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Exploring NFL and NBA Contracts: Guaranteed Pain vs. Guaranteed Payday

SB Nation
Written by Peter Rasimas

Photo via SB Nation

Professional athletes have always been compensated well for their work. However, as of late, contracts have been ballooning as the popularities of sports leagues increase. Nowadays it seems that contract payouts are increasing exponentially on a yearly basis. The problem is, not all athletes’ contracts are guaranteed, and collective bargaining agreements between players and team owners are structured differently across all professional sports leagues.

The difference in guaranteed contracts is most evident when examining two American men’s sports leagues: The National Basketball Association, known as the NBA, and the National Football League, known as the NFL. In the NBA all contracts are fully guaranteed, meaning that regardless of other occurrence the player will be paid the full value of his contract.

The NFL, on the other hand, does not offer fully guaranteed contracts. Most elite players, such as Odell Beckham jr., Luke Kuechly, and Tom Brady will have a portion of their contracts guaranteed, but the rest is dependent on if they are healthy and if the team wants to keep the player with the team or not.

To put this in context, take, for example, the contracts of Antonio Brown, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Mike Conley, point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies. Brown is considered by many to be the best player of his position in the NFL, and his current contract is for five years, $42 million, with $8.5 million guaranteed.

This is not a sum to turn your head at. That is, until you see Mike Conley’s current contract. This past summer, Conley signed a five-year contract for $153 million, and every single dollar is guaranteed.

Regardless of if Conley plays one game or all four hundred twenty regular season games over the next five years, he will still be paid the full value of his contract. Conley is earning nearly $360 thousand per game over the next five years if he plays every game. Assuming he plays 36 minutes per game he will be making ten thousand dollars a minute of game time.

The thing that shocks me the most is that Conley is not considered an “elite” player at his position in the NBA. In fact, he has never made an all-star team during his seven-year career. In comparison, Brown is a four-time pro-bowler and a two-time all-pro. That means he is considered one of the top wide receivers in the league. The discrepancy in guaranteed pay is astounding.

What is surprising to me is that, according to marketwatch.com, the NFL brought in $13 billion in revenue in 2015, and the NBA brought in less than $5 billion. However, the NFL has to pay for 22 starters per team, and the NBA only has to pay for five starters per team.

Regardless, NFL players are starting to notice. According to ESPN.com Brian Orakpo, Tony Carter, Dominique Jones, and T.J. Ward have all questioned if they are playing the right sport. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time the NFL contracts expire and the collective bargaining agreement has to be renegotiated.

My opinion is that NFL players should have more of their contracts guaranteed, considering the physicality of the game and the amount of stress the players put on their bodies

About the author

Peter Rasimas