, in his twilight years, coming off the bench for the 49ers to throw that pivotal Super Bowl touchdown? Me neither ... because it never happened.
The owners ... given proper incentive ... maybe just might learn how to grow grass inside an indoor facility ... sort like a really big green house ... to protect the elite from the unnecessary day to day grind of playing on concrete. As it stands, there is no reason to do this as all the league wide incentives are to develop low cost youth (rookies) with a very small section of elite players.
As much as it pains me to say this, the Patriots organization deserves an LWP exemption for Tom Brady's 14 years of service to the NFL and all 32 teams should be made to cleave a portion of their salary cap to pay his salary ... and the salary of all of the NFL's elite players.
All NFL players achieving their 14th continuous year, with the same franchise, will have their salary be adjusted to 85% of their highest earned yearly income, of the prior 13 years, to be paid by a league pool which is subtracted from the entire leagues available salary cap. A franchise shall maintain the right to supplement any players income by forgoing apart of that franchises salary cap for that year, as a player like Tom Brady might still be in his prime. If a player ends up on injured reserve in that 14th year, that players contract value reverts to 65% of their highest paid yearly income in their 15th year. Top 10 statistical performances shall be adjusted upward to the 90% level for the following year. Top 20 statistical performances shall be adjusted upward to 75% for the following year. In each successive year contacts shall automatically lose 25% of its value for the following year, unless performance standards are achieved, where the decision for an LWP to return the following season, based upon eroding skills ... well, it becomes apparent. In other words, I've got millions to keep me warm at night where my eroding skills, or loss of appetite, no longer makes pressing on worth it.
If a player chooses free agency, they lose out on their accrued or vested years into the LWP. If a player is traded that player loses his years vested as a LWP, unless that player is traded for a #1 pick in compensation, which automatically classifies that player as elite. Players signed away under either the transition or franchise tag shall have his prior vested years count toward his LWP with his new team.
So what will this mean? Are you saying that one team is going to have 60 active players whereas another may only have 53 players on their active roster, where those extra players get to both dress for the game ... and play in it too? That's exactly right!
Do you mean to say that maybe a large portion of this franchises available salary cap is going to pay Tom Brady's exsorbitent salary? Yup! That is exactly right. We are going to reward another franchise for not only developing a major talent in this league but by both nurturing and maintaining his elite status. After all, the bulk of the NFL viewing audience is paying to watch the elite ... not Christian Ponder. Let's not forget, that in time, if this franchise does its homework and finds a way to treat their elite players as they should be treated ... in time ... they will also reap these same rewards.
So what's the catch as there is always a catch? Good question. Presently signing bonuses are divided by the number of years of a contract where that subdivided portion is applied to that franchises salary cap that signed a contract with guaranteed money. Presently that salary cap stays with the franchise that signed the contract for the life or term of that contract. The result is that free agents are being paid guaranteed money by a franchise to play for another franchise. Then unintended consequence or result is that players, that ink deals with guaranteed money, then act in manners detrimental to that franchise, to secure their outright release, realizing that guaranteed money. In the future, all future contracts shall have the provision that any unapportioned subdivided value of any unrealized guaranteed money shall follow that free agent to that new franchise. In other words, on future contracts, unapportioned guaranteed monies will follow free agents. If the burden is too great for that free agent to move to the new or old franchise of his choice, that player shall have the right to void the original contract with that franchise with which that player has been released.
Acting in this manner, owners benefit by closing an unacceptable loop hole that's causing unintended results and in return the entire league and its fans benefits from extended elite player play.
The Viking Ghost Writer
Date: February 21, 2014